Friday, April 11, 2008

Why the Flyers are Doomed to Fail for the Next Decade

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Deuce breaks out his hatchet and murders the Flyers:

Since everyone is wrapped up in predictions and series breakdowns, I thought I would look at the futures of the two franchises facing off tonight at the Verizon Center. As others have noted, these two teams have taken two radically different views on rebuilding. The Flyers’ approach can best be described as “the quick fix,” sort of like that commercial where the engineers stick a piece of bubble gum over that crack in the Hoover Dam. The Caps, on the other hand, were patient, tearing down the team prior to the lockout/work stoppage, and rebuilding through draft picks and deadline acquisitions that do not bring contract obligations past this year.

After one bad year, in which they missed the playoffs, Philly went out like a drunken sailor in the Hotel California and brought in everyone’s favorite punk, Danielle Briere, and traded for and signed Scott Hartnell, Kimmo Timmonen, Marty Biron. They then totally lost their minds and signed Mike Richards, everyone’s favorite 20-goal scorer, to an 11-year, $5.75 million a year contract. Good move. For this lunacy, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was almost universally praised.

The Caps, on the other hand, took the hard road. They traded away Gonchar, Bondra, Nylander, Jagr, and the rest, and got back a bunch of young kids nobody had ever heard of and some draft picks in return. They stank the year before, and two years after the lockout. But they drafted intelligently, refused to panic and trade their prospects and draft picks, and played the kids, both in DC and Hershey. They made smart, reasonable free agent signings (Pothier, Nylander, Poti, Kozlov). For this approach, Ted Leonsis and GM George McPhee were almost universally panned. So let’s take a look at the rosters and salary cap numbers, shall we?

Forwards of Note
Danielle Briere: $6.5 million/yr through 2014-15
Simon Gagne: $5.25 through 2010/11
Scott Hartnell: $4.1 through 2012/13
Mike Knuble $2.8 through end of next year
Jeoffrey Lupul: $2.8 through end of next year
Sami Kappanen & Scottie Upshall: $1.25 through end of next year
MIKE RICHARDS: $5.75 through 2019/20
RJ Umberger and Jeff Carter are RFAs this summer

Defensemen of Note
Kimmo Timmonen: $6.33 through 2012/13
Derian Hatcher: (wait for it --- wait for it ---) $3.5 million through end of next year
Mike Rathje: $3.5 million through 2010/11
Jason Smith: $1.975 through end of next year (UFA)
Braydon Coburn: $1.3 million starting next year for 2 years

Goaltenders: Wait for it, wait for it:
Marty Biron: $3.5 through 2009/10
Antero Nittymaki: $1.225 through 2009/10

Cap hit this year $55 million
Cap hit next year $49.5 million - and they still need to resign Umberger and Carter, who will be RFAs this summer.
Cap hit in 3 years: $33 million

Compare that with the Capitals:
Capitals Cap Hit this year: $39.021
Cap Hit next year: $34.8 million (but we still need to sign Green (RFA), Morrison (RFA), and Huet/Kolzig (UFAs))
Cap hit in 3 years: $28.4

So which roster would you rather have in 2009/10 for essentially the same salary cap hit?
Philly - with Briere (31 years old with 5 years left on his contract), Gagne (30 years old); Hartnell ((27 with 3 years left), Richards (24 years old with 9 years remaining); and VanRiemsdyck (on an entry level contract) up front, and
Timmonen (34 with 3 years remaining); Rathje (35); and Coburn (24) on the back line (and Biron and Nittymaki in net)


Ovechkin (23 years old with 11 years remaining), Semin (25 years old coming up RFA the next summer), Clark (33 years old with a year remaining), Nylander (36 with a year remaining), Backstrom (21 and and RFA the next summer), Fleishmann (25 and RFA the next summer) up front; Poti (32 with 2 yrs left), Pothier (???) (32 with 1 year left), Green (who we know we’ll resign), Alzner on the back line (on an entry-level contract with 1 year remaining), Huet or Kolzig in net.

I think if we polled NHL GMs, even Holmgren would take that second lineup. In a second. And remember, that’s when you factor in 5 million a year or so for Green!

Even worse, the Flyers have killed themselves in the long term, as Briere will be a 6.5 million dollar cap hit when he’s 35 and 36 with a no-trade clause!
Timmonen will be a $6.3 hit when he’s 37!
MIKE FREAKING RICHARDS will be a $5.75 hit when he’s 34 years old.
AND, they’re just above-average enough to be a fringe playoff team for the next 6-7 years, meaning no high draft picks, no blue-chip sure fire young superstars in the near future. Oops.

The only deal the Caps have past 2010/11 is Ovechkin: at 9.5 a year. I’ll take that one. So the Flyers have taken the quick fix route back to the playoffs, where they are doomed to be a team that will be average to pretty good for the next, oh, six years or so. They’ll play a hard nosed, hard working style, have mediocre goaltending, and are doomed to eventually bow out to teams with more talented superstars. Sound familiar Caps Fans?

