When I began this blog series, I expected it to only take up two posts. Well, after writing parts one and two, there seems to be a need for a part three. This third part will look specifically at the players that the Flyers got in return for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, while looking at three aspects of the trades.
Here are three important questions/ideas to be addressed:
1. Why No Defensemen?
Over the past three years I have had one recurring conversation with my father, a lifelong Flyers fan. The conversation goes something like this:
Dad: I get why we traded Richards and Carter, but how could we not get a single defenseman or goalie in those deals?!
Me: Well, the Kings were not about to give up Doughty or Quick, and the Blue Jackets were not exactly ripe with young defense talent in 2011.
Dad: But the fact remains, we got a bunch of forwards who are good, but our defense stinks! Look at them now!
Me: We can’t forget about the context of the deals. The Flyers had Chris Pronger under contract for the foreseeable future, Timonen was getting older, but still had time left, and Braydon Coburn was still young and had a lot of potential.
As you can probably imagine, this conversation goes on and on and on. In retrospect, it is tough to swallow that the Flyers gave up two franchise cornerstones and did not receive a single defenseman in return. Because a franchise defenseman is the teams biggest need right now it is easy to level that criticism.
However, in 2011 no one could foresee Pronger’s career ending eye-injury. The Flyers had a number one, all-around, stud defenseman and they locked him up for seven years. Yes, it would be nice to have received a promising defenseman in those trades, but that was not a pressing issue at the time.
2. Get Behind Giroux
During the 2010-2011 season Claude Giroux showed signs of becoming an elite player. He had 76 points in 82 games and was on the verge of breaking out (he would record 93 points in 77 games in the next season).
Giroux was clearly the future of the team. He was 23 years old at the time of the trades while the core Flyers forwards at the time were in their mid-to-late 2os. The Flyers acquired a group of young forwards between the ages of 19-22 who could grow into their prime with Giroux, not ahead of him.
That is exactly what they have done over the past few years, grow. Simmonds and Voracek have become very good top-six wingers while Couturier and Schenn are still young enough to have a lot of unlocked potential.
Ultimately, the Flyers forward core (add or subtract a piece here or there) is set for the forseeable future, and all of the players have a high ceiling.
3. Team Building Without Top Draft Picks
It is tough to be a competitive team in the NHL without a few top draft picks. The Blackhawks had the no.3 pick in 2006 (Toews) and the no.1 pick in 2007 (Kane) and have been able to build around those players. The Kings had the no.11 pick in 2005 (Kopitar) and the no.2 pick in 2008 (Doughty) and have been able to build accordingly. *They also had the no.5 pick in 2009, but they ended up trading that player (Brayden Schenn)*
In a high-pressure, win-now city like Philadelphia it is difficult to obtain high end draft picks for years in succession. The Flyers had the no.2 pick in 2007 (JvR) but have not been in the top 10 ever since (not including trades of course).
However, as a result of these trades the Flyers received a number of high end picks. Looking at the young forwards that they received in the trades, here is what the core looks like:
Voracek – 7th overall – 2007
Simmonds – 60th overall – 2007
B. Schenn – 5th overall – 2009
Couturier – 8th overall – 2011
Although the Flyers have not had top ten picks of their own, they were able to grab three top ten picks in the Carter and Richards trades.
As hard as it is to watch the Kings be successful year in year out, the Flyers should be proud. They are building a strong core of young players who have a ton of promise in the years ahead. If they can find a way to fix the defense without giving up on these forwards, they will be a perennial contender in the near future.