Holmgren Snubbed For GM Honor; Only One Trophy On His Mind
On Tuesday morning, the NHL announced the three finalists for the General Manager of the Year Award, a group that included Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues, David Poile of the Nashville Predators and Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers.
While one could make the argument that all three men are worthy candidates of the honor (which is voted on by all 30 general mangers, five NHL executives and five media members), there is one name that is surprisingly absent from the list.
Philadelphia Flyers general manager, Paul Holmgren constructed one of the most bizarre teams in the history of the NHL and in the process displayed that he is one of the best general managers in the league today.
After completely dismantling a team that was one win away from a Stanley Cup championship in 2010 and one point away from first place in the Eastern Conference in 2011, Holmgren assembled a young team focused on speed, grit and defense and hoped that the overhaul would work.
Ultimately, the defense never manifested until the final full month of the season and the team ended up being a-hell-of-lot younger than they initially anticipated, but the speed and toughness was present from day one.
Not to mention that the overhaul is looking pretty good after season one.
Coming into the year, many commented the team was going to struggle to score goals after trading away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in addition to allowing Ville Leino to walk in free agency. Instead, the team scored five more goals than they did in 2010-11 when they led the league with 259 and finished this year as the second highest scoring team in the NHL.
While on the subject of Carter and Richards, the fact that Holmgren had the confidence to pull the trigger on those trades, moves that brought in Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn and ultimately also helped in adding Sean Couturier and Nicklas Grossmann, is reason enough that he should be given the award.
Simmonds and Voracek were both underutilized players who were virtual unknowns when they came into Philly. Now, they are two mainstays of a championship caliber team who both recorded career highs in offensive productivity.
Of course, it’s also necessary to note the additions of Max Talbot and Jaromir Jagr as key moves. Talbot was a glue guy with the Pittsburgh Penguins, prior to finding his scoring touch in Philadelphia, recording career highs in every offensive category in his first year with the Flyers in addition to finding a role as one of the team’s best penalty killers.
Jagr was a long-time villain in Philadelphia prior to this season. With questions about his age and desire, Jagr proved his critics wrong by spending the vast majority of the year on the team’s explosive top line and bolstering the team’s top-ten power play unit.
Then there is the acquisition of Matt Read, a 25 year-old rookie who was signed as a college free agent. Coming into camp with a slim-chance of making the team, Read took that slim-chance and ran with it. He finished the season as the rookie-leader for goals scored with 24 in addition to game-winning goals with six. Not to mention that the Flyers only had to pay him $900,000 for that production.
On top of that, the long line of rookies who played a role in the team's success this season is just mind boggling.
The one move that probably hurt Holmgren with the voters was signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract. Considering that Bryzgalov struggled for much of the season, it’s understandable why some would question the move.
However, the biggest factor for the Flyers was the loss of Chris Pronger. Largely considered the most important member of the team, there are few people who would have said back in early December that this team could compete without him.
Fast-forward a few months later and it’s just an after-thought.
It's still crazy to think that this team was as good as it was this year.
Despite the massive turnover, the injuries and the youth, the Philadelphia Flyers never had any kind of drop-off. While Armstrong, Poile and Tallon all constructed teams that certainly overachieved this year, the Flyers definitely went beyond expectations and they have Paul Holmgren to thank for that.
Ultimately, there is only one award that Holmgren is concerned with and thanks to his management, the Flyers have a realistic shot of winning it.
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