Inside the Flyers: Trade advantage goes to Flyers, but Cup could go to Flyers West - the Kings

Former Flyers Mike Richards (left) and Jeff Carter (77) are in the Stanley Cup Finals with Los Angeles. ROSS D. FRANKLIN / Associated Press
Former Flyers Mike Richards (left) and Jeff Carter (77) are in the Stanley Cup Finals with Los Angeles. ROSS D. FRANKLIN / Associated Press
Posted: May 28, 2012

After a monumental turnaround from their less-than-overwhelming regular season, the Flyers have reached the Stanley Cup Finals.

Uh, make that the Flyers West, also known as the Los Angeles Kings.

The Kings have ex-Flyer employees everywhere. On the bench (assistant John Stevens). In the front office (general manager Dean Lombardi and assistant GM Ron Hextall). On the ice (Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Justin Williams) and even on the injured list (Simon Gagne).

Richards and Carter, whom the Flyers dealt in separate blockbuster deals last June to Los Angeles and Columbus, respectively, had subpar regular seasons. Richards managed 44 points, Carter, acquired by the Kings from Columbus in late February, collected a total of just 34 points and was minus-12 in an injury-ravaged season.

But no one will remember their regular-season struggles if they become part of a team that brings defense-oriented Los Angeles its first Stanley Cup since it joined the league in 1967-68.

General manager Paul Holmgren was rightfully praised for the Richards and Carter deals as the Flyers accumulated seven more wins and eight more points than the Kings in the regular season.

With the eighth-seeded Kings winning the Western Conference playoffs, however, some detractors have emerged. Some say the Flyers would have been closer to a Cup if they had kept the two players - dealing them opened cap space to sign Ilya Bryzgalov - and went with a cheaper goalie.

From here, even if the Kings win the Cup behind standout goalie Jonathan Quick and a sturdy defense, Holmgren's brassy moves still put the Flyers in a better long-term position.

The team got younger and faster, got much stronger in goal (and, yes, much flakier), and is built for the future.

Fact is, if this team had not been beset by injuries to its defense - Chris Pronger's concussion is at the top of the long list - we might be seeing a Flyers-Flyers West Stanley Cup Final. (An aside: The Flyers never defeated the Penguins in the playoffs while Carter and Richards were here. They lost two series to Pittsburgh in their tenures. This year, of course, the Flyers upset the Penguins in the first round.)

To review, here are the players who were involved in last summer's two blockbusters, along with their 2011-12 statistics:

Richards (18 goals-26 assists-44 points) was dealt for Wayne Simmonds (28-21-49) and Brayden Schenn (12-6-18). The Flyers also acquired a second-round 2012 pick that they later traded, along with a third-rounder, for defenseman Nick Grossmann.

Bottom line: The Flyers got a player, Schenn, 20, who reminds some scouts of a young Richards with his gritty, competitive style. They received a winger, Simmonds, who had a career season and is just 23.

Oh, and the deal helped them land the physical Grossmann, who is regarded as a cornerstone of their defense.

Advantage, Flyers.

Carter (21-13-34) was sent to Columbus for Jakub Voracek (18-31-49) and the eighth overall pick, which turned out to be Sean Couturier (13-14-27).

Bottom line: Carter, though injury-prone, is a dynamic regular-season scorer, but is much more one-dimensional than the speedy Voracek. Couturier, 19, has the look of a future star, a two-way player in the Jordan Staal mold.

Advantage, Flyers.

Carter and Richards combined for 39 goals, 78 points, and a minus-9 rating.

The four Flyers acquired in the trades combined for 71 goals, 143 points, and a plus-21 rating.

In addition, the deals gave the team much better chemistry, and they enabled center Claude Giroux to step to the forefront. Do not underestimate the latter development.

So as Flyers fans grind their teeth while watching Richards and Carter face the hated Devils in the Finals, all is not lost.

Fact is, the Flyers' future looks bright. Brighter than it did before Holmgren shook the franchise's core with two of the gutsiest trades in the club's history.


Inside the Flyers: (Still) Playoff Leaders

Even though the Flyers were eliminated in the second round, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere are still the NHL's leading goal scorers in this year's playoffs. Here are the top 10 heading into the Kings-Devils Stanley Cup Finals:

PLAYER   TEAM   GAMES   GOALS

Claude Giroux   Flyers   10   8

Danny Briere   Flyers   11   8

 Dustin Brown   Los Angeles   14   7

Ilya Kovalchuk   New Jersey   17   7

Zach Parise   New Jersey   18   7

Travis Zajac   New Jersey   18   7

Jordan Staal   Pittsburgh   6   6

Anze Kopitar   Los Angeles   14   6

Ryan Callahan   Rangers   20   6

Brad Richards   Rangers   20   6

- Sam Carchidi


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com, or

on Twitter @BroadStBull.

 

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