To preface this entry, let me make one thing clear: I do not think the Flyers would have won a Stanley Cup had they not traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Given how the team was constructed under former general manager Paul Holmgren, the loss of all-World defenseman Chris Pronger to a horrific eye incident and the resulting symptoms slammed the door shut on any realistic chance the Flyers had at a title. Even with Carter & Richards still on board, there’s just no way the team could have made up for all the responsibilities placed on Pronger as the unquestioned top defenseman on the Flyers. For this reason, it has not been quite as difficult watching the Kings, or ‘Flyers West’ capture two of the last three Stanley Cups.
Admittedly, it was something that former Flyers captain Mike Richards said in a postgame interview with NBC’s Pierre McGuire that finally cut me to the core and made me hurt like McGuire and his leading question probably intended to. When asked why Richards was quick to hand over the Cup to other fellow former Flyer Jeff Carter, he delivered a powerful answer that seemed directed straight at the Philadelphia front office and how they went about their business.
— Reggie (@Firps98) June 14, 2014
Richards would go on to talk about how Carter and he never looked back once they latched on with a good team, and now they are two-time Stanley Cup champions. Carter was far less damning in his postgame interview, but Richards’ statements were enough to make this unfortunate Flyers loyalist feel as down about the Orange-and-Black as one can remember.
The Kings and their success as it pertains to the Flyers is far less about Richards and Carter as it is about what is now a very real revelation about the last decade in Philadelphia: the organization is guilty of bad business and ought to be ashamed of how many of their cast-offs revel in sticking it to them. Trading players is part of every sport and every athlete knows that when they ink their first professional contract. It has become clear, however, that Ed Snider and company have been running operations in a way that burns bridges and fosters hate in players that were once propped us as Gods in the city.
Whether it is Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Patrick Sharp, Justin Williams, Sergei Bobrovsky, James van Riemsdyk, or even Dan Carcillo; it seems as if untimely departures from the hockey-crazed city of Philadelphia urged them to take their game to another level. Jeff Carter scored more points in this single playoff (25) than he did in five postseasons with the Flyers. Justin Williams won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason MVP ten years after then-GM Bob Clarke traded him for Danny Markov. JVR had a career season, Sergei Bobrovsky has won a Vezina trophy, and Carcillo personally ripped the soul out of the 2013-2014 Flyers playoff run with a pair of goals in their first round series with the Rangers after collecting just three in 31 regular season games. It does not seem as there is such thing as an amicable breakup when it comes to the Flyers and those who used to don the Orange-and-Black.
Ed Snider is not the only one to blame when it comes to some of these cast-offs. Coaches such as Ken Hitchcock and Peter Laviolette are well documented in having personal issues with some of the aforementioned players and insisted upon their departures. Sometimes it seems like the Flyers are the only organization where ‘Business, not Personal’ does not apply. Trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the two apparent cornerstones of the organization, was one thing. Doing it after signing both of them to contracts that indicated that they could be Flyers-for-life is just bad business. These are the types of business decisions that look as if they will haunt the Philadelphia front office until there is a philosophical shift from the top-down.
In a vacuum, I still pull the trigger on the trades that set the Kings era of dominance in motion. The Flyers brought in elite young talent that appears as if it will make up their core for the next decade. Philadelphia had no way of knowing that the Blue Jackets would be sending Carter to Los Angeles to join Richards after he pouted about for his short tenure in Columbus. What bothers me is that all of these players, some more than others, seem to take delight in reminding Philadelphia what they are missing out on and how unprofessional the end of their time with the Flyers was.
I have a lot of confidence in Ron Hextall as the team’s new general manager. Snider should look no further than the team that just hoisted the Cup if he needs a clue that he should stop pulling the strings behind the personnel decisions of the team he loves so much. Hextall cut his teeth with the Kings and has seen what is required to build a champion. Will there be difficult decisions to be made along the way? Absolutely. The fact of the matter is that Snider is paying Hextall to be able to make those decisions without worrying about his owner essentially demanding a title before his time runs out. Once upon a time, Ed Snider’s legacy was that of a man who brought hockey and success to Philadelphia where there was none. Whether he likes it or not, that legacy has shifted to a much more negative narrative. He is now the man who, out of spite it seems, fed championship teams some of their most key contributors and gave them the motivation to bring their game to a new level. The only way Snider can save his public opinion, even it means failing to witness the third Stanley Cup parade that has eluded him for 40 years now, is to take his finger off the trigger and let the man who oversaw the birth of a champion conceive another.