November 9, 2010

Paul Holmgren is no Bob Barker, both Literally and Figuratively

"Crazily, we decided to keep the smaller of the three. More crazily? It's worked out for the best."
The Philadelphia Flyers continued their dangerous game of The Price is Right on Monday, making Claude Giroux the latest contestant in their continual attempts to get as close to the salary cap as possible without going over. Makes you kind of wish Bob Barker was around to beat some sense into general manager Paul Holmgren.

In all seriousness, Holmgren has done a decent job in general of making the Flyers contenders. People forget that it was only 2006-2007 when the Flyers finished last overall in the league by a pretty huge margin with 56 points (and still missed out on Patrick Kane). The very next season, they made it to the Eastern Conference final, serving as proof of some sort that Holmgren knows what he’s doing. Flash forward several years, and it’s become readily apparent that the Flyers have been so successful not necessarily due to Holmgren but shockingly in spite of some of the moves he’s made.

How’s he doing it? Luck? Sorcery? Deal with the Devil? Crystal ball? Through blackmail when rival general managers refuse to play ball upon receiving sexual favours from him in exchange for a thrown game here and there? Your guess is as good as mine, but I will say I’m leaning towards the last one, because luck doesn’t exist (the Devil does; he just clearly has better things to worry about, like getting his team out of the dumps above all else).

Here’s a guy (Holmgren, not the Devil) that reached out to Ray Emery to solve the Flyers’ goaltending problem in net... Ray Emery, the emotional train wreck of a goaltender that wasn’t even good enough to man the crease for the Ottawa Senators! The Ottawa Senators! Whose idea of a number-one goaltender is Damian Rhodes!

Of course, Emery gets injured and the Flyers turn to former waiver-wire trash Michael Leighton as the team’s saviour, and somehow that turns into a miracle, up until the point that he lets in perhaps the softest Stanley Cup-winning goal in history.

“Don’t worry, buddy, how’s a two-year, multi-million-dollar contract sound as a reward? Awesome, but, wait, what’s that? You’re injured to start the year? No, prob, we’ve got this unknown goaltender by the name of Bob Tverdovsky, or something like that. He must be Oleg’s brother. He’ll manage just fine until you’re good to go.”

Now Sergei Bobrovsky’s stellar start to the season (8-2-1) aside, it should be readily apparent that Holmgren has more lives than a cat equipped with body armour, or he’s just in really good with the man upstairs. And now comes Giroux’s three-year contract extension, to the tune of $11.25 million, which will come into effect next year. This means that he will become a very rich man, thanks mainly to one solid stretch of playoff hockey over the course of his inconsistent career (which admittedly has led him atop the Flyers scoring ranks early this season as well with 14 points in 15 games).

Logic would dictate that Holmgren should have perhaps waited at least a few months for Giroux’s point-per-game ratio to inevitably tank, thereby getting him somewhat cheaper, but all in all it seems as if Giroux is here to stay, so the deal can’t be bad-mouthed all that much. Conversely, you have the fact that the team’s payroll for next year is already above $50 million ($52,893,096) with just 18 players under contract.

So, seeing as the salary cap has gone up from $39 million to $59.4 million in five seasons, figure Holmgren has about $10 million with which to sign five players, including Daniel Carcillo, Ville Leino, and Jeff Carter among others (Nikolay Zherdev has been left off this list for the very simple reason that the only way he stays in Philly is if he gets on board and starts giving out the aforementioned sexual favours in Holmgren’s proxy).

"The jersey must be cursed, 'cuz both will be former Flyers pretty soon."
This situation could clearly have been avoided and, with each passing contract handed out, the end result is less and less pretty. Maybe Giroux’s contract was unavoidable, but the Flyers are still without a big-name goaltender (unless you count the one with the actual big name), Chris Pronger is set to man the team’s blue line until he’s a brittle old man (although he may already be considered brittle), and one of the team’s top goal scorers is set to get offer sheets aplenty come July 1. As such, the writing is likely on the bathroom wall regarding Carter’s departure from Philly... right beside Holmgren’s phone number for a good time.

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