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The Flyers need a culture change — but it’s not the one you’re thinking of

Nov 6, 2013, 11:42 AM EDT


The Flyers have a culture problem.

But it’s probably not the one you’re thinking of. It isn’t the “Broad Street Bully” culture that has the cap-strapped Flyers at 4-9-1 and sinking in an awful Metropolitan Division. It also isn’t their seemingly endless management nepotism, though that doesn’t help.

It’s the big money culture that has to go.

The Flyers’ problem stems from their inability to adapt to the cyclical nature of the salary cap era. Before the hard cap was introduced in 2005-06, the Flyers were known as a heavy spending team that bought their way through downturns, threw money at issues and “went for it” every year by trading young talent for veterans.

The league changed but the Flyers didn’t.

Living year-to-year pressed hard against the cap, the Flyers still shun development in favor of spending. And it’s that archaic premise has them in quite a jam both financially and on the ice, sitting as one of the league’s worst teams with one of its highest payrolls.

This money-slinging culture problem is especially apparent on the Flyers’ blue line, which is slow, old and outrageously expensive for ranking 16th in goals-against per game. In fact, the Flyers (without Chris Pronger’s $4.941 million) easily lead the league in defense spending at over $28 million.

But where did the Flyers go wrong? It’s in their team-building strategy.

The same ‘buy competitiveness’ philosophy that helped the Flyers through the late 90’s and early 00’s, is what compelled general manager Paul Holmgren to trade the 27th overall pick in 2008 for defender Steve Eminger.

Instead of trying to find the next Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers re-signed the 38-year-old to a one-year contract for $6 million. Instead of replacing unrestricted free-agent Matt Carle with inexpensive production from within, the Flyers signed 35-year old Mark Streit at $21-million for four years.

Yet it isn’t just impulse buying that has the Flyers in a bind — it’s their long-time disinterest in creating inexpensive options. There is no PK Subban, Ryan Ellis, Jonas Brodin or Jacob Trouba waiting to step in or step up into a major role. The team’s brightest defensive star is 24-year-old Luke Schenn, who has been relegated to the press box for the last two games as a healthy scratch.

Currently, the Flyers are the only team in the NHL to not have a drafted player on their defensive roster. They have just one homegrown player (signed first entry-level contract and played first NHL game with the same club) — college free agent Erik Gustafsson, who is sharing popcorn with Schenn.

In comparison, the Chicago Blackhawks have three homegrown defensemen. Both the Boston Bruins and LA Kings have four. All three have won the Stanley Cup in recent years and all three spend less on defense than the Flyers.

Although you can point at the Flyers’ broken and inept AHL pipeline for their inability to transform below-average talents into inexpensive and serviceable NHL players, acquiring, drafting and developing high caliber defensemen has not been a priority for this club. They simply don’t feed the pipeline with quality talent.

Since 2004, the Flyers made 70 draft selections. Only 23 were defensemen and only two, over that 10 year span, were picked with the team’s first pick — Luca Sbisa, 2008 and Sam Morin, 2013. Including those two, the Flyers only selected a defensemen in the third round or higher 10 times.

Of the 23 defensemen picked, only five have played with the Flyers — Oskars Bartulis, Kevin Marshall, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Oliver Lauridsen and Luca Sbisa. Led by Bartulis’ 66 games, this group has combined for a total of 175 games played in a Flyers jersey.

Out of 10 years of drafting and 23 picks, the Flyers received a little over two full seasons worth of return. Only Bourdon and Lauridsen are still with the organization, now playing with the Adirondack Phantoms.

When analyzing the Flyers’ many issues, it’s not Jay Rosehill, Zac Rinaldo or the bully culture that caused this mess — it’s another out-of-date mentality. It’s the small-picture, big money, run-and-gun spending philosophy that has doomed these Flyers.

  1. Mike - Nov 6, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    Unfortunately, we’re probably stuck in this culture until Ed Snider steps down. Unless Hexy has the balls to stand up to Snider and truly implement change.

