On June 23rd, 2011, the course of the Philadelphia Flyers would be changed drastically. In a matter of minutes, star Forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were shipped out to Los Angeles and Columbus, respectively.
After they had been swept by the Boston Bruins the previous year, GM Paul Holmgren was ready to pull the plug on the Richards & Carter tandem.
For most of the season, the trades seemed to be pure genius. Richards and Carter were both struggling offensively, while Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and Jakub Voracek (all of whom were acquired in the two trades) were excelling for Philadelphia.
At the trade deadline, Jeff Carter was able to wiggle his way out of a team in Columbus he never gave a chance, and was reunited with Richards in Los Angeles. Both teams made their way into the NHL Playoffs, with LA barely limping in.
However, both clubs’ situations would change drastically. Philadelphia inevitably stalled during their second round matchup with the eventual Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils.
Meanwhile, the National Hockey League became the Kings stomping ground. They ran over top seeded Vancouver, and swept the St. Louis Blues in the Second Round. In the Western Conference Finals, Phoenix did not do much better. Los Angeles defeated them 4-1 in the series, and went on to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Not even New Jersey could matchup as a formidable opponent. The Kings currently have a 3-0 lead, and are prepared to reign as Stanley Cup Champions, with Richards and Carter having strong playoff runs. Richards tallied 4 goals and 8 assists, with Carter chipping in 6 goals, one of which won the Kings Game 2 in OT, and 5 assists.
Naturally, Flyers fans began to question the necessity of their two stars. They had reached the Finals in 2010, and although they came away empty handed, Philadelphia was always contenders.
However, both trades needed to happen.
The thought of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter winning a title together in Philadelphia is merely a fantasy, because it would have never happened.
Carter and Richards were both first round picks, and immediately came with very high expectations. But what the Flyers organization expected them to be, never panned out.
The two were supposed to carry the offensive load for Philadelphia, which they did. However, they became rundown at the end of the year. Come the Flyers series with Boston last year, they had no gas left in the tank, and it showed.
Furthermore, Richards and Carter were not even close to prepared to dealing with the Philadelphia media. Their off-ice exploits were constantly in the papers and on local TV stations. It truly seemed to affect their play.
In Los Angeles, their play and demeanor fit perfectly. Instead of being forced into leadership roles, they became the final pieces to the Kings offensive puzzle. Lead by Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, and Anze Kopitar, Richards and Carter no longer needed to worry about being workhorses. They have settled into their role as Second line players, and are totally embracing it. Players who are comfortable play the best, and the former Flyers are proof.
Also, the ridicule coming from Kings fans and media will never be as loud and as constant as those from Philadelphia. The pressure and the spotlight was simply too much to handle in the “City Of Brotherly Love”, and it cracked both players. In Los Angeles, a smaller market, hockey coverage is handled much differently. Rather than seeing themselves being lambasted in Philadelphia, Richards and Carter can focus on bettering themselves on the ice.
Eventually, people will come to realize the trades worked out for both the Flyers and the Kings. Los Angeles will most likely win the 2012 Stanley Cup, and continue to compete for multiple titles in the near future. For Philadelphia, they will be contenders now and in the future. They have lots of talent up and down the ice, and have one of the most well rounded Offenses in Philadelphia.
Watching Richards and Carter win in LA may hurt now.
It will be well worth it very soon.