• June 22, 2024

‘Playing with House Money’ and the Future of the Philadelphia Flyers

Right before Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals between the Ottawa Senators and the New York Rangers, Michael Grange of Sportsnet magazine described the temperament of the Senators and their fan base as “playing with house money.”

Grange wrote, “The luxury the Senators have… is that they have surpassed any reasonable expectations for their season, internally or externally.”

The Senators, having finished 13th in the Eastern Conference in 2011, were not expected to be Stanley Cup competitors just one year into a franchise rebuild, and yet they defied expectations through smart trades and a youthful line-up.

“Even heading into Game 7, [Coach Paul] MacLean has enjoyed the luxury of talking about all of this being part of a learning process, of shoring up the Senators long-term foundation,” wrote Grange. “It’s how he justifies shuffling NHL rookies Mark Stone and Jakob Silfverberg in and out of the line-up for the most critical games of the season.”

In many ways, the Philadelphia Flyers of 2012 shared a lot of similarities with the Ottawa Senators of 2012.

Nobody had any idea last July how the personnel changes that general manager Paul Holmgren made to the Flyers would pan out, but the general consensus was (and for many fans, still is) that Holmgren addressed the lack of affordable, talented depth in the organization by making smart hockey trades to extend their window of opportunity at a Stanley Cup.

By virtue of the team’s success in the regular season and their Quarterfinals victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, there is reason to have faith that this team is going to be competitive for some time. Players like Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn are only going to get better with age, much like Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone and Jared Cowen will grow into their respective positions with the Ottawa Senators.

As has been the case for the last 37 years, though, the Flyers’ fortunes came to an end quicker than we were all ready to accept. The debacle that took place over the last eight days brought to light a problem that has been lingering all season long, and that is the failure of coach Peter Laviolette’s system to adapt to defense-first teams.

The shelf life for coaches in the NHL varies, but three years as a general rule is about all that one gets.  The axe drops quicker if the team tunes the coach out and they find themselves spiraling down the standings with no discernible cause or solution.

In the case of Laviolette, hired to replace John Stevens in December of 2009, the players bought into his leadership this season and his “up tempo” system was implemented well enough, in spite of all the new faces.

Yet how many times did the team give up the first goal? In the first period? In the first five minutes?

How many periods did they have to play from behind, earning the nickname “the comeback kids”?

If Laviolette’s tenure is to extend beyond next season, he is going to have to address this. Had the Flyers managed to beat the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Semifinals, they probably would have run into the same problems against the New York Rangers, who owned the season series with aplomb.

As the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs continue on without the orange and black, fans will once more have to deal with the “narrative tsunami” of the peanut gallery, as Grange eloquently referred to it.  Ilya Bryzgalov is going to be labeled the 3rd worst goalie of franchise playoff history, the advancement of the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes in the West means that Holmgren’s moves were wrong, and- wait for it- the choke-off artists called the Flyers once again missed winning the Stanley Cup… again. Philadelphia Typical.

While clubs like the Ottawa Senators may never come close to dealing with the amount of external pressure that is placed on the Philadelphia Flyers (Canadian market be damned), both have enough chips on the table to know that they are in a good position to make another run next year.

For the latest Flyers news and updates, you can follow me on twitter (@JoshJanet).

Josh Janet

Josh Janet was raised in Northern New Jersey, but by an odd set of circumstances, is a Philadelphia sports fan. While recently converted to the Phillies, Josh is a diehard Flyers fan and can be expected to stay on top of the latest NHL news.

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May 9, 2012 9:23 pm

Better drop 2 first rounders on the Bruins for Tim Thomas…figure the Flyers have what? A two year window before the breakup begins?