    • franko - Nov 6, 2013 at 5:50 PM

      Never gonna happen

    • Matt - Nov 7, 2013 at 3:58 PM

      Exactly the win now mentality has to stop if the flyers would have stayed bottom feeders after 06 they could have grabbed players like stamkos, tavares, doughty….ectera but we’ll do what we always do go after those players when they are in there thirties, late thirties at that instead of having them in their prime.

      • Two - Nov 8, 2013 at 8:44 AM

        Are you retarded? Ectera? Do you mean etcetera? “There thirties”? It’s their not there. Idiot.

  2. Petey - Nov 6, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    That’s a good assessment of the problem. Bringing outside “seasoned” talent ignores two issues:

    1) It’s suddenly available for a reason (or “a free agent is ‘free’ for a reason”).

    2) The pseudo mercenary mentality (to the highest bidder goes the talent) does not foster loyalty or induce anything that can build team chemistry. Instead, it brings expectations and envy. A lot can go wrong.

    The Flyers seriously need to improve scouting and work on developing and nurturing home-grown talent. There’s no reason why McGinn should moving back and forth between the AHL and NHL while Rosehill or Hall have spots. Same goes for the situation with Lauridsen and Gill.

    If it takes a young player time to develop and if the team struggles, so be it. I think fans are more forgiving in that situation. It means netting more talent in the next draft. This worked for the Blackhawks, Penguins, Caps, and every other team.

    Will they change? Not while Snider is in charge. Should they? Absolutely. The two championships came not because they were the Bullies, but because they had a home-grown team which gelled. They should work on that.

    • Jango27 - Nov 7, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      good assessment….well thought-out

  3. Negativo - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    How do we know these defensemen can’t play if they never get any chance to gel together and go through some growing pains on the big stage.

    I know this is a small sample size but the final ten games of last year, the defense looked pretty damn good with lauridson, manning, gus, and schenn leading the pack while kimmo and grossman were gone. Now I know schenn continues to make moronic clearing attempts and I’m not really upset hes been a healthy scratch as Hal Gil has been his serviceable self…but SERIOUSLY.


  4. nick4572 - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    I agree 100%. However, I don’t know when that change will come.

  5. fireholmgren - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    //There is no PK Subban, Ryan Ellis, Jonas Brodin or Jacob Trouba //

    Did you miss the draft the last couple of seasons? Sam Morin, Robert Hagg? Shayne Gostisbehere?

    • rjjj - Nov 6, 2013 at 6:39 PM

      yeah, conveniently forgot that part..ask the other gm’s if they’d like morin and gotisbehere….

  6. Marvin Monroe - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    I don’t know what you guys are so upset about. Only 5 members of the 2005 Calder Cup winning Philadelphia Phantoms have gone on to win a Stanley Cup. And only 1 of them has done it twice.

    • BenE. - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      What is your point? Most AHL players don’t make the NHL full time anyway.

      • Marvin Monroe - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:28 PM

        That the Flyers not only had AHL players who can play in the NHL, they had AHL players who went onto win Stanley Cups.

        That the Flyers braintrust has let go key pieces to Stanley Cup winners- Richards, Carter, Sharp, and Seidenberg. And Ben Eager. That the Flyers had the talent staring at them right in the face and still didn’t notice it.

        Meanwhile they throw tons of money at veterans past their primes who never live up to the hype- Roenick, Forsberg, Hatcher, Pronger. Look forward to Lecavalier joining that list soon. Someday they will realize players over the age of 30 are more prone to injury. And of course, there was the Bryzaster.

  7. Chris - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    It’s evident that their scouting department is horrible because they CONSTANTLY keep signing ex-Flyers! How about you look outside of the organization? JVR is playing well meanwhile Schenn is a bust. Couts is also over-rated.

    They need to reboot this team. Take the “C” from Claude…I think the added pressure of being Captain is affecting his play. Let Kimmo retire. Streit you have to live with as they signed him for too much/long. I would be open to trading Giroux if the price was right. There is too much wrong with this team where small deals will fix it.

