Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Extreme Makeover - Orange and Black Edition

The Flyers have been in full rebuilding mode. As such, I thought it necessary to make a few comments as to the progress of their rebuilding as it pertained to the recently passed trade deadline. The Flyers made several deals both before and at the trade deadline.

Peter Forsberg for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent, and two 2007 draft picks (1st and 3rd round): As I mentioned here, I knew there was no way Peter Forsberg was going to be with this team through the remainder of the season (he was traded by the Flyers on February 15th to Nashville) and let me also say there is no way Forsberg will sign here in free agency this summer. What Forsberg does next year will depend on his deformed foot, that defies all medical and podiatric science, and how the Nashville Predators fare with him in their lineup. Certainly, the Flyers don't owe Forsberg a damned thing....they have been patient and very supportive of Foppa as he went on an extended odyssey that extended from Arizona to Montreal to Sweden in order to find an adequate skate to fix his surgically repaired foot. They did not wig out on him last year when he played for Team Sweden after being out of the lineup leading up to the Olympics. The team could have rightfully challenged him for playing for his national team when he wasn't playing for the team that was paying his salary. As great as Forsberg was, ultimately, it will be better for the Flyers if they put Peter Forsberg in their past.

As for the Forsberg trade itself, I am not entirely in love with the deal. Scott Upshall could not uproot rookie Alexander Radulov for a job as one of the top six forwards and Nashville management felt so good about Upshall last year, they went out over the offseason and picked up JP Dumont. Clearly, the didn't believe he was ready for a full-time job in the NHL. Ryan Parent, the defenseman the Flyers got in the deal, struggles with back problems, but is apparently a big time d-man when he does play. And the draft picks are high picks, but they happen to be in this year's very thin draft. I think it was an ok deal, but fraught with risk and "what if" potential, much like Nashville's gamble on Peter Forsberg's foot and skate problems.

Kyle Calder for D Lasse Kukkonen and a 3rd round pick in the 2007 draft: I think that they got anything for perhaps the most overrated NHL forward I've ever seen is amazing. Kukkonen played on the same Karpat team as Joni Pitkanen as a Finnish junior player and was the captain of the team. If they got him for no other reason than to pal around with Joni Pitkanen, then I am ok with this deal. Pitkanen's play has regressed this year, and Coach John Stevens has described Pitkanen as a "loner" in the press, so this trade reeks of a security blanket for the enigmatic Pitkanen.

Calder, on the other hand, was probably the poster child for everything that has gone wrong with this team this year. He was traded for the immensely popular Michal Handzus in a deal I guess they had to make in order to make room for Jeff Carter and Michael Richards to get more ice time. It took Calder 28 games to score a goal in Philadelphia. He was known as a gritty player who put out a tough effort every night; he was not that way with any consistency in Philadelphia. The Flyers did offer him a contract, but you can assume they low balled him in an effort to get him on the cheap. Frankly, I'm glad he's gone; he made poor decisions with the puck, doesn't appear to be all that skilled, and I don't think he fits with current direction of the team.

Alexei Zhitnik for Braydon Coburn: I'm OK with this deal only because they got a good, young defenseman back and because I'm pretty confident they'll replace\upgrade Zhitnik's skill set\experience through free agency this summer. Coburn has a real good reputation as a skater and passer. He can be physical when necessary according to the scouting reports, but he apparently isn't much of a fighter (see: Coburn's ill-fated duel with Mike Rupp). Zhitnik lent credibility to a group of Flyers blueliners that sorely needed it when they acquired him earlier this year, but now, with the team going in a different direction, they did the right thing and found a panicky GM who needed a veteran defenseman.

A 2nd round pick for Martin Biron: This deal was a bit of a pleasant surprise for me. Not necessarily because of who they obtained, but the trade indicates that the Flyers have realized that they have a problem between the pipes. Esche is as good as gone and Antero Niitymaki has gone backwards in his development (not unlike fellow Finn Joni Pitkanen). Martin Biron was the starter in Buffalo before Ryan Miller was all but given the job by Buffalo management.

Personally, I was hoping the Flyers would sign a high profile goalie this summer, such as Jean-Sebastian Gigure or Jose Theodore (I refuse to believe the 2002 Vezina and Hart trophy winner is as bad he has gone in the last two years), but now they will get a look at a lower price, but possibly, just as talented alternative.

Overall: It seem interim GM Paul Holmgren did a nice job of moving pieces of the team that won't be part of the next Flyers team to get to the playoffs in a couple of years. The overall theme seemed to be getting young, unproven talent from teams that had young, unproven talent to spare, which is good, because the Flyers have too little of this type of talent at the AHL level currently. The only question is whether or not it's NHL ready talent or not.

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