As the Stanley Cup playoffs near their completion, the NHL trade market is, as predicted, beginning to heat up. First, the Dallas Stars and new GM Jim Nill made a quick move for a veteran defenseman in a deal for Sergei Gonchar; and Wednesday afternoon, the Philadelphia Flyers got in on the action by acquiring blueliner Mark Streit (or at least, the negotiating rights for the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent).
Of course, the Flyers get in on the action every summer. Asking the Flyers to not get in on the action is like asking 95 percent of all hockey cards not to depreciate in value. It’s in their DNA. It’s what they do.
Unfortunately, evidence suggesting constant roster turnover isn’t the ideal way to construct a Stanley Cup-winning product continues to mount. But it looks as if we’re in for another summer of significant renovations in Flyers land. Given their more recent history of deals, that should be terribly unnerving news for their fans.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d take 30 owners like Flyers czar Ed Snider and his intense desire to win over some miserly financial bottom-line owner any day of the week. Some of the impetus for the addition of Streit (and likely another NHL blueliner such as pending UFA Ron Hainsey in the weeks to come) is justifiable; once Philadelphia lost star d-man Chris Pronger to the scourge of concussions, it set in motion a massive house-of-cards collapse on the back end (one exacerbated by the departure of Matt Carle).
However, as more than a few veteran NHL observers (most notably, former Flyers nemesis Bobby Holik) have said more than once, the consistent inconsistency of whom that franchise chooses to build around has a negative effect on the process. It’s tough to argue against that line of thought, particularly when you examine Philly’s success-to-failure ratio on the trade front in the past two off-seasons.
In the summer of 2011, the Flyers shipped out captain Mike Richards and sniper Jeff Carter in separate trades that tore down what they claimed was their foundation for the future. Last summer, GM Paul Holmgren continued to make waves, shipping out one-time starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus for three draft picks (none of which were first round picks). As we all know, Richards and Carter were quickly reunited in Los Angeles and won a Stanley Cup together last spring, while Bobrovsky rebounded spectacularly this year and is the frontrunner to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top netminder.
If this were the popular Game of Thrones TV show, Holmgren would have had his trade trigger finger hacked off based on those moves alone. But in Philadelphia, where if you’re not trading, you’re not trying, that’s simply par for the course.
Now put yourself in the shoes/skates of a Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn or Sean Couturier. Having seen what went on with former Flyers, how confident would you be in terms of your long-term security with Snider and Holmgren? If I were them, not only would I hesitate to buy a house – I’d also only lease a car on a month-to-month basis.
Yes, the Flyers’ collective hunger for a Cup makes for great optics on a number of levels. In the media world – where new stories and new faces are the lifeblood of the business – Philly’s rotating cast of characters has the veneer of urgency most fans want to see from their team. But after years of trying and failing with their carpe-diem philosophy, Flyers management might want to try letting someone else carpe the diem for a summer or two. Patience and a long-view of their current crop of youngsters just might pay off.
Sadly, I’ve got a hunch that won’t happen and the revolving door in Philadelphia will continue to spin. Snider turned 80 this year and the motivation of mortality has a funny way of keeping the pressure to win ratcheted to its upper limits.
A shame, then, that his legacy with the Flyers is more about Roster Restless Leg Syndrome than collecting championships.
Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.