    • Chris - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      Oh yeah, did I mention signing Bryz to that stupid deal when Bob was right under our nose?

    • Marvin Monroe - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      You’re crazy. Luke Schenn is the man! You couldn’t see it on last night’s telecast, but he did an amazing job of clearing the ice from the mini fridge in the press box. It gets jammed up sometimes, but not last night!

  8. Quinn moon - Nov 6, 2013 at 1:55 PM

    Are tou forgetting big about them drafting Sam morin?

  9. 2sentz - Nov 6, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    Nice post. Until last year, this FO has annually thought they’re “just one or two trades or FA’s away from the promised land”, which really pisses off the fans who watched this tired dance play out for 20 years then actually worsen over the latest 10 hard-cap years. I’ve kvetched about it far more than once, including one comment listing 15 specific examples over the decades.

    But you’ve stated the entire overriding pattern as succinctly as can be explained. Somebody needs to pin this post to Snider’s head.

  10. Up North - Nov 6, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    Regarding the “Flyers’ broken and inept AHL pipeline”, I could not agree more. I live in Glens Falls, NY, and have season tix for the Phantoms (I relocated up here from Philly the same year the Phantoms did and I’m a huge Flyers fan). Every year, without fail, the Phantoms are bottom feeders in the standings and the players CAN NOT compete. Terry Muray can’t even whip them into shape. The talent is just not on the ice. For years it has been this way. I don’t see it changing.

    • mike - Nov 6, 2013 at 6:09 PM

      I go to a good amount of games along the I-81 corridor- Hershey, Scranton Wilkes-Barre, Binghamton and Adirondack. And Reading also. The drop off in talent between the Phantoms and the Bears and Penguins is amazing. Those two franchises are so well run. And Binghamtom has really gotten a great program together as well. There are times when I watch SWB play the Phantoms and it feels like a college team playing a high school team. It seems to have started maybe a year or two before the Phantoms left Philly. But it seems to have gotten worse since moving to Glenn Falls.

  11. dino dan - Nov 6, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    a long time problem has been management not being able to change with the new nhl. Mr. Snider needs a GM that will adapt to the changes or our Flyers will suffer. I know Homer is a Flyer but he is just another Bobby Clarke that will not adapt. Pittsburg should not be Pennsylvania’s team; we all know that. Next year must be different or I’m gone, and many others as well. Take heed Philly, It’s now or never.

    • philly - Nov 6, 2013 at 8:58 PM

      I moved down to florida in 2000, and have remained an avid flyers nut. However, recent events, or lack thereof, have influenced me to start rooting elsewhere. I’m an hour away from Tampa Bay, and they haven’t looked terrible since the flyers were good. If holmgren is still here at the ens of the season, I will have a Bolts jersey in no time.

  12. DD - Nov 6, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    And to think Hextall was a lead scout untill now doesn’t make for a bright future promoting him. Hextall isn’t the answer we must start anew. If not now, when…

  13. 5 For6 - Nov 6, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    If the current players can’t play a full 60 minutes, which they have demonstrate they can’t do, the so called stars on this team need to sit se games.

    • 5 For 5 - Nov 6, 2013 at 7:11 PM

      My name is 5 For 5 not 6, please excuses my mistake in 1st post.
      Also, great who’s that guy guest Cuz & Prof.

  14. Ryan - Nov 6, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    blah… please just put these lines together if you want A CHANCE to win:



    YES… Timonen is a healthy scratch because he has been the worst player on this sorry bunch all season.

    Mason > Emery by a mile… I don’t mind Emery playing 1 out of 4/5 but Mason is a much better player and the flyers woudl have lost that game 5-1 if Emery was in net against the canes.

    STOP with Rosehill….. STOP pretending you owe something to Timonen…. and STOOOOOOOP pretending Voracek isn’t our best forwrad and if you EVER want to get Giroux going its going to be with him. Not that I think simmonds is playing well, but maybe he will start just going to the net like he is supposed to if he’s on a line where he doesn’t feel like he needs to create offense with his “skill” which is clearly hit or miss regarding stick-handling.

