MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Philadelphia Flyers general manager and head coach tried to rationalize the stunning, course-changing decision to trade stars Mike Richards(notes) and Jeff Carter(notes) on the eve of the NHL Draft, I kept returning to one conundrum:
Flyers Chairman Ed Snider called goalie Ilya Bryzgalov(notes) "the final piece on this team." Yet on the day they signed him, GM Paul Holmgren — with Snider's blessing — slammed his hands down and smashed the puzzle.
How does one square the notion of Ilya Bryzgalov being the last piece for a team that, frankly, no longer exists?
When the Flyers' season ended with a second-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins, Laviolette didn't believe dramatic change on this level was necessary.
Did Holmgren just blow up his team?
"I don't know if it's blown-up, but it's a different team," he said.
Did it need to be a different team? Everyone's aware of the dressing room drama for the Flyers: The youth gone wild clichés that went from Internet gossip to local media to being addressed by Holmgren in postseason comments. Does removing Carter and Richards from the dressing room signal a change in culture?
"There's certainly a change in the locker room. You take those two pieces out … it's hard to get a read on that," said Laviolette.
As for Holmgren, it was especially difficult decision. He drafted both players, signed both players to long-term deals — Carter to 2022, Richards to 2020. He refused to move Carter when given the chance to in previous season. Richards was his captain; a throwback who evoked the hallowed name of Bobby Clarke with his style of play.
Here's Holmgren getting quite emotional about dealing Richards, and talking about several aspects of these trades for the Flyers.
Holmgren downplayed the "cultural" aspects of the trades, but make no mistake: This decision firmly places the Flyers' leadership in the mitts of Chris Pronger(notes), without Richards (and Carter, his best friend) offering a counterpoint. This transfer of power is seen as the best path to a Stanley Cup for the Flyers.
Anything less, and we'll look back on this day as Holmgren's Folly.