May 9, 2012 10:42 pm

Tim Thomas is too old to give up two first rounders; the Bruins would be all over that, and we’re still stuck with Bryz’s fat, longterm contract. Thomas did not perform this year as he did last year, though I still consider him better than Bryzgalov right now. But unless you have young Jon Quick as a netminder – even Lundquist, Elliot, Smith, Howard, Rinne – until Laviolette changes up his system a bit to get our forwards to play an effective forechecking more defensive game, I see no way in near future this team can win a Cup. Almost every team has enough speed and skill these days that if you make a mistake or play a skunky period (too often the Flyers first period but not always) they can burn your defense.
Tampa isn’t much of a defensive team but they have success against our weak defensive play too many times and beat us. Strong defensive teams always have success vs. Flyers…i.e. Bruins, Rangers, Devils, Kings and St. Louis this year, yes even the Jets when they check. The Islanders will keep improving too. Holmgren and Laviolette are going to need to sit down and figure out a way to defeat tough defensive teams in this division. I like Timmonen’s skill, but we need at least 4 big D bodies who are strong, and smart, around the net and hard on wingers coming down the boards. Time for Carle to move on and don’t see Gustafsson as any improvement. You cannot replace a healthy Pronger, but we need a couple guys along his line of size, stopper with decent offensive play. I don’t know how you get out of Bryz’s contract, maybe plead hardship to NHL, but we need somebody in net more consistent. Does Bernie have a grandson playing goalie in the nether regions of Quebec??? Time for Simon Nolet and his “French Connection” to dig up another gem in that province.

May 10, 2012 4:52 am

JJ, great article.
this organization has oodles of young talent with the Flyers & the Phantoms. This organization is as deep with young talent, as they have been in recent memory. But that is at forward. They are sprite at DF at the minors & our big clubs DF needs an overhaul, just like we did with the forwards last year.
Their #1 priority this off-season is to sign/ trade for Shea Weber, at all cost. We officially have these DF men under contract.
Kimmo- $6,325,000;Grossman- $3,500,000; Coburn- $4,500,000;
Pronger- $4,925,000; Meszaros- $4,000,000; Lilja- $750,000; Bourdon-$762,500 & Gustaffson- $900,000. Pronger can be put on LTIR (unless CBA changes it to before). Lilja needs to be sent to Sibera. Coburn needs to be included in a trade. Carle, Kubina won’t be back. So that leaves us with Kimmo, Grossman, Meszaros, Bourdon, & Gustaffson. Get Weber in trade, or sign. Trade JVR for Luke Schenn. DF rebuilt & much better.
Weber- Schenn
Kimmo- Grossman
Meszaros- Gustaffson/ Bourdon/ Lauredson
I would love for them to sign Bryan Allen too, but Cap space won’t make that happen, unless can get Briere or Fartsmell off of the books. So that’s probably highly unlikely. Jagr might be re-retiring & Vorechek is a FA. But with the emergence of Giroux, Wellwood, Schenn, Couturier, Simmonds, & guys like Zolnierczyk, Testwuide, Hamel, Cousins, etc etc, in the wings we have plenty ammo to makes all the right moves. Let’s hope they include an amnesty clause in the new CBA like the NBA did, then we can ship Bryz back to Siberia with Lilja. LOL! Future is bright. Next year, we make a legit run at the cup.

May 10, 2012 5:59 am

40 years without a championship and you talk about a bright future? LMAO. The team I watched isnt even close to a championship. Yeah yeah next year. The goalie who is signed to a 50 year deal sucks. It really doesnt matter if you sign Weber. What about the other 3 lines that cant compete with the NJ of the world. Signing a all-star team doesnt work. How many stud players did NJ have? How many did Boston and NY have? The Flyers have been trying to buy a championship for 40 years.

May 10, 2012 7:24 am

Hey josh, got a list of free agent flyers?
I think pronger will b off the books, retirement or injury amnesty, carle will prob b gone, no jagr, id like voracek back too. Jvr for schenn, or get weber,preferbly a right handed shot. Im willing to give bryz one more yr, but from what ive seen hes not real focused, and u can score on him easily high, even for a butterfly type goaltender.

May 10, 2012 8:06 am

dagg, although I agree with alot of what you said, how would you fix them? Weber is a better, younger, more offensively talented version of Pronger, with a canon shot. BTW, you’re wrong about them trying to buy championships. They spent decades with 1-3 good players, with all muckers & grinders. All of the non-cap years, they never went all out, especially for a top notch goalie, We have always been a 1 line team. That’s why it has cost us at least 4 cups, especially the wasted Lindros years, & the Tocchet years. What would you recommend?

