The Philadelphia Flyers may not always be good on the ice, but damn they always keep it interesting. After missing the playoffs for only the second time in the last 18 seasons, the Flyers had themselves quite the busy offseason. They started off with buyouts of both Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere. They also made some splashes in free agency by bringing in veterans Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit. They recently have signed Dan Cleary to a 3 year deal despite already being over the salary cap by $2 million dollars. As I said, they always keep things interesting for the bloggers and writers.
Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to chat about the Flyers.
We are going to start this off with the question everyone wants to know, how the hell does Paul Holmgren still have a job?
Rooting for a team run by Paul Holmgren can be a frustrating and confusing endeavor, but one thing is for certain: The man has bigger cojones than any GM in the NHL. When he (or, in the case of the Ilya Bryzgalov mess, Ed Snider) identifies a problem, he tries to fix it with every tool in his arsenal. The Shea Weber offer sheet last summer is obviously the striking example here.
I think Homer deserves a lot of credit for that, and also for understanding that there's no room for being proud in this business. He and the Flyers are quick to cut their losses when they realize they've made a mistake (ahem, Bryzgalov) and that's a quality that other gun-shy GMs might not possess.
The Ilya Bryzgalov contract was a disaster, but how hard was it for Flyers' fans to say goodbye to Danny Briere?
Personally, I really grew to love Danny during his time in Philly. He can be an exhilarating player to watch, and his playoff scoring prowess is something you love to watch when he's on your side.
But the business side of the decision to buy him out was obvious -- perhaps even more obvious than the Bryz decision. He had a bad cap hit, his regular season scoring has sharply declined, he doesn't play defense in the slightest bit and the Flyers have a glut of centers available to replace him. We love Danny, but in this case, saying goodbye just made too much sense.
The Flyers will go into this year with the goaltending tandem of Ray Emery and Steve Mason. How itchy does this make you feel?
I'm terrified of Mason but optimistic -- excited might even be the word -- to see what Emery can do. As you well know, he looked really sharp in goal for Chicago last year, and at the very worst he'll likely turn in an equal performance than what we got from Bryzgalov last year.
The team in front of whoever winds up with the lion's share of the starts is much better (and healthier) than it was last season, so that helps.
Overall, I'd say I'm cautiously optimistic about the goaltending next season. Mason has a lot to prove just to stay jn the NHL long term, and Emery does too on a one-year deal. So at the worst, they're a motivated pair that won't be any worse than what we got a year ago, and most importantly, we're not married to either of them for nine more years if things go south.
The Flyers spent their summer paying big bucks for veterans like Vincent Lecavalier and Mark Streit. Do these two signings get the Flyers back into the playoffs or do they just get added to Holmgren's list of bad contracts?
I don't like the long-term nature of Streit's deal, but that's the price you pay for quality players in free agency, and unlike many other bad deals (Briere, Bryz), I don't see Streit as utterly unmoveable if the Flyers need to do so in a few years. And in the meantime, adding Streit immediately solidifies the Flyers' top four with a strong puck-mover they really craved last season. He was probably Homer's best option, and like I said before, when he sees a solution, he goes out and does his best to land it. He did so with Streit, even if he had to overpay a bit.
I think the Lecavalier signing is fantastic. Look at the Flyers top six with him in the mix. It's easy to get excited about. He amounts to a cheaper, better version of Danny Briere.
Despite all the crap Holmgren gets, it looks like the Jeff Carter trade is a big win for the Flyers. Jakub Voracek lead the Flyers with 22 goals last season. Can we expect Vorachek to be at the top of the Philly scoring list for years to come or was this a product of a shortened season?
I'm just going to point you to this story my buddy Eric at BSH wrote earlier this summer, because he said it better than I can.
Is a really long playoff run the plan to keep Claude Giroux off the golf course next summer?
I'm sure he'll play golf with the Cup as his caddy at some point next summer.
Ray Emery likes to chirp from the bench when he is not on the ice. Which one of his new Metropolitan rivals does he go after first this year?
No goalie is going to top Martin Biron's chirp of Sidney Crosby from a few years back, but it'd sure be nice to see Razor try.
Thanks again to Travis for answering our questions. The Flyers will come to town on December 11th while the Hawks make the return trip to Philly on March 18th.