Holmgren's best and worst moves as Flyers GM

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Holmgren's best and worst moves as Flyers GM

If you log the moves Paul Holmgren made during the eight years he spent as general manager of the Flyers, the good outweighs the bad in terms of sheer number of moves.

Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good in terms of player impact and the salary cap and roster.

As a general rule, the Flyers, historically, have been too generous and too lenient with their players to sometimes make hard, rational decisions.

Example: Giving Kimmo Timonen a $6 million, one-year extension when the club was under salary cap duress and it was clear Timonen no longer warranted that kind of money.

Flyers chairman Ed Snider always took care of his players in the present and in the future with jobs and help once they retired. It’s why so many players -- even those cast aside -- rave about playing in Philadelphia.

It’s like being a city employee with outstanding benefits long after retirement. Everyone was treated like family, regardless of whether they deserved such recognition.

So when judging Holmgren’s eight years at the helm, you have to consider the culture under which he operated whereby every player was treated as family.

Holmgren’s moves in 2006-07 to get the Flyers back to respectability with the signings of Timonen, Scott Hartnell and Braydon Coburn were significant in laying a foundation of stability that righted the franchise.

Yet in subsequent years, he overspent in money and/or years in trades and free agency that still left gaping holes in the lineup.

Coming out of the lockout, the Flyers were ill-prepared to compete on defense and it showed when they failed to make the playoffs last spring.

The signing of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov represented overreaction by the organization -- and that includes Snider. The Flyers were fortunate to get out from under his nine-year, $51 million gargantuan contract only because of a lockout.

Yet the signing of Vinny Lecavalier last summer was just as bad -- five years at $22.5 million for a center who never had a guaranteed spot in the lineup.

The Flyers needed a scoring winger, yet signed Lecavalier hoping he would unseat Brayden Schenn. When that didn’t happen, they hoped he could convert to wing. Failed experiment.

That wasn’t Lecavalier’s fault. It was the organization’s fault.

Hextall’s biggest challenge moving forward is what to do with Lecavalier for the next four years unless he trades Schenn. Lecavalier’s contract is near impossible to move at his age (34).

Holmgren was blunt in assessing his own performance as GM.

“We didn’t win,” he said. “At the end of the day, that is all it’s about. ... Unfulfilled. Fulfilling personally, but in terms of what we’re supposed to do, we didn’t win.”

Here's a closer look at some of the key moves Holmgren made during his tenure:

Holmgren’s best trades
Feb. 24, 2007: Alexei Zhitnik to Atlanta for Braydon Coburn

June 18, 2007: First-round pick ('07) to Nashville for rights to Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen

Nov. 7, 2008: Steve Downie, Steve Eminger and fourth-round pick ('09) to Tampa Bay for Matt Carle

June 26, 2009: Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, two first-round picks ('09, '10) and second-round pick ('10) to Anaheim for Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle

July 1, 2010: Second-round pick ('12) to Tampa Bay for Andrej Meszaros

Feb. 16, 2012: Second-round ('12) and third-round ('13) pick to Dallas for Nick Grossmann

April 3, 2013: Michael Leighton and third-round pick ('15) to Columbus for Steve Mason

June 12, 2013: Shayne Harper and fourth-round pick ('14) to the Islanders for Mark Streit

March 4, 2014: Third-round ('14) and second-round picks ('15) to the Islanders for Andrew MacDonald

Jury still out
June 23, 2011: Rob Bordson and Mike Richards to L.A. for Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn

June 23, 2011: Jeff Carter to Columbus for Jakub Voracek and first-round pick (Sean Couturier); thirrd-round pick (Nick Cousins)

Holmgren’s worst trades
June 7, 2011: Matt Clackson to Phoenix for rights to Ilya Bryzgalov

June 23, 2012: James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for Luke Schenn

Oct. 31, 2013: Max Talbot to Colorado for Steve Downie

Best free-agent signing
July 1, 2007: Danny Briere

Worst free-agent signings
June 23, 2011: Ilya Bryzgalov

July 2, 2013: Vinny Lecavalier

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

Flyers Weekly Observations: More flashes, more frustration

The Flyers’ playoff hopes are all but buried alive, but we still have plenty to discuss after a busy week of hockey.

