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 Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

Flyers Notes: Promising performances from young defensemen

The most impressive thing about the Flyers' 4-0 preseason win over the Islanders on Tuesday night was the play of the their young defense and the outstanding work by the penalty kill.

Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers each gave a strong accounting of themselves while veteran Andrew MacDonald proved why experience helps with some terrific PK work during an extended five-on-three Islanders power play in the third period.

“Overall, they did a good job,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “I look at some of the opportunities we gave up, especially in the second period, we gave up three or four Grade A opportunities that Mase (goalie Steve Mason) was great on, but I put those on our forwards.

“We’re still not into regular-season form on our play without the puck. I thought as a whole, the group of defensemen did a good job and the young guys in there were good tonight.”

Sanheim had strong plays the entire game from the point and picked up two assists (see highlights). He gets the puck quickly on net and joins the play up front.

“It took me a little bit, even in this game,” Sanheim said. “As I play more, I started to jump up more and you start to see my game more. It’s something I want to bring to this next level.”

Provorov logged 21:43 of ice time following nearly 29 minutes at New Jersey. He had 5:17 on the PK. Some of his clears weren’t deep or hard enough, at times, possibly because of fatigue.

He also took a bad boarding hit on Joshua Ho-Sang in the third period that set up an Isles five-on-three power play. It became extended because of a trip call to Myers but MacDonald did yeoman’s work on the extended PK.

Provorov quarterbacks the first-unit man advantage for now until Shayne Gostisbehere joins the crowd. He had some very skillful passes. The Russian can find the seam up the ice on the breakout quickly and had a no-look, hard pass to Nick Cousins in the second period for a quality one-timer on net.

Expect Provorov to handle the second-unit power play during the season, should he make the roster.

The goals
Although the Flyers, using a better NHL lineup, were lacking for offensive chances early against the Isles' "B" squad, they found their way in the final four minutes of the opening period.

First, Dale Weise had one of those pinball goals as a bouncing puck hit a couple of players in the slot, including goalie Chris Gibson, to make it 1-0 during four-on-four play.

That was the Flyers' first goal of preseason in three games. A little more than a minute later, Wayne Simmonds scored off a rebound just as a Flyers power play ended. Simmonds had two goals in the game, including a wrister from the left circle to open the final period.

Smallish (5-foot-7) — but bullish — centerman Andy Miele, a former Hobey Baker Award winner as college hockey’s top player (Miami-Ohio), made it 3-0, out-battling Thomas Hickey for the rebound of Michael Raffl’s shot.

The shield
Simmonds is wearing a visor for the first time. It’s an experiment for now.

“Everyone is all over me about it,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. It wasn’t too bad tonight. The only thing is trying to track pucks in the sky when you are getting the glare from the lights. A little bit of an adjustment."

He said neither his mother nor girlfriend had pushed him as hard to wear the shield as someone else: “Ron Hextall,” he said flatly. “He gave me a call.”

Because of his tenacious play in the slot where sticks are high and pucks are deflected, a shield makes sense.

“Yeah, I think so, being that front guy and doing work on the PK,” he said. “Getting sticks in lanes like that, the game is really fast and pucks get deflected.

“Sometime you don’t know where they’re going and can’t react to that. Obviously, the shield is good for that."

He added he would wear the shield in a fight, too.

“Every time I fight and someone has a shield on, I’m at a disadvantage so I guess this evens it up,” he said.

Loose pucks
Weise did a nice job sticking up for teammates late during a melee after a Ben Holmstrom crosscheck to linemate Nick Cousins. “It was a bad crosscheck and you’re defending your teammates,” he said. “The ref was in the way and I kind of went overtop him. That’s what I’m about. Guys take liberties on my linemates, I’ll stand up for them.” … Matt Read had just 6:54 ice time through two periods. Fourth-liner Boyd Gordon had more ice time there — 9:39 — but Read finished with 13:55 to Gordon’s 13:41. More than half of Gordon’s ice time was on the penalty kill. … Goalie Steve Mason faced some point-blank chances among the first 17 shots he faced and finished with 23-save shutout.  

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Roman Lyubimov getting comfortable, impressing with hard, heavy style

Ron Hextall said when Flyers training camp began there were spots to be won and spots to be taken from others.

Even though it’s still early in camp, it seems fairly clear Russian forward Roman Lyubimov is going to steal someone’s job among the bottom-six forwards.

He’s been the right wing on Boyd Gordon’s line in camp with Chris VandeVelde on the left side. 

That fourth line worked again Tuesday night as the Flyers opened their home preseason schedule with a 4-0 win over the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.

The 6-2, 207-pound Lyubimov plays a heavy game. He is tenacious in one-on-one battles and, perhaps more importantly, jumps on loose pucks after faceoffs as demonstrated during the 2-0 loss in New Jersey on Monday.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol took notice.

“It’s a nice trait for a player to have automatically and it’s an important trait,” Hakstol said.

“His competitiveness and his battle level on 50-50 pucks, things like that, hasn’t changed from Day 1.”

After spending six years in the KHL, it appears Lyubimov has found a home here. He’s already making a nice adjustment to the smaller rink, too.

“Last couple of years, playing for the Red Army team, there were some pretty physical games,” he said, via translator Slava Kouznetsov. “I think it was pretty close to NHL games. I just have to adapt to the smaller ice.”

He logged 3:55 ice time on the penalty kill against the Devils — second only to rookie defensive prospect Ivan Provorov — and Hakstol has his sights set on using him in that capacity if he makes the final cut.

While playing for the Russian Army, Lyubimov was used in a shutdown role and on the PK with little power-play time.

“I was more defense-oriented,” he said. “If you don’t let the [opponent] score on you, it’s easier to win games. Here, I’ll see what the coaches want me to do. I watched a lot of NHL games. One of my criteria was to be good at the penalty kill.”

The only hard question Hakstol has to answer is Lyubimov’s adjustment to the smaller rink.

“I think he is still working through that but he is game for it,” Hakstol said. “He doesn’t look for open ice in terms of shying away from traffic areas. He is battling in those high traffic areas.”

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare made the adjustment quickly, coming over from France. Michael Raffl played a couple games with the Phantoms after coming over from Austria.

It’s possible the Flyers could start Lyubimov with the Phantoms and then call him up.

“He plays a small-ice type of game,” Hextall said of Lyubimov. “He goes hard to the net, he’s good on the wall, does all those little things. Space I don’t think will affect him as much as other guys.”

He had a prime scoring chance in Tuesday’s game against the Islanders, chasing down a puck behind the net and getting a wraparound that was blocked at the post by defenseman Kyle Burroughs.

Lyubimov finished with 12:07 of ice time and two shots.

His best shot to make the cut is to take away VandeVelde's spot on the fourth line (see story). Once Bellemare returns from the World Cup of Hockey, someone has to go. Another factor here is whether the club carries 23 players instead of 22.

Lyubimov said what impressed him about the Flyers was how players are treated here, on and especially off the ice.

That was always something former Flyers loved about their late owner Ed Snider. He treated them as family, not employees.

“There is a difference,” Lyubimov said. “Everything here is comfortable and done for the players. Here I live five minutes from the rink. In Moscow, it’s 45 minutes. Everything works for me here.”

So much so, Lyubimov is bringing his wife, Katrina, and their 1-year-old daughter Alexa, over this fall to live here even though he has just a one-year deal worth $925,000.

“I want to stay here more than a year,” he said. “I will do whatever I have to do. This is the place I wanted to come.”