What’s The Price For Potential?

By now you have probably heard all the different rumors surrounding the Flyers. I like to say that it happens every year around this time, but it’s not just this time of year.  Yeah, it is more frequent around now with the season ending sometime no later than a week from now, and the draft next Sunday.  It’s more than that for hockey in Philadelphia.  Rumors year round without the Flyers name attached to it in some way would almost feel out of place.  Now some view that as a good thing while to  others it feels like a game of musical chairs, round and round they go waiting for the music to stop just to see which player is left without a chair.

News came out yesterday about the eventual buyout of Danny Briere, that was really no news at all for anyone even remotely following the team, but now it’s out there for every other NHL team to see.  As much of a fan as I am in Briere; I think that it is the right thing to do.  Reality is that he is not getting bought out because of the decline in his game, he is getting bought out because his potential doesn’t match his salary cap hit.  If he was the best player on the team, of which he was the highest paid, then he would be going nowhere, truth is he isn’t.  Truth is he probably isn’t even in the top five.  Now injuries aside I have absolutely loved having him on the team.  In fact he was one of my favorites.  He still has some good years left in him. Just not at the rate of 6.5 million a year.  That kind of potential is just not there for him anymore.  I’ll miss seeing him in the orange and black, but it’s time to move on from his chapter in Flyers history.

You see potential is a broad word.  An extremely powerful word.  People see it vastly differently in all aspects of life.  To some potential can elevate them right to the top, to others the pressure of it causes a collapse that they can never recover from and it’s what every job pro sports is based on.  Reminds me of the famous quote from Brian Billick, ex-head coach of the Baltimore Ravens to one of his players, “Son, your potential is going to get me fired.”

Now let me play devil’s advocate here with one of the rumors going around; LA Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier for Matt Read.  On the surface it seems to make a little sense for both teams.  Problem is there are more teams involved in the trade rumor. Now that might be the best offer that the LA Kings get, but what if it’s not.  I am of the belief that LA would be asking for more than Matt Read.  Right now they have some leverage in negotiating a deal.  In a little over a week from now LA will lose some of that leverage because of the draft, so conventional wisdom here suggests they will want to act fast.  Now look at the Flyers position in this: They have from 48 hours after the cup is won till 5 p.m. on July 4th to figure out what to do with Bryzgalov.  They will most likely not use their other buyout this year if they cannot find a replacement in net for Bryz.  That now puts them into an act-now mode as well.  Both teams know where the other stands, so here is where the “potential” part comes in,  What does each team feel the potential for Bernier is?  How strong is that need for it?  Is it worth Matt Read?  I am sure most Flyers fans would answer yes to that one, so now ask yourself why?  Better yet ask yourself why the Flyers would too?  Matt Read is a good player.  Every NHL team would be lucky to have a player like him right now and he is darn good and cheap too, cheap for one more year that is.  After which he is going to be getting a bit of a raise by someone.  That looming raise is what might scare off any deal for Bernier though.  Exactly how much potential is Read worth?  At 27 years of age he just might be a late bloomer and take off to superstar status, true odds and gut-feeling say he probably won’t.  He most likely is about where he is going to be numbers-wise.  With that mind-set if I was Dean Lombardi I would say no deal., unless of course that is the best offer out there.

But hey while I am still playing devil’s advocate; what about Sean Couturier or Brayden Schenn in that deal instead of Matt Read?  I can almost hear the Flyers faithful screaming that I am crazy. I read all the blogs, all the comments, they say pretty much the same thing about that notion.  My question is why?  Why are they so un-tradableThe Flyers need better goaltending; do they not?  But do they need it as much as they need either Couturier or Schenn?  Where do the Flyers see the fit for them?  Schenn has all the skill and potential to be a top-flight center, the problem is that is where Giroux is holding fort and soon will be financially.  So that means he, at best, would be a number two center, how much do you pay for that?  In the smaller salary cap NHL world we now live in it matters. In fact; the dollars matter a lot.  What about Couturier?  With Giroux locking down the top spot and Schenn is manning the second spot; where do you put Couturier?  They all play the same position.  Now you could ”potentially” move him to a different position but why?  There are other players there as well that are already getting paid top two-line money.  Let’s be honest here, he is best served as a center no matter what team he played for anyway,  so what do you pay for a third line center?  Not a whole lot more than he is already making. It’s a shame that the salary cap makes it so that you can’t pay everyone top dollar.  The Flyers organization has the really difficult task of figuring out which one, if either, is worth holding on to as early as next year, and how much their potential is going to cost.  Both are scheduled to be restricted free agents after next season so what if that price is too much and they end up with nothing for either of them?  Jonathan Bernier in a Flyers uniform would be better than nothing at all.

This now leads us back to Jonathan Bernier.  Nobody can say for certain where Bernier’s “potential” will take him either.  How could they when he only started in 62 games his whole NHL career. The Flyers need improved goaltending that much is certain.  They have Steve Mason though but is he really the answer they have been looking for?  Maybe.  Is Bernier really the answer?  Listen, if and I mean IF they were to consummate a deal that sent Couturier in exchange for Bernier and he went on to be the next Bernie Parent nobody would care in the slightest.  If the deal went down and it blows up in the Flyers face; then fans will once again be calling for Holmgren to get the axe.  That’s what life is like for a General Manager,  GM’s in every sport wish they had the gift of foresight and truthfully speaking we all would like that, unfortunately it doesn’t exist though.  So they rely on their coaches, their scouting department, their salary capologists (I made up a new word) to “potentially” help shape fortune of the franchise now and in the future.

Potential equals hope nothing more, nothing less.  To go after, be it in trade, draft, free agency or even decide to keep a certain player has a price. That’s what every transaction in sports boils down to.  What are you willing to pay for that hope?

I would be a terrible GM.  This time of year causes my head to spin.  As it does to a lot of us Flyers fans.

  • What if they potentially traded Matt Read and their 11th pick in the draft for Bernier?
  • What about that potential Braydon Coburn and pick for Bobby Ryan deal?
  • What if the New York Rangers buyout Brad Richards? He could potentially be a Flyer.

“Son, your potential is going to get me fired”

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