Friday, June 24, 2011

Philly's Mess Catches Up With Them

Richards, Carter. Gone, gone.

This good news for the Habs is ostensibly bad news for the Flyers and their fans. Richards and Carter were a big part of the Flyers success and a huge reason the team ever got close to a Stanley Cup without a goalie.

But that's where it all goes wrong isn't it?

Without a goalie.

For most teams, not having a good goalie is a problem. For Philadelphia it's a brain-devouring complex. That's why instead of applying a bit of patience and recognizing what a good thing they may have pulled from thin air in Bobrovsky, they went out and did what they always did and signed, signed, signed.

Bryzgalov is a good goalie, don't get me wrong. I like him, I like his chances in Philly. But you will note that Anaheim let him go, that Phoenix let him go, that Phoenix doesn't have any Cups.

A goalie simply can't do it all. Let me rephrase that, a goalie not named Thomas or Hasek can't do it all. A team needs to put talent at all positions and use their salary allowance wisely to do that.

Philly's real problems

A lot of articles on yesterday's trades say things like "Holmgren managed to unload Carter's long-term contract/Richards salary cap millstone".

I think these comments are way off the mark. Both players were paid in the $5 million range and both performed to the level of their salary, which in the world of guys paid that much means they were bargains.

What's more, the salary cap hasn't been going anywhere but up, even through the worst financial period in modern US/Canadian history. As the proportion that a $5 million salary takes up shrinks, the better a long-term deal for a producing player paid at that level looks.

Saying nothing about intangibles at all, I can firmly say that Richards and Carter were not the salary cap problems in Philadelphia. If anything, they were among the contracts that permitted them to spend with abandon at times.

The real problems in Philly come in at the back end.

The Pronger deal wasn't expensive at the time, but it was a gaffe to sign him long-term past his 35th birthday. This contract is central to their problem.

Timonen is another. If Price/Halak was a luxury, Pronger/Timonen was a bigger one. Both players are paid to be #1 Dmen, but the name implies there can only be one #1 Dman. The other became the most expensive second fiddle in the league.

And it didn't stop there. Rather than fill out a roster like everyone else in the league would with prospects and a couple of cheaper contracts at the back (to defend other teams' fourth lines), Holmgren put $3 million players at every hole.

The Flyers biggest cap problem was their luxury defense, which got them 7th best D in the East with 6 less GA than Florida.

Other than their $22 million defence corps, Philly also took on the dead weight contract of Kris Versteeg. In fact, they repeated their luxury buying attitude up front with a third line that included double millionaires all around.

Fix is temporary

Philly found a temporary fix for immediate cap space, but based on the Bryzgalov signing, it won't be used for prudent and conservative rebuilding. In fact, when the grossly overpaid forward comes in as the replacement for Carter/Richards, fans will most likely be wondering what these deals were for.

Habs news more encouraging

The Habs did better in the last couple of days with their signings and seem less likely to implode their plan and go schizophrenically down the garden path. While I'll always lament Gauthier for not getting in on action like Ville Leino or Andrej Meszaros, I at least admire his commitment to the plan he thought was working last spring. Holmgren on the other hand...

The Flyers moves do also serve the Habs well since this team was a chief rival and those two players were chief nemeses. Some fans will point to the danger of the rebuild for the Habs more distant future, but the contracts at the back, together with the quick trigger of Holmgren seem to provide the insurance that this team won't be a perennial problem.

I guess this whole thing just shows that making a cap mess will catch up with your team at some point. Chicago's mess cost them a lot, but they have a Cup to show for it. Philly, mere games away, just got a mess.

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