The Flyers took the ice four times and finished up with yet another inconsistent showing last week.

They pulled off a 4-3 overtime win over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, dropped a disappointing 3-2 decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, impressed with a strong 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and then were stifled in a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon.

Let’s take deeper dive into the week that was for the Flyers.

• While it was another one of those up-and-down weeks for the Flyers that we’ve all become used to, Sean Couturier stuck out in a good way this past week. Two plays, in particular, stuck out, and not just because the puck ended up in the back of the net each time. Sunday in overtime against Carolina, Couturier revved up on a quick and powerful solo rush up the ice, broke in on goalie Cam Ward and created a prime scoring opportunity that Brayden Schenn cleaned up for the game-winner. It was something we don’t see often enough from Couturier. He has the size with his 6-foot-3, 211-pound frame and can be tough to stop when he gets in gear the way he did in OT on Sunday night. That could be such a weapon for the Flyers if he could do it on a more consistent basis. His goal Thursday in Minnesota was a thing of beauty. He took a slick pass from Schenn, maneuvered the puck through his legs and beat Devan Dubnyk five-hole. Between the pass and the lovely finish, it might have been the prettiest goal the Flyers scored all season. But it was Couturier’s skill that finished it off. So he again showed flashes of mixing his size and skill this week to create offense. Queue the broken record, but the Flyers, who average just 2.50 goals per game heading into Sunday night’s tilt in Pittsburgh, really need Couturier to do those kinds of things much more consistently.

• Steve Mason was not out of line to question his teammates after Tuesday’s disheartening loss in Winnipeg. Heading into that game, the Flyers talked about how, even though their playoff hopes were slim, they still thought they had a real chance to reach the postseason. Entering the third period on Tuesday, the game was tied at 1-1. The Flyers had 20 minutes to vanquish a Jets team that was missing five regular defensemen in the lineup. Instead of playing like a team hungry for the playoffs, the Flyers sat back and let the Jets carry play to predictably terrible results for the Flyers. Think about this: the Flyers had just two shots in the period 13:34 into the frame. I know Mason mentioned the eight straight minutes of penalties the Flyers took in the second period, and, while frustrating, that happens sometimes. The two shots through more than half the third period can't happen. Urgency anybody? They did respond nicely Thursday against a good, albeit stumbling, Wild team. That may have been the Flyers' best all-round effort of the year.

 • In response to Tuesday’s lackluster effort in Winnipeg, Dave Hakstol again switched up the Flyers’ lines ahead of Thursday’s game in Minnesota. One of the changes saw rookie forward Travis Konecny slide down to the fourth line next to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Chris VandeVelde. That’s a curious move. Think about this: the Flyers’ playoff hopes are virtually toast, right? What does Konecny get out of playing fourth-line minutes now? Shouldn’t he be further up the depth chart in an effort to find some chemistry with more skilled linemates heading into next season? I get that he has defensive deficiencies. But he’s a rookie and all rookies have those. At the end of the day, the kid is a skilled scorer. And these are important minutes for him to get more and more comfortable in a top-wing role. You’ve got to take the good with the bad, especially with the Flyers’ goal-scoring needs.

• The Flyers’ power play continues to be a debacle. After an 0-for-3 showing Saturday in Columbus, the Flyers’ power play is 3 for 43 in the month of March. It’s not just that the power play is stagnant right now. It’s that it’s giving the opponent momentum and helping turn games around against the Flyers. It’s more deflating than anything else. More often than not, it just seems that opponents have more quality chances while shorthanded than the Flyers have with the man advantage. Gotta give the Flyers’ power-play units credit on Saturday, though. They fired 10 power-play shots on goal, but Sergei Bobrovsky had every answer. He was superbly flawless all game long for the Jackets, for that matter.

• Want a telling stat? Try this on for size: heading into Sunday’s games, 16 teams have positive goal differentials for the season and 14 teams have negative goal differentials for the season. Those 16 teams with positive goal differentials are in the current playoff picture. The 14 teams with negative goal differentials, well … I’ll let you fill in the blank. FYI, the Flyers’ goal differential is -27.

