A day later, the Flyers sort through the changes

Posted: June 25, 2011

The way Chris Pronger sees it, the NHL is a cold, unforgiving business. Thursday's upheaval of everything you thought you knew about the Flyers came with a price: In are goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, center Brayden Schenn, and right wingers Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. That's good.

Out are Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Not so good.

"I think always, when you make a move to get a goalie, you've got to find the money somewhere," said Pronger, who has been traded four times in his 17-year career.

"Unfortunately for us, [Richards and Carter] were traded. You know, it sucks.

"As a teammate, you hate to see guys go. They were, for all intents and purposes, the face of the franchise for four of their six years. . . . I'm sure it's tough for them. . . . This is all they really know. But I've been traded a number of times, and sometimes a move is healthy for you."

The Flyers certainly hope it is good for the players they acquired. Whatever happens, their locker room got a lot bigger and younger.

Schenn, at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, is 19. Voracek, a 6-2, 214-pounder, is 21; and Simmonds, a 6-2, 183-pounder, is 22.

During his four years in the WHL, Schenn proved he could be a playmaker as he picked up 116 goals and 199 assists in 224 games.

He got a taste of the NHL in eight games this past season with the Los Angeles Kings when he picked up two assists. He also played seven regular-season games for the King's AHL affiliate and recorded three goals and four assists.

It's that resumé that has Schenn - and Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren - confident in the center's ability to fit in with the Flyers.

"I think I'll be able to compete for a spot next year," Schenn said Friday, adding that he can be both physical and offensively productive.

"I'm looking forward to being a part of the organization. [Simmonds] and I got traded for a great player [Richards] who has established himself."

Voracek said he knows there are a "lot of expectations from me."

"That's why I'm working hard this summer in Montreal," he said. "I like to play on the boards. I'm an up-and-down winger. I try to play the best way on both ends. . . . I just have to work on my shot a little bit more in this offseason. . . . I would say I'm more of a playmaker than a scorer or shooter.

"This team has a chance to win the Cup every year, and it's going to be a lot of fun."

Meanwhile, both Richards and Carter were in shock Friday. Richards said he and Carter never expected to be traded and could not dream of leaving the Flyers. Carter had not made any comments.

"It's disappointing to be traded from a place like Philadelphia, where hockey is so big," Richards told the Los Angeles Times. "Decisions have to be made. . . . I think it was more of a business decision than a personal one, which doesn't make it easier but at the same time allows you to sleep a little better at night.

"I think when you underachieve as a team, there's a lot of fingers that get pointed. I didn't have a problem with them pointing at me. [This] was tough for me. It wasn't a long conversation [with Holmgren] but one that I didn't think I was ever going to have to do."

Pronger said that the day after a trade was always the toughest.

"They both played their hearts out in Philly," the defenseman said. "But sometimes you've got to make tough decisions, and you've got to make moves that sometimes may hurt and may feel like you're making your team worse to make it better."

Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk said he is "embracing this challenge" of being a new team leader.

"This is the kind of stuff you live for as a player," he told the Associated Press. "You kind of live to be put in that role. You want to take it and run with it."

Richards and Carter were the heart and soul - and offense - of a Flyers team that fell just short of hockey's holy grail in 2010 and disappointed in its encore in 2011.

On paper this past season, the Flyers had the third-best record in the NHL and a No. 2 playoff seed in hand. But their three-headed goalie issue was exacerbated by Tim Thomas' performance in the Boston Bruins' second-round sweep of the Flyers, who allowed 20 goals in the series.

Enter Bryzgalov. Exit Carter and Richards, whose play wasn't the same during the 2011 playoffs as it was in 2010.

"We got off to a good start [this past season]," Pronger said. "You could argue no one seemed to think we had a problem then. But as the season wore on, for whatever reason, we just didn't turn that corner and continue to get better and peak at the right time."


Contact staff writer Tim Rohan at 215-854-4550 or trohan@phillynews.com.

 

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