The Biggest Do’s and Don’ts of the Philadelphia Flyers’ Off-Season

Posted: April 20, 2013 in Flyers

The New York Rangers beat the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night (and handily I might add) 8-4. The Rangers win means that the Flyers are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

The biggest thing to remember about this season is that it was not a full season. Thanks to another lockout, the season was shortened to 48 games, and teams were without the benefit of a full training camp and pre-season to iron things out. That being said, if us fans have to sit through a full season of what we saw these last 4 months then things really need to change.

As the Flyers play their final four games of the season, it’s time to look to the off-season and the many questions that need to be answered.

With that said, let’s take a look at the biggest do’s and don’ts for the upcoming off-season.

DO: Get Healthy

This is common sense, but injuries plagued the Flyers all season. Early in the season forward Scott Hartnell suffered a broken foot and missed It started with Scott Hartnell’s broken foot, which kept the forward  out for a little over a month. The injury bug then found its way to the Flyers blue line. At one point the Flyers top 4 defenseman were on the disabled list.

There are many things that the Flyers need to fix this off-season, but their top priority should be to simply get healthy and back to 100% in time for training camp.

DON’T: Amnesty Ilya Bryzgalov

Brizzly Bear

Ever since the departure of Ron Hextall, the Flyers have not had a solid #1 goaltender to backstop the team to their first Stanley Cup since 1975.

Prior to the 2011-12 season, the Flyers signed free agent goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9-year $54 million contract in hopes that he was the answer to their goaltender issues. Bryzgalov’s first season was a shaky one, but he did manage to backstop the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals where they were eliminated by the New Jersey Devils.

Needless to say, Bryzgalov found out the hard way that playing goaltender for the Flyers is not the same as playing goaltender for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Many fans believed that Bryzgalov would find his groove now that he had a year of playing in Philadelphia under his belt. Unfortunately, Bryzgalov has not been at the level that he was expected to be at. While it is not all Bryz’s fault (more on that later), he has come under an enormous amount of criticism from fans and writers alike. Many have talked about the Flyers using their amnesty clause on the 32 year-old goaltender. And while the Flyers do have that option, Bryzgalov, now is not the time to do it. Should Bryzgalov be playing better? Absolutely. However getting rid of Bryzgalov this off-season is not a good idea. Like him or not, he is one of the better goalies the Flyers can have right now.

I’m giving Bryzgalov one more year and if the struggles continue, then amnesty is an option.

DO: Hold Paul Holmgren Accountable for Previous Off-Season’s Failures

2010 NHL Draft - Round One

During the off-season it is the job of the General Manager to survey the team and correct any issues from the previous season. This isn’t just for hockey, this goes for all sports.

During the off-season prior to this season, Paul Holmgren took several huge gambles in trying to acquire free agents Zach Parise, and defensemen Ryan Suter and Shea Weber. Holmgren missed out on signing Parise and Suter, who both signed with the Minnesota Wild, and Shea Weber, re-signed with the Nashville Predators when they match the offer sheet that the Flyers had signed him to.

I don’t fault Holmgren for going after big name stars. After all, the Flyers were in desperate need of help on the blue line and Weber and Suter were the two best defensemen available. Not to mention, Zach Parise would have help out the offense tremendously. Unfortunately, in the process of trying to sign these players, Holmgren failed to re-sign key players, namely Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle, who both would eventually sign elsewhere.

On top of all of that, Holmgren dealt goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Columbus’ second-round and a fourth-round picks in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and Phoenix‘s fourth-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Though it was clear that the Flyers were going with Bryzgalov as their #1, I was surprised to see them make this deal. The Flyers were then left with the rotation of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton as their back-up(s). The lack of a solid back-up left Ilya Bryzgalov with an extremely heavy workload. The recent acquisition of Steve Mason did help with tis issue as the Flyers now had a legitimate back up for Bryzgalov.

All of that said, Paul Holmgren needs to be held responsible for not providing the proper personnel. The Flyers were consistently lacking on the blue line and offered little help for their goaltender, who was regularly bombarded with shots each game. Not to mention the Flyers could not generate any offense, which did not help the team’s cause any. After all, as John Madden would say “the team is going to have trouble winning if they can’t put any points on the board”.

Whether holding Holmgren accountable means firing him is up to team owner Ed Snider.

DON’T: Fire Peter Laviolette

Lavy

When the Flyers fired head coach John Stevens midway through the 2009-10 season, they hired former Carolina Hurricanes head coach Peter Laviolette to replace Stevens later that same day.

In what is possibly the most memorable playoff run in Flyers history, they would make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. Since then, it has been back to back second round exits followed by a disappointing lockout-shortened season that saw the Flyers miss the playoffs for the first time in 6 years.

Both Laviolette and his high-tempo coaching system have come under great scrutiny. Many will argue that the system is not well suited for this team and by not changing it, Laviolette is not helping this team.

You know what else is not helping this team? Not having the right personnel for Laviolette’s system, not having a solid back up goalie to lessen the load for Ilya Bryzgalov, who started an unprecedented 39 games this season, and not making the right moves in the off-season to help this team. These issues are not the fault of Peter Laviolette. All of these problems can be traced to one man: Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren.

Plain and simple, firing Peter Laviolette is not going to solve all of the Flyers problems. Unfortunately, that is not going to stop him from (unfairly) being scapegoated for this season’s failures.

Remember

The absence of a full training camp and pre-season definitely took its toll on the orange and black. That is not an excuse for the massive amounts of underperformance this season, but it definitely had a lot to do with it. It was one frustration after another. Many fans are calling massive changes such as firing head coach Peter Laviolette and GM Paul Holmgren and releasing Ilya Bryzgalov.

Frankly, now is not the time to do that. Yes, they need to retool some aspects of the team but not to the point where they need to completely tear things down and start from square one. Believe it or not there were some bright spots this season, such as Jake Voracek’s emergence as one of the top young stars of the team, and the emergence of other young stars.

However, if the Flyers find themselves on the outside looking in at the end of next season, then there will be major changes in Philadelphia.

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