If there is another complaint leveled at Holmgren that really stands to merit, it is this: the man LOVED to trade away draft picks. This is another bad habit he, unfortunately, inherited from Clarke. Thanks to trades, the Flyers did not have a first or second round pick in 2008 or 2009.
As far as first round picks go, he had some good ones. He chose James Van Riemsdyk in 2007, Sean Couturier in 2011, and Scott Laughton in 2012. He also chose Luca Sbisa in 2008 and Sam Morin in 2013, however nobody could’ve seen that Morin would suffer so many injuries.
Other good picks that Holmgren made included Shayne Gostisbehere as a third rounder in 2012. Some picks were ok and, at the very least serviceable, such as Nick Cousins and Robert Hagg. However, out of the 43 picks he selected, 20 never saw the NHL. That’s a rather high number.
Not every draft pick is going to become a star, however, it’s great to have depth, in players like Cousins and Hagg. If half of them never even reach the NHL, that’s not successful. When you temper that with the fact that in two seasons there were no first or second rounders and that JVR and Sbisa were traded away very earlier in their careers, Holmgren didn’t really have anything to show of substance for his first four drafts. However, we can also see the Couturier and Laughton are still on the team and have given Philly a decade of stability.
Holmgren’s tenure comes with a mixed legacy. On the one hand, acquiring Simmonds, Hartnell, Briere, Pronger and others were bold moves that helped make the team strong and competitive. Some of these moves helped propel the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010.
However, there was a lot of short term thinking too. Draft picks were traded away for little in return many of the time. The constant goalie turnover did not provide a stable back end. Bryzgalov turned into a disaster. Trading away a future Vezina Trophy winner in Bobrovksy looks foolish now as did trading away budding star van Riemsdyk.
At the same time, some of the contracts that were signed, Lecavalier’s for example, kept the Flyers without a lot of room to maneuver. And while it was great to see Holmgren lock up Flyers stars like Giroux, Simmonds, and others to long term expensive deals in order to build a long term core of guys, it would hamper what this team could do in the future. When Hextall did the same, it put the Flyers into the salary cap mess we find them in now.
Holmgren put together a strong team. And in many ways, I would gladly take what he did with the Flyers over what has happened over the last few years with Fletcher. But with that said, he, like Clarke before him, made a lot of moves that greatly affected how this team performed. Losing draft picks, trading young players for older vets, and overpaying talent would eventually come to haunt this team. It’s nice to imagine what would’ve, could’ve happened had Weber become a Flyer, but since it didn’t happen, it’s a moot point. You can’t cheer and celebrate what didn’t happen.
Without a clear vision over the last few years, it’s easy to see how the Flyers have become kind of a mess. A once proud and dominant franchise has become an afterthought in recent years. Hopefully new general manager Briere can change that and right the ship before it is too late. Hopefully Briere can learn from the mistakes of the Flyers past general managers, from Clarke up through Fletcher, and turn this team around.