Fan vs Fan

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grading a GM Part 2: 2007-08

So, last time, I finished up 06-07's disaster season and gave Paul Holmgren a grade of B+ for this work of re-tooling a team Bobby Clarke left him. Now we start the 07-08 campaign. This will begin with Draft Day 2007, then move on to UFA signings followed by a look at the 07-08 regular season and playoff run. Finally concluding with my final grade of Holmgren. Later this week, I'll pick up with 08-09 in the same format.

So, to begin, Holmgren's draft selections during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Philadelphia's picks at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in ColumbusOhio.[3]
Rnd#PlayerPositionNationalityDrafted from
12James van RiemsdykLeft Wing United StatesUS National Team Development Program (NAHL)
241Kevin MarshallDefenseman CanadaLewiston Maineiacs (QMJHL)
366Garrett KlotzLeft Wing CanadaSaskatoon Blades (WHL)
5122Mario KempeRight Wing SwedenSt. John's Fog Devils (QMJHL)
6152Jon KalinskiLeft Wing CanadaBonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL)
6161Patrick MaroonLeft Wing United StatesLondon Knights (OHL)
7182Brad PhillipsGoaltender United StatesUS National Team Development Program (NAHL)

Now to start grading.

Round 1, Pick 2nd overall: James van Riemsdyk. While Central Scouting ranked Kyle Turris as the number 1 skater.


North AmericanEuropean
1Canada Kyle Turris (Centre)Russia Alexei Cherepanov (Right Wing)
2United States Patrick Kane (Right Wing)Sweden Mikael Backlund (Centre)
3United States James van Riemsdyk (Left Wing)Denmark Lars Eller (C/W)
4Canada Thomas Hickey (Defence)Russia Maksim Mayorov (Right Wing)

JvR was actually a better pick than Turris or Cherepanov (who would tragically die in 2008). Picking JvR was based on a future Flyers need, a LW. The Flyrers had 3 centers in, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and RJ Umberger and had Claude Giroux waiting in the pipeline as a Center/RW and Steve Downie as a RW as well. JvR, a LW, made the most sense. In this sense, drafting JvR was a great move and gets a FINAL GRADE: A.

Round 2, Overall 41: Flyers take Kevin Marshall. Bad move. Kevin Marshall was a Left Shooting Defenseman and the Flyers had a ton of left shooting defenseman in 2007. There was right shooting offensive defenseman waiting to be picked at around the same time named PK Subban. Comparing their stats from Junior. PK had the offensive advantage over Marshall and PK Subban was a right shot, something the Flyers could have used on the blueline every year since Eric Desjardins retired. This blunder was fairly obvious, even before Subban became a controversial star defender for the Habs while Marshall flounders around the AHL. Final Grade: D

Round 3, Overall 66: Garret Klotz: Only Holmgren would draft a goon with LESS OFFENSIVE potential than Zac Rinaldo. Only Holmgren. Final Grade: F

Round 5, Overall 122: Mario Kempe: QMJHL wing with some offensive potential. Had a lot of speed and a decent scoring touch. Sadly this never translated to AHL success and he bolted back to Europe in 2008. Based on Q production, it was a solid pick at this level, sure it didn't work out, but not every late round pick is Lundqvist or Byfuglien or Enstrom or a Red Wing. Final Grade B.

Round 6, Overall 152: Jon Kalinski, Kalinski was picked out of college. He made his NHL Debut in 2008/09 campaign. He played decently on the 4th line before a leg injury turned into compartment syndrome and nearly ended his career and his life. That being said, Kalinski showed some NHL potential during his limited duty that season (12GP 1G 2A) which, multiplied out to 82 games is ~7G 14A 21pts. For a 4th line guy, that's pretty good. It's a good find for this late in the draft so Kalinsky get's a FINAL GRADE: A-

Round 6, Overall 161: Pat Maroon: Maroon showed a lack of discipline and an attitude in the Flyers system prompting him to eventually be traded. That's not Holmgren's fault so Maroon get's a FINAL GRADE: B.

Round 7  Overall 182: Brad Phillips. 7th round pick who bounces around the system. Nothing good, nothing bad. FINAL GRADE: B.

Final 2007 Draft Grade: C, Holmgren found a decent mid round talent in Kalinski who had a lot potential before getting hurt. A good late round talent in Maroon before drama pushed him out. Sadly however, picking Marshall over Subban pulls his grade down.

I am guessing, that with the roster Holmgren had in place after this draft, he was looking to hopefully have a team of forwards that looked like this in the future:

4th line...

In a perfect world, JvR would power the net knocking in rebounds of Carter's wrister's and Giroux's passes, Gagne-Richards would provide solid 2 way play with Downie would agitate and distract while those 2 scored. Umberger and Upshall could provide depth scoring with a LW who could play a solid shut down game. Alas, this did not happen, but the plan is solid.

Now, we move onto free agency.