    • t800m101 - Nov 6, 2013 at 8:29 PM

      Sent Raffl back the A, put Downie on the third line, and put Rosehill on the fourth. Other than that, I like your lines. I must say, it would be nice to see McGinn in the lineup over Hartnell’s useless ass.

  15. Bruce - Nov 6, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    When Giroux was scoring he had someone on his line that could handle the puck, Ville Leino, or Jaromir Jagr. Those guys would keep the puck until someone drifted a little to far from Giroux and then pass it to him for a one timer. There is no one on the present roster that seems to be able to do that. The Flyers are a one trick pony, they can’t play puck possession so they are limited to dump and chase. Third periods are killing them because once the other team adjusts the Flyers are done.

    • Jango27 - Nov 7, 2013 at 3:45 PM

      superstars make other players good, not the other way around….when have players like Crosby, Ovechkin, Toews, Tavares, or other 1st liners dropped off the map like Girooux–not only not putting the puck in the net, but not even assisting on others players’ goals…they haven’t, because they’re legitimate stars. Giroux isn’t

      the Flyers are in big trouble if their $8M a year captain superstar’s success depends on a 40 year old, now 20-goal-a-year-player. Giroux’s success doesn’t depend on Jagr or anyone else. he sucks, plain and simple. he’s too small (5’10 170), too slow, too weak, doesn’t hustle, and is not willing to go to the rough areas in the corners or in front of the net to score, and he’s not creating scoring chances for anyone else. way over-rated and way over-paid. he’s a decent 2nd liner, nothing more. the problem is that he’s getting paid 1st line money

      • Bruce - Nov 7, 2013 at 4:30 PM

        You are refuting something I didn’t say. I never said Giroux was a superstar. I said when he was scoring he had a puck possession guy on his line that opened things up for him to score.

  16. Rob - Nov 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Finally, someone gets it. I have been a Flyers fan for a very long time, and always felt exactly what this artlicle states. Look at the western conference compared to the eastern conference. For years they were forced to draft well and devlope their own talent. Western teams seem to always have the lowest payrolls, and the brightest young talent. Well, now you can see where that is leading too. They are by far the strongest conference, and rolls have been reversed. Can’t wait for the draft, wait to see how many eastern conference
    teams will be in the top ten….in PHILLY!

    Ryan, excellent article.

  17. Ben - Nov 7, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Interesting perspective. Personally I think it’s pervasive throughout the entire Philadelphia sports scene. They always seem to be playing for now. If they have somebody decent to play a certain position, instead of saying we got this covered, they always seem to be asking the question “who can we get for him?”. If they don’t start building from within and with younger people, they will eventually field a team that are only capable of skating on double runners.

  18. exlund - Nov 7, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    I agree it’s not the “bully” culture/mentality that some of the ignorant observers/critics have tried to label these Flyers with that is the issue…and I agree with the theme of this article in terms of the Flyers needing to do a better job at developing in house talent…but I think Holmgren and Co.’s efforts to restock the young talent/prospect pool has been lost on most critics. Homer traded older for younger in the Carter/Richards trades that brought in Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and the picks used to draft Couturier and Cousins. He drafted Scott Laughton, a player that is dominating Jrs as an overager. He drafted Sam Morin, a huge D man with untold upside and dman Robert Hagg, a kid currently playing with men in the Swedish elite league…another drafted player McGinn looks like a player, they drafted Ghostisbehere, they drafted top goalie prospect Stolarz. Homer and co. went outside the box to find players/prospects like Matt Read, Gustafsson, Raffl, Alt, Akeson…while there may not be a can’t-miss elite talent in the waiting, I think it’s a mischaracterization to say that the Flyers have not fed the pipeline or made developing high caliber D men a priority (again they just drafted Morin and Hagg — which directly contradicts this notion).

