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Analyzing the Last Five Stanley Cup Champions; Flyers Are Doing It Wrong

Okay, someone has to say it: the Philadelphia Flyers are building wrong.

Going back through the last five Stanley Cup winners (2009-13) and the Flyers Eastern Conference Champion team in 2010, there is a huge discrepancy when comparing the make-up of those teams to the Flyers of 2013.

The winning teams being talked about are the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins, 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks, 2010-11 Boston Bruins, 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings, and 2012-13 Blackhawks.

Those five winners plus the 2009-10 and 2013-14 Flyers teams were analyzed and broken down into four categories. The categories were homegrown players, (combination of drafted players and undrafted free agents), players acquired via trade, big money free agent signings (including trading for impending free agents) and depth additions (low end free agent signings or waiver pickups).

Entire teams were analyzed but it was further broken down into 16 “key” players from each of the six teams; nine forwards, six defensemen and one goalie.

Here are the findings:

2013-14 Flyers (Current record: 5-10-1)

The number is skewed a bit towards the trade category, thanks to the 2011 offseason, but the Flyers only have three key players (Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Matt Read) who have been homegrown (19% of roster). 

In addition, the Flyers are the only team analyzed to have 25% of their key players added with a big money signing.  Many of the current roster (Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek) came to the team via trade after the big 2011 roster shake up. However, promoting from within was still not in the plans, as the team filled holes with more trades and free agent signings. 

Part of that could be due to lack of top ready prospects, but homegrown players like Erik Gustafsson have not been given a chance. Even including fourth liner Zac Rinaldo and call-up players like Gustafsson, Michael Raffl, and Tye McGinn, the Flyers percentage is still low at 28%.

2009-10 Flyers (Record: 41-35-6)

This team still didn’t have as many homegrown guys compared to the Cup teams. However, of the ones who were very big impact players, five of the top eight scorers were groomed in-house.

2007 offseason additions Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen combined with trade acquisitions Chris Pronger, Matt Carle and Ville Leino to give the team a balanced composition. The plan set in motion in 2007 by Paul Holmgren seemed to be on the right track until the 2011 playoffs forced the team to change its course.

2009-10 Blackhawks (Record: 52-22-8) and
2013 Blackhawks (Record: 36-7-5)

Chicago has turned itself into a dynasty. These teams can be combined together as many of the key players are the same. 

Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Bryan Bickell, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson are just some of the homegrown names on both lists. Due to the mismanagement the following offseason, some of the names (Dustin Byfuglien, Antti Niemi) had to be replaced but the Hawks kept on ticking with the same core and a similar roster composition. 

Both teams had high homegrown roster composition (52% and 46% respectively).  Just accounting for key players it was even higher (63% and 57% respectively), as the Hawks had the two highest percentages of the seven teams studied.

2011-12 Kings (Record: 40-27-15)

The Kings were an interesting team to break down. Despite being the No. 8 seed in the West, they were a well-built team that struggled and back-doored its way into the playoffs.

More of the Kings’ top players came by trade (38%) instead of the draft, but the roster still boasts many homegrown players (50%). The players the team built around (Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar) were all drafted by the team. Despite the tilted numbers, trade additions such as Justin Williams, Matt Greene, Jarret Stoll and Rob Scuderi had been with the club for four or five years prior to the Cup win.

2010-11 Bruins (Record: 46-25-11)

Out of the five Stanley Cup winning teams analyzed, the Bruins had the lowest number of homegrown players. Only six of their players were their own, with much of their roster coming via the trade route (50%). 

However, many of the trades had come multiple years before the Cup win, giving Boston cohesion up and down its lineup. Even Zdeno Chara, a free agent signing, had been with the club for five years.

2008-09 Penguins (Record: 45-28-9)

Pittsburgh was, of course, built around Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal and Marc-Andre Fleury, all drafted first or second between 2003 and 2006.

But they had plenty of other key homegrown players as well, such as Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Scuderi and Max Talbot. The Pens were the only other team analyzed to have more than three big money free agents but two of them, Miroslav Satan and Petr Sykora, ended up being unimportant. Chris Kunitz was a mid-season trade and Bill Guerin was an important rental at the deadline.

This season's top teams

This isn’t the exception; rather it is the rule. The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks are some of the NHL’s top teams this season and all have homegrown cores. 

The Blues and Avalanche have drafted well, adding pieces with trades. The Ducks have grown many of their players and free agent signings such as Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne have been with the team for years.

We already know that the Flyers are impatient. Their impatience is hurting the team, both in growing young players and in building a roster. The Flyers lack of draft picks has come back to haunt them. In addition, they have dealt away draft picks for soon-to-be free agents, limiting the number of players they’ll add via the draft.

The Hawks and Penguins built through their system and added pieces as they went along. The Bruins and Kings have added via trade or free agency, but they have kept those key players together instead of shuffling the deck so frequently.  The key number seemed to be about eight or nine key homegrown players, which is about 50%. The Flyers have not done this since before the 2005 lockout, when the new salary cap rules were instituted.

The Flyers only have five players remaining from their 2011 team (four from 2010), which was just three seasons ago. The unprecedented roster turnover coupled with the constant continued changes has the roster a recipe for disaster, not only for this season but in the near future.

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Dan MacNeal
Staff Writer
Twitter: @Realdeal411@TCLFlyers

Comments

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

One thing that I notice when I read this is that the flyers build a lot through big trades and big free agent signings. If you want to do that, you will not find great success over time. You can put a productive team on the ice consistently, but you will not win a bunch of Cups. This is a cap era, so that doesn't fly any more.

When you look at Pittsburgh and Chicago though, these teams went through some very lean years. They had ownership groups that would not pay for any free agents to play there. They would rather make whatever profit they could and let the team be. I think that type of ownership makes a gm and their recruiting staff much more creative in how they build their teams.

Take Pittsburgh for an example. They have been drafting heavily on the defensive side since 2000. They get these good puck moving defensemen that over achieve in their system and then they trade them for guys that their system does not develop well. Power forwards in particular. They build up the prospect pools heavy towards a needed group and then they act like a shopping mall for other teams to come in and accept trades.

If you look at Goligoski for Neal and Niskanen, Ryan Whitney for Kunitz and Tangradi, even Joe Morrow for Brendan Morrow, it was all from one group of prospect types that teams don't risk developing themselves, for good reason these D do not pan out well in western systems because they lack the NHL ready defensive skills.

I think with Snider's super deep pockets, no GM in philly will ever have to do this creative management style. It is just to easy to get Snider to write a check for a top free agent or to sell big assets, because he has the capital to make sure the team gets good enough players in return.

I think that if the Flyers want to really start to build in the way that other successful franchises have, they need to go out and hire a GM from a small market team. One that knows how to circumvent small payrolls. They have that creative ability to build competitive teams without a ton of money, and when they get the big money they can do wonders.