SUNRISE, Fla. -- It didn’t have any of the tradition or pomp and circumstance of President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night in Washington, but Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren offered up his State of the Flyers this week.
Watching the Flyers’ 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, it was hard to fathom that 9 out of the 20 players on the ice were not even members of the organization at this point last year. And that number does not include players like Marc-Andre Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson, and Ben Holmstrom, who were with the Phantoms.
All things considered - devastating injuries, scheduling quirks and new faces, as outlined in today’s game story - Holmgren is pleased with what he’s watched through the first half of the season.
“We’ve shown a real resiliency to bounce back and hang in through a lot of tough situations that the team has dealt with,” Holmgren said. “Moving forward, we know we need to get better in a lot of areas. But overall, we’re certainly okay with where we’re at.”
The Flyers (29-14-5) are just 3 points back of the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers and are actually on pace to top last year’s total of 106 points.
In the big picture, few see a team other than the Rangers, Bruins or Flyers representing the East in June’s Stanley Cup final.
Since they’ve lost captain Chris Pronger for the foreseeable future, the only real knock on the Flyers is their lack of defensive depth. Only one team (Boston) has scored more goals than the Flyers. Their goaltending can be better but has been adequate. And they’ve got the intangibles to make a deep a run.
Holmgren lauded Bourdon and Gustafsson for helping keep the team afloat without a noticeable drop-off on defense.
As things stand, Holmgren said he doesn’t have a burning need to make a trade for more defense. But that could change. Holmgren does not deny that the Flyers have perused the market recently, as the Feb. 27 trade deadline is now rapidly approaching 33 days from now.
“I think we still have 4 guys who can play a lot of minutes in all situations,” Holmgren said. “I think the 2 young kids that we’ve got playing have held their own. So, I don’t feel it’s something we have to do.
“I don’t think we’re any different than a lot of team right now. We’re looking around to see what’s available. And if there’s something out there that makes sense, both now and for the future, we would look at that. But I like the way our kids have played. I think that was a real good experience for them [on Sunday], playing against the Stanley Cup champions, and they both fared OK.”
On Tuesday night, Peter Laviolette gave most of the credit to Holmgren and his scouting staff, for putting the team in a position to win nightly with a cast of players who don’t have the big names that they replaced in the lineup, like Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
With perhaps the boldest moves in the league, on par with Florida’s Dale Tallon, you could certainly make a case for Holmgren as the NHL’s GM of the Year.
Looking toward the second half of the season, Holmgren said his feeling now is the same as it was last year, when the Flyers carried the league’s best record into the All-Star break. And that’s saying something, given their tumultuous summer makeover.
“I don’t feel any different than I have the last number of years,” Holmgren said. “If you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. That’s where we are now, just trying to get in the playoffs.”
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