Putting On The Foil with @jsaquella: Flyers don’t need “Culture Change”, they need adjustment in approach

Editors’ Note: Noted Philadelphia Flyers fan John Saquella is going beyond 140 characters. The man most of you probably know from social media as @jsaquella will bring you his wide-ranging opinion and commentary on the Orange and Black in his column Putting On The Foil.

By John Saquella (@jsaquella)


The Flyers have been sitting and waiting for six weeks since their elimination at the hands of the New York Rangers and it’s finally almost time to see what new GM Ron Hextall has in store for the team.

He arrived saying he didn’t expect massive changes and that he intended to keep the younger players and build through the draft — here’s hoping that stays his plan.

Flyers fans see the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup (by the way, you can check the odds at allpro) and feel jealous that guys that were developed here are winning out there. They get their teeth kicked in on a near daily basis by a local media that specializes in heralding the exploits of players they used to revile when they were Flyers.

When a Jeff Carter or Mike Richards has a big night, there’s at least one beat guy heaping the praise and another shredding the Flyers for dumping them. The term “Culture Change” has become a mantra. The Flyers don’t need “Culture Change”, they need an adjustment in their approach. Demanding a winning team year in and out is not a bad culture to have. The issue here has been the methods employed.

Far too often the Flyers have made short sighted decisions. Far too often the Flyers have changed tack in the wake of a loss and tried to ape the team that beat them the previous season. That’s what needs to change, not the demand for excellence.

The fall from grace after reaching the 2010 Stanley Cup Final was sudden and jarring. It was made far worse by the freak career ending injury suffered by Chris Pronger. But it’s roots are in the short term route the Flyers took. Paul Holmgren was named GM of the Flyers at the tail end of the 2006-07 season. In the seven drafts that he was in charge of, the Flyers made three selections in the second round. Twice the Flyers didn’t make a pick until 80 players were off the board.

The massive price paid for Pronger (winger Joffrey Lupul, 2008 1st round pick Luca Sbisa and the Flyers’ 1st rounders in 2009 & 2010) left a massive hole in the Flyers system. Pronger’s subsequent injury led to more picks being traded away for players like Nicklas Grossmann, Mark Streit and Pavel Kubina. Even at the tail end of this season, the Flyers traded two valuable picks for Andrew MacDonald. This sort of move needs to stop.

Even though Grossmann & MacDonald signed extensions after they were acquired, they’re hardly top pair defensemen. In fact both of them are 4/5 guys, best suited to being used on the second or third pair of a good defense corps. In the case of Streit, the Flyers traded a pick for his rights, and signed him soon after, a practice which I hope will end with the promotion of Paul Holmgren to team president.

The moves for these defensemen shored up the Flyers in the short term, but none of these players could come close to replacing Pronger, and none can even replace what the 39 year old Kimmo Timonen brought last year-and he was in noticeable decline. Given the many good to outstanding NHL defensemen drafted in the second and third rounds, it can be argued that the Flyers might have found Pronger’s replacement already by simply holding onto their own picks.

The way of the NHL now is to build through the draft, adding key pieces through smart trades and using UFA to add a final piece and shore up depth positions. The Flyers need to place a premium on that, as well as focusing on skating, smarts and players that can drive possession. We see the success that teams who focus on possession have had in the last few years. Chicago. Boston. Los Angeles. These teams are the front runners because they value possession and skating. The Flyers need to copy that.

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