May 10, 2012 8:20 am

peli, if Pronger retires, he will fully count against the cap for the remainder of his contract. They will probably LTIR him, as they did with Rathje & Laperierre. Jagr has hinted at retirement, & I don’t want him back anyway. Unless Voracek takes a hometown discount, I don’t think he will be back either. Some team will overpay him, for what he brings, as Buffalo did with Leino. I’ve been pushing for Schenn & Weber since the trade deadline. IMHO, if they are stuck with Bryz & no cap wiggle room, Coburn & either Briere, or Hartnell have to go. But those 2 have to wave their NTC’s. Gonna be interesting to see what moves Homer makes.

May 10, 2012 12:07 pm

JJ, good site. I’ve tried the generator, several times. It’s fun. I did it the other night for the Flyers off-season.

May 10, 2012 12:23 pm

Is there is GCOBB Posters Trade Generator Site.. I would like to trade a couple of posters to another site… Ha Ha

Maybe Schiller and JonHart to the Eagles.Com Site for future considerations

May 10, 2012 12:43 pm

We could all play that game Paul. You’d be #5 on my list. Gotta be honest, there’s guys I’d trade before you. But I’d be sure to make 5 trades, believe me

May 10, 2012 1:09 pm

At least we still have our sense of humor left…
I don’t mean to hate of the Phils this year but damn-it, they are tough to watch this year… 1 think I do notice, is that it doesn’t appear any of the players are having fun.. I think the players are wound up too tight, trying too hard to compensate for the loss of Utley and Howard..I am not sure how Manuel will handle things moving forward, they may just need change some things or stay staus quo and hope the guys can relax and start playing better ball which is difficult to do in Philly where the Fans/media can be harsh..

May 10, 2012 1:14 pm

I pledge to back off the Phils for the next month and see what happens with the Team, maybe jerks like me, are putting too much pressure on them..
Let’s Play ball ..

May 10, 2012 1:35 pm

noone wants any of you – I tried to trade the entire portfolio of gcobb posters and even the Montreal Expos fan club turned you down

May 10, 2012 2:10 pm

The only one who garnered any interest was songs; some guy named Vontaze extended a facebook friend request to him

May 10, 2012 2:41 pm

This team is in the same situation that they’ve been in every other year they’ve bowed out of the playoffs early, a mix of young and old talent, a below average to decent goaltender, and no ability to play well against good defensive systems. I thought that signing Bryz might fix the goalie issue, now its looking like he could be a boat-anchor for years to come. I thought Laviolette might be the fix for overcoming tough defensive systems, but he looked clueless against the Devils.
The Flyers will continue to make the playoffs and win a round or 2. Every 10 years or so they’ll make it to the finals, and maybe, just maybe one of those times they’ll get the better of the other team, but that hasn’t happened in a long time. Is there any other team in the NHL that has lost its last 6 Stanley Cup appearances?

May 11, 2012 7:38 am

Dcar, sorry, thought i heard on sportstalk in the past that if pronger had to retire for injury related reasons hes cleared off the books, prob not a reliable source, think it may have been tony bruno, which means a horrible source!
In any event i really think voracek has tremendous upside, the kid is young, and hartnell n briere i believe are very important to the team. Simmonds play in the second rd made me a lil worried.
Players that should go imo, carle,kubina,jagr, lilja, and bryz who isnt goin anywhere. The guy hasnt impressed me at all, he gets beat anytime someone shoots high, and doesnt really make those amazing hasek,beezer type goal stealing saves. Alll i want is a goaltender who doesnt let soft goals in, i can handle not makin game changers at this point, thats how desperate i am these days. Been a long long long time! Maybe bryz will b different with a year under his belt!
At least i have the eagles rooks to watch this year, havent been this excited to see how the rooks do from an eagles draft in awhile!

May 13, 2012 1:28 am

peli, norhing to be sorry about. The only reason why I knew that was, I keep up with alot sports d sites & all of the league sites themselves. No biggie. Glad I can give some info. The only reason he would still count if he retires is he’s over 35. That’s a new rule with the NHL. If Pronger was under 35 & retired, his contract would be expunged.