Back in late July, I started a series of in-depth articles on the Flyers’ offseason, particularly regarding their performance in addressing needs via free agency and the draft in addition to their strengths and weaknesses at each position. Now, with everyone from the ownership down to the new draft class graded, it’s time to see how the Flyers fared overall. Click the grade below each subheading for a more detailed analysis.
2013 Entry Draft
Morin and Hägg led one of the most defensively geared drafts in Flyers’ history. Hard to say how well you do until a few years down the line, but the Flyers addressed a serious need, not something they often do.
2013 Free Agency
The Flyers’ offseason kicked off with with GM Paul Holmgren going big yet again, this time acquiring Mark Streit and Vincent Lecavalier. Lecavalier is definitely an upgrade over Briere, but Streit doesn’t help the Flyers’ lack of defensive defensemen. Other than that they held serve by locking up several key players, but the Cleary/Gagne debacle is a definite eyesore. Grade: B-
In days of yore owner Ed Snider could shower the team with money, but thanks to the cap the GM has to manage it smartly, and the biggest knock against Holmgren is that he still has no idea how to do it. The huge contracts doled out to Streit and Lecavalier basically invalidated the buyouts of Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere. Grade: D
The Flyers retained the services of Holmgren and Laviolette, arguably a smart move despite last year’s disappointment. Unlike the previous Flyers’ offseason, Holmgren retained crucial draft picks and did a better job improving the team. Rehiring Assistant GM Ron Hextall, however, was the best move of the offseason. Grade: A-
Laviolette remains, and he’s probably the best coach in the NHL for the way fans want the Flyers to play. This year he’ll get a chance to implement a better defensive system. On the downside, ineffective Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese remains in the fold. Grade: B
The Flyers have the best mixture of youth, depth, leadership, creativity, talent, speed, and grit in the NHL on offense. When the elements click, they’re the most dangerous team in the league, and Holmgren’s brilliant job drafting and luring top-flight free agents, young and old, will see this continue for the foreseeable future. Grade: A
Holmgren has tried but failed to find a new Chris Pronger or recreate him in the aggregate in subsequent Flyers’ offseason outings. The backend hodgepodge has some intriguing elements like Luke Schenn, Grossmann, and Gustafsson, to say nothing of the other minor leaguers and recent draftees, but the team continues to lack the ability to prevent or snuff out odd man rushes and has a catastrophic inability to protect leads at crucial times despite having the highest paid defense in the league. Grade: C-
The carousel spins anew. The Flyers have a new trick up their sleeve by opening the season without a consensus starter, opting instead for two young goalies with something to prove, but the potential for falling into the old ways of ‘riding the hot hand’ into a 40-year of Stanley Cup drought is too overwhelming to ignore. The bright side is that Hextall did a terrific job shepherding Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier into elite status and may finally stabilize the position. Hopefully. Grade: C+
Rather than attempting to create a series of goals to gauge the effectiveness of the Flyers’ offseason, I thought it would be better to establish categories, rate them independently, and make an average of the grade in an attempt to maximize objectivity.
It stands to reason that the Flyers did several things well this year, particularly given their propensity for blowing the team up after a disappointing season. Holmgren and Laviolette were retained under the aegis of a year where few things went right. I couldn’t imagine the Flyers offense getting much better after last season, particularly since the team’s failure was systemic and not a result of lacking talent, but Lecavalier is a much better fit on the Flyers than Briere. Though I like Gagne, I also understand the desire to create a definitive hole on the roster for the most driven young gun. Ron Hextall’s hiring is also solid gold management; Holmgren now has the best possible adviser and the vague threat of a successor if this season doesn’t go well.
On the other hand, plenty of things are still being left to chance. I understand the necessity for Bryzgalov’s departure in spite of my preference for him, but with Jeff Reese staying on board and two unknowns in the crease, the goaltending position is still a big question mark. Holmgren hasn’t stopped overpaying for defensemen with Timonen, Streit, and Coburn’s salaries alone accounting for almost 25% of the $64.3 million cap hit, but a rising crop of homegrown rearguards was bolstered by the play of last season’s rookies and the drafting of two highly regarded defensive prospects, so while the cap pinch is bad this year, it might improve in the future.
The most important question any team, even the Cup champions, can answer before a season begins is this: Are we better? There is no doubt that the Flyers’s offseason activities point to a ‘yes’. A grade of ‘C’ would suggest that they are the same, so I wasn’t surprised when the final grade reflected a greater average with clear room for improvement.
Final Grade: B-
Tags: 2013-2014 Braydon Coburn Chris Pronger Claude Giroux Dan Cleary Danny Briere Ed Snider Flyers Ilya Bryzgalov Jeff Reese Kimmo Timonen Mark Streit NHL Paul Holmgren Peter Laviolette Philadelphia Flyers Ray Emery Robert Hagg Ron Hextall Samuel Morin Scott Hartnell Sergei Bobrovsky Simon Gagne Stanley Cup Steve Mason Vincent Lecavalier