It’s that time of year folks. The playoffs are winding down and there are inevitably a group of former Philadelphia Flyers who are competing for the Stanley Cup. As usual, our beat writers tweet things like this and this, while we are left second guessing the trades that sent these players away.
Every team playing in the Conference Finals this year had at least one former Flyer. The Rangers had Dan Carcillo and the Canadiens had Daniel Briere. In what was one of the most exciting playoff series in recent history, the LA Kings defeated the Chicago Blackhawks. That series featured five former Flyers, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams (LA), Patrick Sharp, and Michal Handzus (CHI).
As painful as it might be to watch these players be successful, we can learn some things from watching them. For the purposes of this two part blog series, I will be focusing on Richards, Carter, Williams, and Sharp, because they have been the most integral to their teams success recently. Part one will look at what we can learn from these trades in retrospect and part two will look at the specific trades and what we got in return.
Here are three things that we should learn from watching these former Flyers year after year :
1. Every Team Needs “The Guy”
Who are the core members of the LA Kings?
Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick
Who are the core members of the Chicago Blackhawks?
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook
How many of those players are former Flyers? None. Zero. I’m aware that a case could be made for Sharp, but I am not buying it.
These players were drafted by the team on which they currently play. All of the former Flyers are supporting cast members. One of the most important parts of building a championship team is having star players who can take on the tough minutes. The former Flyers who we hear about so often are actually playing “second fiddle” on their current teams.
For example, if the Flyers had Kopitar, Doughty, and Quick in 2009, 2010, and 2011 there is little doubt in my mind that they would have raised the Stanley Cup. Allowing very good (not great) players like Carter, Richards, and Williams to see sheltered minutes behind Kopitar has done wonders for the LA Kings. By the same token Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane take on the opponents best defenders, opening up the ice for Sharp.
The good news is this: The Flyers have Claude Giroux. He is a superstar. As good as Carter, Richards, and these others were in Philly, they never had the superstar ability that Giroux currently has. We have “the guy”, we must now surround him with a Cup contending supporting cast.
In my opinion, we already have done that in terms of forwards. But the group is still very young.
2. It’s Not All About Drafting, But Drafting Is Key
All of the core players on the Kings and Blackhawks mentioned above were drafted by their respective teams. To build a contender each organization must draft their core group of players. Thos who are drafted and developed by the same organization tend to be the most cap friendly players in the league.
With that said, the Kings and Blackhawks did not draft all of their players. For LA, we all know that the Flyers drafted Carter, Richards, and Williams. But do not forget that the Penguins drafted Jake Muzzin and Marian Gaborik has been all over the NHL. When in comes to Chicago, they signed Marian Hossa as a free agent and traded for Patrick Sharp. Johnny Oduya was drafted by Washington and Michal Handzus has been a career journeyman.
Yes, drafting and developing players is absolutely essential in creating a Stanley Cup contending team. The Flyers are fortunate to have a GM who at least gives lip service to that fact (hopefully he will follow through).
However, the fact remains that smart trades are very important to crafting a team. The Kings gave away a combined total of Jack Johnson, Matt Frattin, and a few late round draft picks for Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik (combined 21G and 21A through these playoffs). That, my friends, is a smart use of assets.
*It can also be noted that the Flyers DID NOT send Carter, Williams, or Gaborik to the Kings*
3. Patience is the name of the game
For this third point I will focus on Justin Williams and Patrick Sharp. Tomorrow’s blog, part two, will be a more detailed look at the trades of Carter and Richards.
The Flyers traded Justin Williams at the age of 22 and Patrick Sharp at the age of 23. At the time that the Flyers traded Williams, he had a career high of 17 goals and 40 points. At the time of Sharp’s trade he had not scored more than five goals in a season.
Williams went on to eclipse 30 goals two times and has become a possession machine. Sharp just finished putting up a career high of 78 points (34-44) at age 32. He has now eclipsed 30 goals four times.
In short, when Justin Williams and Patrick Sharp were the same age as Brayden Schenn was this season, neither player was scoring 20 goals in a season, let alone 30. As easy as it may be to become impatient with the likes of Schenn and Couturier, they are still young players with plenty of upside.
Much has been made lately of the fact that the average players career peak in offensive production is somewhere around age 24-25. The inherent problem in looking at this fact exclusively is that it breeds impatience with players like Schenn. Yes, Justin Williams was his best when he was 24-25. Patrick Sharp on the other hand did not become a force until his late 20s and early 30s. Every player is different. They all develop at their own pace.
What is my point? Instead of constantly comparing BSchenn at 22 with Mike Richards at 22, let’s compare Schenn to Williams or Sharp at 22. None of these comparisons are apples to apples. Therefore, the best approach is to be patient with each players development.
If a good trade is available for one of the Flyers young players, they need to think long and hard before pulling the trigger. These young players are still just that: young. They could very easily become stars in the future and throwing them away for the likes of Danny Markov or Matt Ellison only hurts the franchise.