Holmgren, 51, has drawn league-wide praise for the deals he has made since he took over as Flyers GM when Bob Clarke suddenly resigned on Oct. 22. Pierre McGuire, a former NHL coach and scout and hockey analyst for NBCsports.com, predicted that with Holmgren, the Flyers would turn things around as quickly as any team in the history of the league.
The job is far from finished, but Holmgren has made the Flyers more in tune with today's style of play by adding youthful speed, bringing in players such as forward Scottie Upshall and defensemen Braydon Coburn and Lasse Kukkonen. He also addressed the goaltending problems by acquiring Buffalo's Martin Biron, who can become a free agent after this season but is a signing priority for Holmgren.
Holmgren's deliberation in making long-term moves rather than hastily trying to upgrade the team for a run at this year's playoffs seemed to impress the Flyers' brass. With that approach, Peter Luukko, president of the Flyers' parent company, Comcast-Spectacor, said he and team chairman Ed Snider viewed Holmgren as someone more interested in structuring the team for the long haul rather than saving his job with short-term gains.
"Paul was put in a tough position, but right away he immediately thought about the long term," Luukko said. "He could have been in a position where he might have thought he should make some quick moves with our young players just to make it into the playoffs. It was Paul who recognized what the future was with the new game and with the salary cap and how to build a team. His ability showed his leadership qualities in starting to build a team that can compete for many years, not just to make the playoffs, but to win the Cup."
Holmgren's most impressive trade occurred in mid-February when he dealt Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent and first- and third-round picks in this year's draft. Luukko called the trade "fantastic."
With two first- and two third-round picks in this year's draft, and with the Flyers well under the salary cap, they are expected to be a major player in the free-agent market this summer. Among their priorities are a first-line center and another puck-moving defenseman. With former Buffalo scout Don Luce now serving as the Flyers' director of player development, the Flyers may have an in if they try to sign either Daniel Briere or Chris Drury, two Sabres centers who are expected to test free agency.
By signing Holmgren, Luukko believes the Flyers are ahead of the curve because Holmgren has personally seen many prospects.
"When you look at Paul and the deals he's made for Scottie Upshaw and Coburn, we're in a unique position in that Paul has overseen the development of these players personally," Luukko said. "We're very fortunate that Paul is ahead of the curve because personally he's spent a lot of time looking at these players."
Holmgren has been with the Flyers for most of his hockey career, beginning as a rugged winger in the mid-1970s. He also served as head coach, director of player personnel, director of pro scouting, and assistant general manager. Now it's his task to pull the Flyers from the basement and restore their pride.
"In this year of transition for the Flyers, I think Paul has moved quickly and decisively to better our team on the ice and position ourselves for the future," Snider said. "He is very deserving of the opportunity to be our general manager."
Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.