• Was going over some stats on Sunday morning and, oh, those poor Avalanche fans. Colorado has just been abysmal this year. As of Sunday morning, the last-place Avs are 20 points behind the next team in the standings, Arizona. Twenty! The Avs’ goal differential on the season is -104. That’s an astounding number that’s 44 goals behind the next worse number, coincidentally Arizona’s. So for you Flyers fans angry at how this season has soured, just remember it’s worse somewhere else. Much, much worse. … If that’s any consolation.

Coming up this week: Sunday at Pittsburgh (7 p.m./NBCSN), Tuesday vs. Ottawa (7 p.m./TCN), Thursday vs. New York Islanders (7 p.m./CSN), Saturday vs. New Jersey (7 p.m./CSN)

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers-Penguins 5 things: Final long road trip of season ends in Pittsburgh

Flyers (34-32-8) at Penguins (46-17-11)
7 p.m. on NBCSN/CSNPhilly.com and NBC Sports App

The Flyers conclude their final four-game road trip of the season on Sunday night in Pittsburgh against a Penguins team with its playoff ticket already punched.

Let's take a closer look game at No. 75 for the Flyers.

1. Power outage
The theme remained the same for the Flyers in their 1-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday: a lifeless power play leads to little offense in a must-win game that killed any realistic, however slim, hope of making a last-second run at the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot.

After going 0 for 3 against the Blue Jackets, the Flyers' power play is now 3 for 43 in March, 0 for its last 14 and 2 for its last 25. On Sunday night, they face a Penguins penalty kill that is lingering near the bottom 10 of the league at 19th overall with an 80.3 percent kill rate.

"We're getting our chances and it's not going in," Shayne Gostisbehere said Saturday. "It's not like we're not getting shots, so it's a matter of sticking with it and it'll come."

In their 4-0 shutout win over the Penguins on March 15, the Flyers were 1 for 4 on the man advantage and it was the last game the team found twine on the power play.

2. Mr. 100
After winning his 100th game as a Flyer on Thursday night Minnesota -- only the third goalie in franchise history to reach 100 wins -- Steve Mason had Saturday afternoon off.

Without context, rolling with Michal Neuvirth on Saturday was a surprising move considering Mason has been the better goalie of the two and the team believed its season was not yet over. But it was the first game of a back-to-back against two of the East's elites.

Neuvirth appeared rusty in the opening period but settled down in Columbus, but Mason is expected back in between the pipes Sunday against the Pens, whom he shut out 11 days ago.

On Sunday, he's expected to make his 50th start of year. Mason will be the first goaltender in Flyers history to start over 50 games in four consecutive seasons. He's appeared in 53 games this season in total heading into Sunday night's tilt.

Mason is 2-3-1 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in March and owns a 2.73 goals-against average and .906 save percentage overall this season.

3. Playoffs … playoffs?
With Saturday's 1-0 loss, the Flyers' playoff hopes are realistically dead -- not as if they weren't already. The Flyers have eight games left and are eight points out of the playoffs.

One has to believe the Flyers have to win out and acquire all 16 possible points to have any legitimate chance at the playoffs. That's not taking into account help needed elsewhere.

Let's do some math. If the Flyers were to earn all 16 points on the table, they'd finish the year with 92 points. Is that enough to get into the playoffs? Not unless the four teams ahead of them crash and burn. The Flyers are not officially eliminated, but the playoffs are a pipe dream.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's go with Sean Couturier, who has three goals and seven assists in his last 11 games. He had a goal and an assist with a career-high eight shots vs. the Pens 11 days ago.

Penguins: Nick Bonino has seven goals in his last 10 games and nine points in his last 12 games. Bonino has one goal in three games against the Flyers this season.

5. This and that
• The Penguins will wear their gold Stadium Series jerseys against the Flyers on Sunday.

• The Flyers have scored just 20 goals in their last 17 losses.

• This game was originally set for 12:30 p.m. but was rescheduled earlier in the season.

• Pittsburgh is 3-0-2 in five contests since losing to the Flyers on March 15. The Pens are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games and are coming off back-to-back shootout losses.