    So far Holmgren has resisted whatever temptation there may have been to trade any of that youth he’s brought in over the past few years to bring in more developed players in an effort to “win now”…, so I think this goes against that alleged small picture philosophy…I think some fans and critics need to acknowledge the youth movement Holmgren has started and allow more time for the seeds he’s planted to blossom before villifying him for being short-sighted…maybe it’s the fans/critics who look at the current on-ice performance who are being short-sighted here. I’m pretty excited about what this team will look like in 2-3 years when many of these young players/prospects will be more developed and making their mark in the NHL…until then, I’m willing to be patient, which in itself, represents a “culture change” of sorts amongst fans…for we need to change the mindset as well, it seems.

    • Rob - Nov 7, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      Agree with your observations. Problem is, almost everything you just mentioned happended within the past year. Where has this “youth movement” been for the past ten or fifteen years? We can only hope that this past year is a sign that the organization is starting to rethink is strategy about developing talent. We shall see how many of these young players are left by the trade deadline. Of course the other side of it will be the fans. Philly is not know for being a patient fan base. It’s always “win now”, the minute a team struggles the fans scream
      “trade the bum”. I am sure that has some infllence on the organizations decisions about bringing in winners

      • exlund - Nov 7, 2013 at 1:18 PM

        Well, Homer has shown the ability to adapt and correct mistakes…they made the move for Pronger and it worked…he led the team to the SC Finals…now he’s gone and the team isn’t ready to contend…while he’s not likely to come out and state it publicly, the Flyers are basicaslly in the midst of a rebuild around G with the younger core players brought in for JC/MR and via other means. The Timonen, Streit and VLC signings are more about stop gaps and maintaining some veteran leadership than being a contender The fact that Homer has brought in a lot of young players/prospects and hasn’t traded them (yet) in an effort to “win now” seems to validate the idea that we’re seeing a more patient philosophy here. It remains to be seen if that’s actually the case.

    • Jango27 - Nov 7, 2013 at 3:51 PM

      except that the team is not that young

  19. Utley"s Knees - Nov 7, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    Ryan, this was a well wriiten article and spot on the Flyers biggest problem although the “Bully Mentality’ and Nepotism does not help either. The Flyers need a rebuilding period with a new GM not tied to their past culture which Ron Hextall or Ray Shero would bring as long as Ed Snider allowed it. My fear is as long as Ed Snider is around we will not see these required changes you suggest but you will see fewer paying customers in the seats eventually.

  20. rob S - Nov 7, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Remember what happened the last time ED was not around for a few years….

    • Utley"s Knees - Nov 7, 2013 at 6:46 PM

      There was no hard salary cap back then and the Flyers could buy/spend their way out of trouble. Also, they did not leave the rebuilding up to a proven GM it was his son.

  21. bob - Nov 7, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    yep. Tremendous evaluation. A GM is responsible for the blueprint. Holmgren needs to go. Now. Then trade long term contracts for expiring contracts at the trade deadline even if it means trading the Hartnells or voracheks for slop and a pick. Dump mezaros for a bag of pucks get cap relief and picks and better scouts and start over a 5 tear plan. Dont we wish we still had Carter and JVR? Homer blew it.

    • lostincyberspace - Nov 7, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      The JVR fiasco was just like Bryzgalov. How much press needed to come out of Toronto to tell you this guy was NOT living up to the hype? Yet we trade away our best and most promising young gun for a useless turnstile who looks like a lost kitten every time he has the puck.

      All the other idiocies were crushing us, but that move snapped the boat in half. This and allowing Jagr to leave are the two main things that have us where we are now. Fire everyone and start over.

  22. whillie - Nov 7, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    These guys are so bad and painful to watch.It’s too bad Nodle isn’t around 30 years old,then we could bring him back and sign him to a big loonnng contract.

  23. Lostincyberspace - Nov 7, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    I said this for a long time. Look at last season – we played terrible then as well, and all the D got hurt. It was “so bad” they felt they had to reply on “kids” like Manning and Lauridson however those two played better than any of these “star” players did. They were not only solid and had positive plus minus numbers, they were scoring.

