West Coast Power Shift


 Don’t worry, I’ve got it under control people. (Courtesy of GCOBB.com)

So in one (perhaps drunken) hour and a half, Paul Holmgren managed to flip the Philadelphia Flyers’ philosophy from “We don’t need a goalie to win the Cup”, to “We don’t need forwards to with the Cup”. Not bad for 90 minutes of work.

I woke up this morning as I did the day after game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final….in disbelief. To be honest, the pain was not in the same vicinity as when my beloved hometown Canucks lost their chance to hoist the only piece of metal that I would want to see hoisted. But the shock of yesterday’s trades are still settling in. For the life of me, I cannot figure this Mike Richards trade out, and to a lesser extent the Jeff Carter deal either. Both of these guys are priming, just like every other player drafted in 2003. It was the golden draft, better than any before and after it. But forget about that.

Richards is barely one year removed from the invaluable experience of Captaining an NHL team to the Final. He’s not terribly big, but what he lacks in size he more than makes up in heart. He’s the type of player you can only hope to attain in this day and age. He falls into the small handful of players who can legitimately will a group of 20 men to victory. For this reason, I’m shocked Philly gave him away. Yes, they still have a solid backbone of players who can play centre (Briere, Giroux, Schenn and Betts) but Philly gave away its reincarnation of Bobby Clarke. How is this possible?

Some say it was an issue between the Philly media and Mike Richards after the second round of this year’s playoffs. There are even rumblings of a Pronger-Richards feud which caused the dam to break. But if you ask me to choose between a 26 year old leader and 36 year old top flight D man who barely played when it mattered most due to health reasons, I’m taking the kid.

And what about the Carter trade? You get rid of a 3 time 30+ goal guy (including 46 goals 2 years ago), a 6’3” centreman who has the wingspan of an albatross and has the pedigree of a first line stud centre. All for an 8th pick in the 1st, a late 3rd round pick and Jakub Voracek? The 8th pick could be a strong one, but you already know what you have in Carter.

This day of madness was certainly a day of cap space clearing for the goalie the Flyers would sign about an hour after the first 2 trades were finalized, but it didn’t need to be. You don’t need to give up perhaps the most coveted of NHL players – high end centremen – to get that goalie you could have plucked off of waivers 2 seasons ago. Yes hindsight is 20/20, but my point is Bryz isn’t a proven playoff guy. No, this deal was hasty and until/unless I’m proven wrong I won’t think otherwise.

Now let’s move on the effects of these trades.

With Richards now donning an LA Kings jersey, the balance of power in the NHL has once again pilfered even more muscle away from the Eastern Conference. California is now a dream State when it comes to NHL star power with the likes of Kopitar, Richards, Brown, Thornton, Heatley, Marleau, Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, and Selanne among the players a team must go through if they want to set a date for a shot at Stanley. You can bet Ken Holland will now be lobbying extra hard to have his team move the East even more than before. Who would want to try to get through to the finals from the West when you can from the East? Especially with his team of perennial contenders?

The Central division also just got stronger with Rick Nash having a legit player to take some pressure off of him in Jeff Carter. I still don’t see Columbus as a playoff team as of this moment, but that could surely change before next season begins.

The East will be weaker in terms of true Stanley Cup contenders, but as we’ve seen over the last few years, the Prince of Wales trophy winner almost always enjoys a beaten down Clarence Campbell trophy winner in the Final. Take this year’s Canucks as an example. Heck, take a look at Detroit with a one-handed Datsyuk and one-legged Zetterberg, and that was after a 1st round sweep of the Coyotes. And who was in net for that Coyotes’ team which was swept? Ilya Bryzgalov. He who gave up 17 goals in 4 playoff games. That same Ilya Bryzgalov signed a nine year, $51 million deal in Philly yesterday. And to clear space for him, the Flyers gave up Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.