Blindfolded, I’m following. Following forever. For years, for decades. And then, just when I start to think, when I really start to think about why I’m wearing a blindfold in the first place, and why I’m following someone that I didn’t even choose as the leader, a person who has led me into a number of trees already, I tumble off the cliff.
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Yesterday on Twitter, Fran and I were giving the Flyers front office a good old-fashioned ribbing as the natural result of a pending contract that is largely perceived as a joke by everyone outside of Philadelphia. No official poll has been undertaken by the mayor’s office, but I would venture to guess that most of Philadelphia met the news of Mark Streit’s impending signing with an exacerbated groan. He has a great offensive upside but our defense is not good defensively, and he’s not good defensively. Throw that in a pot with the fact that he’s 35 and mix in $22 million and you’ve got a stew, baby.
So it was in the middle of a streak of some clever and some not so clever 140 character odes to Paul Holmgren that a masked avenger felt the urge to share his own commonplace, knee-jerk retort to someone making fun of his team. I honestly don’t feel like scrolling back to Ctrl+V it verbatim, but it was something along the lines of “are you even a fan? shut up jerk.”
Back when we used to publish what Philadelphia Magazine never called One of the Top 100 Flyers Blogs of 2008, this kind of stuff used to really get under my skin. Am I a fan??? I write 1,000 words about this flipping team every flipping day and then spend 2 hours photoshopping Handzus hair on Patrik Thorensen!! Are you flipping kidding me?!?! But now I’m old and my balls are old and I prefer Dadspin to the Funbag and ain’t nobody got time for that. But from a more philosophical point of view, it is an interesting question.
When I was younger, growing up in South Jersey, dry humping my bed while staring at my Legion of Doom poster, I used to italics-hate when my dad would criticize the Flyers. He was an idiot, he wasn’t a true fan, and what did he know about hockey anyway. But time always proves the youths ignorant, or at the very least naïve. And I’m not reaching into the Pedestrian Complaint Box to let you know that “I’m paying good money to watch this product” or that I think I personally could do a better job. The simple fact of the matter is that I am a fan and, like Will Smiff but certainly not his long jacket wearing son, was born in Philadelphia and have rooted for the Flyers my entire life – living in MA, then ME, then NY and now back in MA. I want the Flyers to be good so that in the tiny escapism opportunities I actually partake in, I can feel a sense of reserved pride. I can wear a Flyers cap while I steer my riding mower around (never grow up) my 30k feet of America, and when my neighbor Masshole Paul comes over to tell me about the Bruins he knows that like Wu-tang, I am nothing to F with, as indicated by the Flyers logo on my forehead. And for 30 years this has not been possible.
And now that I look at the club with a more critical eye it is disconcerting that the ONLY consistency in the organization since 2007 is the front office – specifically Paul Holmgren. That doesn’t smell right. That smells like a double beef Doritos Loco fart in the mouth. And while we’re on the subject of beef and beefing, my main beefs with Holmgren all result from his failed strategic vision. Please note the following comedy of errors:
- Holmgren brought in Pronger with too little concern for the current chemistry of the room, or otherwise understanding of the possible repercussions this move would have
- Holmgren then dug that hole a little deeper by off-loading Mike Richards to right his own wrong
- Which was tied to bringing in Bryzgalov, who we are now going to pay 10’s of millions of dollars to not play for us.
Paul Holmgren brought in two captains that lived on polar opposites of the Captain Spectrum, and when it caused a rift in the locker room he chose a horse that marked a dramatic shift in the long-term outlook of this team. And I already know where you’re going with this, but Marc Savard averaged 83 points per season before his career was ended and the Bruins still moved forward. Do you want a GM that hasn’t won because of injuries or one who has built such a strong organization that he has won in spite of them?
All the other Modrys, Emingers, Parents, Alberts, Boyntons, Fritsches, Sloanes, Fitzpatricks, Krajiceks, Liljas, Bartuliseseses, and Shelleys, I can forgive. All the silly “low risk, high reward” signings that have turned out to be “low risk, no reward” don’t bother me.
Shoot, I can even forgive the Bobrovsky thing. Holmgren chose a strategy again. It was wrong. Again.
And that is the point, exactly. Paul Holmgren has been holding the reins for almost 6 years, and the Flyers are not discernibly better than they were on July 2, 2007. If anything, their bell-curved success over this time period proves that Holmgren’s time is over – he built a supernova and now none of it remains. Holmgren had his miracle run and now the sun is set. But everyone in that front office is just too busy basking in the warm glow of the Bullies’ Cups to notice.
The Flyers are broken. Paul Holmgren had a strategy and it didn’t work out. And the wake continues to grow more dangerous, by the day apparently. The residual impact is leaving us the laughing stock of the league. Every $5M piece of duct tape this guy buys sets us that much further back. We don’t need a short-term fix anymore. We need a new architect and a new engineer.
In the end, I think the organization’s lack of patience, embodied in the always-externally-praised “win now” mentality, has actually done the Flyers a disservice. Do you want to “always be in the discussion” or to have missed the playoffs 5 out of the last 10 years but also had a cup to show for it in that period? That’s the future of the game. Build the core. Keep the core. Add parts. Win one or two. Rinse and repeat.
No matter which of the above options you choose, as evidenced by last season and his continued incompetence, Paul Holmgren is not your man. And as a proud fan of the team and city, I believe they need a change. Someone in that organization needs to get it together, and see what’s happening.
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