Monday, April 21, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Stunning makeover

Minutes after news broke that they'd traded Jeff Carter to Columbus, an even more stunning deal came to light. Captain Mike Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings.

Stunning makeover

Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were both drafted in the first round by the Flyers in the 2003 NHL draft. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were both drafted in the first round by the Flyers in the 2003 NHL draft. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

They say the aftershock is sometimes more powerful than the original quake. The Flyers proved that old saying true Thursday.

Minutes after news broke that they’d traded Jeff Carter to Columbus, an even more stunning deal came to light. Captain Mike Richards was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings.

Wow. Then double wow.

After the Flyers were eliminated in the second round by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, there was talk about taking the “C” off Richards’ sweater. That would have been a pretty clear sign that GM Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette wanted to change up the chemistry on this team. But this? Dealing both of the joined-at-the-hip, faces-of-the-franchise, signed-for-eternity forwards will utterly remake this hockey team.

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A line has been drawn in the ice.

This is about much more than merely creating salary-cap space for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov and winger Ville Leino. This suggests that Laviolette wasn’t happy with the tone set by Richards and Carter and Holmgren agreed it was time to side with a coach instead of disaffected players.

The Flyers’ new wave of star players – Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk – are ready to lead the way. They’ve already shown they are ready to rise to the postseason occasion.

 In that sense, this is a bit like the Phillies’ trading of Bobby Abreu back in 2006. Yes, they have up a productive veteran player, but they gave young stars Ryan Howard and Chase Utley space in the clubhouse. They did a pretty good job of filling it.

There is certainly a high risk to accompany the possible high reward. Reports followed quickly that the Flyers had a nine-year, $51 million deal with Bryzgalov. That would run until he is 39 years old.

If he is finally the man capable of carrying this team to a Cup, then this will look like a masterstroke. If not, and if the Flyers’ offense suffers, this will be just another overreaction made in order to undo last year’s mistakes.

Remember, coming out of the 2004 lockout, how they bulked up with big defensemen Derian Hatcher and Mike Rathje? Then they discovered – in the playoffs, where lessons are impossible to ignore -- that big slow defensemen were exactly the wrong way to go under the new rules designed to limit grabbing and clutching?

No doubt goaltending was a disaster for the Flyers in the playoffs this year. And they look very shortsighted, considering they had shots at Tim Thomas, Evgeni Nabokov and Antti Niemi last offseason. The Flyers put themselves in a position where they almost had to address the position, and now they risk overpaying for a Bryzgalov.

Finally, don’t underestimate the value of those draft picks acquired in the trades. Carter, Richards, Giroux and van Riemsdyk are all products of the draft. It is an area of strength for Holmgren. Maybe the next Carter will be scooped up with one of those picks.

I would have hated to be the guy who had to call Carter with this news. For a guy who seems to get the most out of living in a lively city like Philadelphia, a trade to Columbus has to sting. Even with all those Ohio State kids around, this seems more like a punishment than a simple trade. When he heard his pal Richards was going to Hollywood, it must have been twice as painful.

All told, this is easily the biggest Flyers-related shock since the day Bob Clarke resigned and Ken Hitchcock was fired. The seismograph had been relatively quiet since then.

Phil Sheridan Inquirer Columnist
About this blog
Phil Sheridan has been covering pro and college sports in his hometown since 1985. He has been a columnist at the Inquirer since 2003, after a seven-year run as the paper's Eagles beat writer. Sheridan has covered eight Olympics, numerous Super Bowls and World Series, and has seen Guided By Voices and Wilco too many times to count. He lives, cooks and pursues the ultimate margarita blend in Langhorne. Reach Phil at psheridan@phillynews.com.

Phil Sheridan
Phil Sheridan Inquirer Columnist
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