Friday, February 15, 2008

Flyers don't need to make a move

By Michael Rushton
Phanatic Magazine

Last season was indeed an unusual one for the Flyers, as the club was largely a seller at the trade deadline, a time when the team is usually stockpiling talent for a playoff run.

Though Philadelphia did pull off a deal to acquire Martin Biron, it also shipped Alexei Zhitnik, Kyle Calder and of course, Peter Forsberg, in separate deals to acquire draft picks and younger players.

And what was often looked at as one of Philadelphia's major flaws last year -- inexperience caused by youth -- has now become a strength, as the young guns continue to develop at a solid pace. The Flyers are stocked with young talent, including the likes of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Braydon Coburn and Scottie Upshall, and might be tempted to move a piece or two at this year's deadline.

After all, the Flyers are not a lock to reach the playoffs thus far, though the odds are favorable, even in a tight division and conference.

The list of needs isn't long for Philly. A puck-carrying defenseman is high on the agenda, as well as maybe another scoring forward. Not much else is needed. That fact in itself is a reason the Flyers should not make a move.

General Manager Paul Holmgren pulled off a series of outstanding moves beginning with last season; getting Biron, moving Forsberg and in turn flipping the draft pick acquired into Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell, landing Coburn, signing Daniel Briere all before the start of the season. It all added up to a quick turnaround.

So, we should all trust Holmgren that he knows what he is doing. And if there is a move to be made, trust he will make it.

While adding you have to be careful with respect to team chemistry, Holmgren said on a conference call with the league on Wednesday, "But at the end of the day, if you can make a deal you believe improves your hockey team, chances are you're going to move forward."

Holmgren did say that a combination of the salary cap and the tight races in the league are a reason there haven't been a bunch of moves all ready.

However, it was the Forsberg trade that was the biggest for the Flyers. It netted them a blue chip prospect (Ryan Parent), one of the best defenders that would have been available in the free agent market (Timonen) and a pair of spark plugs on the wing (Upshall and Hartnell).

"We're happy at the time we were able to make that deal," said Holmgren. "We thought it kind of gave us a jump-start into the summertime and what we needed to do to get back into the thick of things in hockey."

Remember that the club was the worst in the NHL last season, but thus far has been challenging for the Atlantic Division title. That's a pretty big jump. However, a gamble this year might hinder the team's chances to stay competitive for years to come.

Specifically, moving Cater, Parent or any of the 20-something players might pay off now, but will be regretful later.

For his part, that is a philosophy Holmgren might subscribe to.

"Well, I think right now we're looking at a lot of things that might improve our hockey team. And I don't believe there's anything imminent. We may just end up not doing anything other than playing maybe some of our young kids in certain situations.

"I think the last thing the Flyers need to do is do something crazy for a short-term fix right now."

In Holmgren we trust.

Michael Rushton can be reached at rushpac@comcast.net
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