Reliving the past to understand the new Flyers front office direction

Paul Holmgren
Philadelphia Flyers President Paul Holmgren speaks with members of the media during a news conference Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in Philadelphia, the day after the NHL hockey club fired general manager Ron Hextall. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Paul Holmgren has stepped down from the role of Philadelphia Flyers Team President to take on the role of Senior Advisor to Dave Scott and Chuck Fletcher. This makes Holmgren the only person in Flyers history to be a player, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, and president in the organization. Now, answering to Fletcher who is the President of Hockey Operations along with being General Manager, Holmgren will still have some say on the product, but not the final say. A large majority of the Philadelphia fanbase may rejoice at that idea, but let’s take a step back and really take in the highs and lows of Holmgren.

Paul Holmgren steps down as Flyers Team President

Reliving Paul Holmgren, it is fair to point out that he has pulled off many good deals on the throne of the front office. To dive into those examples, I would begin with his eye for finding players that don’t stick out like a sore thumb. What I mean is that Holmgren constructed a couple of playoff teams with players that not many of Philadelphia Flyers fans were familiar with up front. Players such as Ville Leino, Matt Read, Sergei Bobrovsky, Wayne Simmonds, and Braydon Coburn were all acquired under Holmgren’s watch and provided a real spark to the Flyers teams they played on. When Holmgren was on, he understood the construction of a contract for a good role player and how to fleece a team with a prospect for another team’s bench player.

However, for all the good that Paul Holmgren did sitting in the throne of the Philadelphia Flyers front office, he also left many fans scratching their heads plenty of times. While Holmgren knew how to offer a good deal to a fine role player, there are multiple times he would either overpay to keep a player around that was a “one hit wonder” or not sign a player back who he should have. The glaring example of a player that should have received the money was Sergei Bobrovsky. To this day, I think the Philadelphia Flyers could have absolutely been a more serious threat for a Stanley Cup if they had the stability that Bobrovsky offered versus fluttering between a bevy of goalies since Ilya Bryzgalov.

It’s important to understand the good and bad from a previous front office leader to another. Currently, Chuck Fletcher seems like someone who has a firm plan on what he wants to do with this team and the people he wants to surround himself in the front office. The last team to have this kind of shakeup with an outside coach coming in and getting this kind of power shift was with Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. Yes, I know, that leaves a sour taste in the mouth of any Philadelphia fan. However, Fletcher isn’t coming from the college ranks as Dave Hakstol did. He has already established himself with the Minnesota Wild.

Current Flyers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager, Chuck Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher is kind of a highlight for the Minnesota Wild and the build of that team. Under his watch, the Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Since that move in 2012, Minnesota hasn’t missed the playoffs. That’s more than what the Philadelphia Flyers can say already. He also keeps a keen eye on drafting and prospects around the league, navigating his way to landing Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Jason Zucker. All of those players have had an impact on the growth of the Wild.

Where Paul Holmgren would get you in trouble with attaching wild contracts to players that sometimes don’t make sense, Chuck Fletcher can be ice cold on trades. One of these glaring examples is when Fletcher traded Nick Leddy and Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker. Leddy was pivotal in the Chicago Blackhawks winning three Stanley Cups and Barker was waived from the Minnesota Wild in the same season. Sometimes, Fletcher seems to overthink package trades, such as when he traded Jason Pominville for Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. Pominville was still a highly productive member of the Wild that Fletcher paid a hefty price to get, only to turn him over in a trade.

After watching the Philadelphia Flyers not get over the hump and change nary a thing on the roster of a few seasons now, we as fans are excited to see what the Chuck Fletcher era has to offer. I do hope the front office has patience with prospects being developed in the American Hockey League or players on two-way contracts with the National Hockey League, but I believe that Fletcher can strengthen the Flyers. Philadelphia now has a true, young starting goalie in Carter Hart who is being backed up by great value, veteran goalie in Brian Elliott. My bold prediction is that Fletcher’s Flyers will find a way into the 2020 NHL playoffs. Under Alain Vigneault, Philadelphia’s defense will improve with a serious starting goalie of the future.

Current Flyers head coach, Alain Vigneault

The “two heads are better that one” philosophy is one that I think will work out in favor of the Philadelphia Flyers. Chuck Fletcher and Paul Holmgren want what is best for the Flyers organization. They will turn down the volume on bad contracts to underproductive players and simplify trades for picks or players in seasons to come. We all have to walk into this in good faith because while Holmgren built Philadelphia to seem strong on paper, Fletcher will keep the Flyers strong for years to come and improve on his ability to seek and draft prospects. With Fletcher above Holmgren, Philadelphia seems ready to be ahead of the player prospect curve instead of constantly trying to keep up or fall behind.

AP Photo/Matt Rourke