    But what happened this summer? Were they expected to stay? Were they counted on? No. They were excused to go back to the AHL so we could throw millions at the washed up Mark Streit, who was never any good to begin with. (really, the isles are a team we beat 8-1 every 3 weeks for the past 10 years and THIS is the team you go shopping for D men from?)

    Not only was it a stupid move, it tells those kids you have no faith in them. They came up and gave their all and got nothing for it, meanwhile, claud the fraud, the scoreless wonder, will be raking in 8 mils soon…. yeah, it’s going to be black for a LONG time…

    • BenE. - Nov 7, 2013 at 9:00 PM

      Great post. I, and others, were beating the anti-Streit drum when he agreed to sign, and we were given a lot crap for it, as if after 7 years in the NHL we don’t know how how good Mark Streit is.

      And the Timonen signing…ohh boy. I gotta go fish for that thread because I don’t remember what people were saying about Timonen the player and Timonen the contract. However, anyone who knows how to run numbers knows that tying up $11.25 million in two defensemen with a combined age of 73 is a very bad decision.

      I’ll tell you this much: putting Lauridsen and Manning back on the blue line might not make this a winning team right now, but Oliver and Brandon would be getting great NHL experience at a dime store cost to the Flyers.

      • MJS - Nov 7, 2013 at 10:06 PM

        Hindsight makes this seem easy here though. If they would have started the season with 2 dmen with a combined experience of 25 games (pretty sure zero games they’ve played have been when anything actually mattered) and were 4-10-1, we would be screaming about how they didn’t sign a veteran dman and not talking about the great NHL experience these 2 young players were getting. When we’re losing it’s so easy to say we should have let the young ones play.

        Mez needs to go. He’s been needing to go for a very long time now. No hindsight required here.

      • BenE. - Nov 9, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        MJS, I disagree that this is hindsight. Any intelligent fan could have told you last year that signing a defenseman on his last legs for $6 million is a colossal misstep. Same with the Streit contract. We have Streit under contract for three more seasons. What’s worse is Streit is going to be impossible to trade, even if his contract didn’t have a limited no trade clause. 29 other GMs laughed when Timonen got $6, and Streit got four years at $5.25. Teams are more than happy to let the Flyers burden themselves with ridiculous contracts. Holmgren was bidding against himself for both players.

        As for Lauridsen and Manning, the Flyers still might be 4-10-1, but that would be OK because the Flyers would have over $10 million in cap space. We’d be looking at a losing team with a defense going through growing pains (instead of just pains) and plenty of time to let them develop at the NHL level. The $10 million becomes a contingency plan to improve the team. That’s why I don’t think fans would be screaming why Holmgren didn’t sign a veteran defenseman in the summer. A young defense and $10 million in cap space is an immeasurably scenario than a dinosaur defense with $0.00 cap space.

  24. mike - Nov 7, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    Guys, can we just stop posting on here? This is the most depressing thing I have read in a while.

    I’m going to go cheer up. I think Old Yeller and Brian’s Song are on tv.

  25. docdeath20 - Nov 8, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Eddie Clarkie, Homie the Clown are still living in the 70′s and 80′s. Hockey is and has been a sport with not many goons left. The culture is bring in aging vets and refusal to play the young guys. Now they play the young guys and still continue to sign or trade for aging vets. The Pronger trade is one of the worse, he had a body of a 90 year person and they gave away future picks players etc for a year and a half worth of him playing and are still paying for him. Space balls BRZYS regardless what Eddie said is his doing period and it cost a ton to get him out of here same with Danny Boy and I can name tons, like my most disappointing one was Patril Sharp for an defenseman Vandemeer who sucked. I don;t have to remind anyone on how successful Sharp is [2] rings and trading away Upshall for another player Carcillo who is dead wood like Rinaldo, Coutier, Hall, Newbury and as Sonny and Cher sing the beat goes on.

    Eddie sells and Hack Saw takes over and we start from scratch, bye bye Claudia, Heart-less, Luke the turnover machine Scheen etc etc etc. A famous quote from a guy who’s team is 9-0 TIMES YOURS


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