Boy, am I glad those days are over. On the other hand, the Caps still have some work to do…they have to resign their restricted free agents (Green, Morrison, Laich, Gordon, Fehr, probably in that order of importance), and lock up a solid netminder until we find out if Varlamov or Neuvirth are any good (Huet, anyone?), but even then, the Caps will have the salary cap room to make moves and add to an already potent lineup.

Sorry Philly. It looks like the Championship drought is going to last at least a decade or so longer. But you can always reminisce about the old days of the Broad Street Bullies, and talk about how tough your team is. And hey, how about them Eagles?

Oh, and one more thing: Jim Butler --- you’re an idiot. Only someone as dumb as you could insult an entire fan base in the NY Times, then act surprised when they (rightfully) hammer you for it.


Anonymous said...

I don't think so, the Flyers are gonna kick some serious booty!

3 Grumpy Caps fans said...

Yeah, it looked like it during Game 1 eh? How are the Flyers feeling after "playing physical" with Ovechkin? Looks like they need some ice packs. LET'S GO CAPS!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dmg said...

Interesting post. I don't think things are that dire for Philly. The cap is expected to go to ~56 million next year. If that's the case, it gives the Flyers 6.5 million, well more than enough to re-sign Umberger and Carter. To fill out the roster they'd have several million dollars left and can buyout Hatcher and, if push comes to shove, Knuble. Alternatively they could trade Lupul or the right to Carter, each of which net them a significant return. Unless Holmgrin really screws up, I'd say they're in pretty decent shape

Anonymous said...

Let's talk about the Caps brilliant moves in the past, trading away Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, Robert Lang and Michael Nylander and paying a good portion of Jagr's salary.... brilliant....

the deuce said...

Um, actually Anonymous, those were brilliant moves. Without them, we wouldn't have Morrison, Schultz, Laich, um, oh yeah, and some guy named Ovehckin. As I've stated before, the team made an informed decision to blow up the team and rebuild, and we're now seeing the fruits of that decision. Unlike Flyers management, who have decided to take the opposite approach. We'll see which team is more successful. And one more thing anonymous. You might want to take notes from dmg on how to post an intelligent, informed rebuttal.

the deuce said...

Ah, as always, your Philadelphia logic is impeccable. I also love the fact that you can't even spell your own star player's name. But if I must respond, I will simply say that we DO have Ovechkin. For the next 13 years. So it really doesn't matter where we would be without him, does it? That's sort of like me saying the Flyers would finish last in the league without your best player. Which they did. Last year. BTW, did you land the #2 pick last year by winning the Cup, because I can't remember. Also, have some guts and post an actual name/URL.

dmg said...

The Capitals plan to tear down and rebuild their team was done well. they ended up moving Jagr, Lang, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, Brendan Witt and Michael Nylander for Jared Aulin, Kris Beech, Shaone Morrisonn, Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann, three first round picks, three second round picks and a fourth round pick. Those picks resulted in Green, Schultz, Bourque and Varlamov. Not a bad return.

In short, trading away Jaromir Jagr, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, Robert Lang and Michael Nylander were all good moves. Paying a portion of Jagr's salary was/is less than ideal but ask any Caps fan and they'll tell you they'd rather have this situation than have him on the team now.

I really can't stand the 'you only got Ovechkin because you were bad!' argument. Yeah, that's true. But that's how Pittsburgh got Lemieux, Indy got Peyton Manning and Cleveland got LeBron James. It's how drafts work; it's how pro sports works. It's how it has for years and how it always will.

I also don't think it's fair to attack the deuce here. Even if you think that some of the Capitals' personnel moves were bad it's not like he was the one making them. Essentially it's saying 'Hey some guys that you don't know who worked for the team you root for half a decade ago made some bad moves! So there!' Trust me, all us Caps fans know how stupid the Jagr extension and hiring of Cassidy were just like Flyers fans know how the Eric Lindros trade played out for both teams. Pointing it out doesn't do anything to diminish the points the deuce made, nor does it help the Flyers cap situation.

If this anon poster really doesn't understand why trading away veterans who were overpaid (Jagr, Lang), underachieving (Jagr; the team as a whole), leaving anyway (Gonchar, Nylander) or past their prime (Bondra) were good moves I don't think he/she appreciates how difficult it is to build a franchise, especially from the ground up. If he/she does and is just spending their time on the internet trying to stir things up with fans of an opposing team it's just...sad, as it is any time a fan has move vested in the outcome of a game than the players themselves.

Anonymous said...

While your heart is in the right place, your head is firmly up your own a$$. The cap isn't static, wasn't meant to be. Philly has a ton of depth in the minors, ready to come up or be traded. And those signings look pretty good right now, eh?

Look, I think the Caps are definitely pointed in the right direction, and Ovechkin is the best player in the league. I'd love to have the chance to build around him. But you still have some parts to find, while Philly has made one of the most impressive one-season turnarounds we'll ever see.

At any rate, it's been a great series so far, and I hope it goes to seven games.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mr said...

Well maybe the Flyers are doomed in the next decade but who really knows? For certain they are presently headed to Montreal while the stupendous Caps are going back to Eastern Europe...
Dosvidonya Alex

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I'm guessing you'd like to have this column back right about now.

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