The Philadelphia Flyers have been quite busy in this weekend's NHL draft, and not just with their draft picks. Flyers fans like myself already said goodbye to Sergei Bobrovsky on June 22, as he was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets after he briefly looked like Philadelphia's goaltending future. Then on June 23, another Flyers youngster who looked to be a big part of the future was sent away.
This time it was James van Riemsdyk, who looked to be a big acquisition as the second pick in the 2007 NHL draft. But five years later, van Riemsdyk became expendable enough to send to the Toronto Maple Leafs, in a straight-up trade for Brayden Schenn's brother Luke.
From the start, van Riemsdyk had a hard time proving himself worthy of the No. 2 pick - especially after No. 1 pick Patrick Kane got the Chicago Blackhawks past the Flyers for the 2010 Stanley Cup. However, 'JVR' showed flashes of brilliance in the 2010-11 season and postseason, raising hopes that he would finally take the next step soon enough.
But like Bobrovsky, van Riemsdyk ran his course with the Flyers in 2011-12 and couldn't do much for them. Injuries were partly to blame for van Riemsdyk's slide, as they limited him to only 43 games. Yet that was seemingly enough to prove that the Flyers couldn't wait around any longer for him, although he only had three years to try.
Just over a year ago, Bobrovsky and van Riemsdyk looked to be the cornerstones in Philadelphia's long term future. Now those positions belong to the likes of Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Sean Couturier and Schenn - who now has his brother for extra support. Meanwhile, while the Flyers build up for another Stanley Cup run, van Riemsdyk heads for a Maple Leafs club with an even longer title drought - and even less hope to break it.
Both of the recently traded young Flyers had a window of opportunity, couldn't take advantage, and now have to start over with teams that are going nowhere. Meanwhile, Philadelphia remains confident that all the young stars it developed this past season won't turn out so disappointing.
Yet Schenn, Couturier, Jakub Voracek and Matt Read only have to look at van Riemsdyk and Bobrovsky to see how quick the future can change. With one bad season or two, they too could suddenly become expendable while the Flyers start a brand new youth movement.
Although van Riemsdyk helped the Flyers get to the Stanley Cup Finals in his rookie season, he is now gone just two years later. This serves as a cautionary tale for future NHL drafts, Philadelphia's current budding stars and the Flyers franchise in general. Yet as Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne just proved with the champion Los Angeles Kings, being a bust in Philadelphia doesn't always derail a career.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and a Flyers fan since the age of eight.
Other stories from this contributor
- Ice Hockey
- Sports & Recreation
- Sergei Bobrovsky
- James van Riemsdyk