With the Los Angeles Kings taking a commanding 3-0 series lead in the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, many believe that it is no longer a matter of "If" but "when" the Kings will raise the cup for their first in franchise history. Whether they close their winning season in Games 4, 5, or 6, one thing is for certain - they have had plenty of players step up in their championship run.
Beyond the stellar net play of Jonathan Quick and the offensive-minded skill of Anze Kopitar, there is a small group of King forwards that were the future of another NHL franchise not too long ago. By now you may have noticed four names on Los Angeles' roster that were wearing the Philadelphia Flyers bright orange in another life. Who were these players?
Justin Williams (Played for the Flyers between 2000 - 2004)
Mike Richards (Played for the Flyers between 2005 - 2011)
Jeff Carter (Played for the Flyers between 2005 - 2011)
And if you're looking for one final connection, look no further than Simon Gagne. While this forward has only played one game in the Kings playoff run, he proved to be a productive player in the 34 regular season games he played in before suffering an almost season ending head injury.
Simon Gagne (Played for the Flyers between 1999 - 2010)
These players have been a vital part to the Kings playoff run. If you combine their statistics, the first three players have totaled 13 goals and 37 points in the Kings 17 playoff games. To add an extra weight to the mix, Jeff Carter has scored the game winning goal in the SCF Game 2 and the "out of reach" goal in SCF Game 3.
After watching their impact on the ice for the Kings, you might begin to wonder why did Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren get rid of this select group? Apart from Williams, who's departure may fall on former general manager Bob Clarke's shoulders, it was only a few seasons ago that we saw Richards, Carter, and Gagne playing in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Flyers. Everyone came to know that Philadelphia had a unique core to build around. However, this core was not built to last in the eyes of Holmgren.
Following the 2010-2011 season, the Flyers GM dismantled the team by trading Richards and Carter. Before the initial shock wore off, Holmgren then went out and signed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a massive 9-Year $51 million dollar contract. The new acquisition wasn't able to help when the team needed him most in this year's Flyers playoff run. The "universe" superstar suffered a mental breakdown. And with the mental state of Byrzgalov being low, the entire team followed suit to an eventual second round loss. The season was over for the Flyers while the former Flyers marched on.
While it might be difficult to judge Holmgren’s changes on one season of play, the immediate feedback has shown the quality of talent that he decided to get rid of. If he has anything positive to focus on, it is the mix of a new core for the Flyers. Led by star forward Claude Giroux, Holmgren has found offensive success by using forwards James Van Riemsdyk, Sean Couturier, Danny Briere, and Matt Read. However, as the fans have plainly seen, it takes a lot more than a potent offense to win the cup. If he can't fix the defensive side of the team, his time in Philadelphia will draw to a close.
As the official start of the offseason looms around the corner, how long does Paul Holmgren stay as the Philadelphia Flyers general manager? And will a Stanley Cup winning Kings team become a black mark on his record?
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