UFA: Danny Briere: 8 years, 6.5 Cap Hit, FULL NMC

Re-signed (Years/Cap hit)
May 11, 2007Scottie Upshall2 years, 1.225M
May 14, 2007Ben Eager2 years, 600K
May 17, 2007Lasse Kukkonen2 years, 875K
June 8, 2007Riley Cote1 year 500k
June 8, 2007Lars Jonsson1 year, AHL
June 14, 2007Antero Niittymaki2 years, $1.225

Danny Briere: Terrible, terrible, terrible contract. Briere had come off a 95pt season with Buffalo (his only point per game or better season with 70 games played) and got paid like a player who does that sort of thing consistently. Briere's frequent stick fouls take away from his value as a scorer and his defensive lapses make his goals less valuable in that he allows goals which nullify the net gain on his scoring.  For the 07-08 Season, Pavel Datsyuk signed a similar contract with Detroit (7 years, 6.7 cap hit). Datsyuk is a consistent 70 pt scorer AND a constant Selke pick making him FAR more valuable than Briere's 200K discount. Granted, Scott Gomez and Chris Drury got cap hits over 7 from Glen Sather, but Datsyuk blows all 3 of this contracts out of the water in terms usefulness to his team. Briere's playoff "heroics" redeem him somewhat, so I can't fail this contract, but a FINAL GRADE: C- seems fitting. (But only because Gomez would get a D and Drury and D+ for their comparable disasters)

Scott Hartnell: Also another reactionary overpayment from Paul Holmgren, comparables to Hartnell include Milan Lucic (4.1), Johan Franzen (3.9), Ryane Clowe (3.6), Mike Knuble (2.8 in the same season). Tossing out Knuble, Hartnell isn't grossly overpaid like Briere, but still slightly overpaid especially since he got a NTC to protect him. I love Hartnell, but his falls don't (usually) help his team win. Lucic and Clowe, like Hartnell will drop the gloves on occasion and both are 45-55 point players like Hartnell. This sets the market for Hartnell at 3.6-4.1, and it should be lower since this was 2007 and Hartnell and Lucic got their current contracts far more recently (adjust for inflation of cap). Hartnell, like Briere is overpayment on a reaction, had he played like he did in 08-09 (30G/30A) and his 2010 playoff run every season, we'd be cheering this as a steal, it's not. Final Grade: B-

Kimmo Timonen: Third  reactionary overpayment. Timonen got 6.3. He's never scored 10+ goals for the Flyers, never had 50 points, is solid defensively. Not worth it, maybe worth 5.5 at most. His point totals have declined every single season, and even with the help of Chris Pronger in 2010, couldn't QB a successful PP one bit. Thing is, with 5 straight season of 10 goals leading up to this, Timonen had all the potential, he's just never lived up this contract. That's not Holmgren's fault entirely. FINAL GRADE: B+

Well, these 3 contracts are a prime example of quick fix gone wrong, sure they got the Flyers to the conference finals in 08 and finals in 2010, but now, all 3 are going to provide cap hell (especially Briere) until they come off the books. In Kimmo's case, Holmgren should have known Timonen would start trending downward, he was 32 at the time he signed this contract. Hartnell was at least trending up, and maybe could be a consistent 50 point player. Briere on the other hand, was paid after being a one hit wonder in a contract year. He regressed to his mean in his tenure with the Flyers so far. At least Briere is helped by the disasters known as Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.

Scottie Upshall: Not a bad deal, Upshall was a 1st round pick and had upside talent as a ball of energy player who could score a bit. It never really panned out for Upshall in Philly, and he'd become a cap casualty in 2009 for Dan Carcillo. But honestly, he wasn't paid big money and he didn't disappoint in terms of points per dollar. Final Grade: B

Ben Eager: A goon, he had some playing ability. Was paid goon money too. Eventually traded. Final Grade: B

Antero Niittymaki: Nitty. Solid backup goalie to Marty Biron. As a starter though, was kind of weak. But again, he was paid as a backup and played well as a backup. Final Grade: B

Martin Biron: Underrated starting goalie. The guy doesn't get a fair shake because in Buffalo, he was stuck between Hasek and Miller and Philly has had an alleged "goaltending problem" since 1987. (it's not true, folks, Biron, Cechmanek and Bobrovsky were all very solid). Biron's 07/08 campaign was great, a bit weaker in 08/09 but keep in mind he was paid 3.5M. He wasn't getting a major salary like Bryzgalov or Lundqvist or Thomas or Broderur or Luongo or Huet or Khabibulin. Because of that, Biron earned his keep as a starter, signing him, like his trade, gets Holmgren a Final Grade: A

Cote: Goon, league minimum. Final Grade: C

Jonsson: AHL contract, Grade N/A

Tryouts that became contracts

Jim Dowd, Jesse Boulerice, Rory Fitzpatrick:

Dowd was a solid 4th line center while Boulerice would be suspended and spend a ton of time on the Phantoms and Fitzpatrick would also end up back in the AHL. Final Grade: B for Dowd, C for the other two.

Trades (Preseason)

June 4, 2007To Philadelphia Flyers

future considerations
To Nashville Predators

Matt Ellison
June 18, 2007To Philadelphia Flyers

Scott Hartnell
Kimmo Timonen
To Nashville Predators

Nashville's 1st-round pick in 2007
June 23, 2007To Philadelphia Flyers

2nd-round pick in 2007
To Washington Capitals

2nd-round pick in 2008
Nashville's 3rd-round pick in 2007
July 1, 2007To Philadelphia Flyers

Joffrey Lupul
Jason Smith
To Edmonton Oilers

Joni Pitkanen
Geoff Sanderson
3rd-round pick in 2009

Quite a bit happening, no surprise since the previous team was terrible.

Ellision: Oh man how this trade turned golden for the Hawks.... #BlameWhyno. Also, N/A for a grade

Timonen and Hartnell for NSH's pick and the picks to the Caps that became Kevin Marshall, see the respective parts of this article on Timonen, Marshall and Hartnell.

Lupul and Smith for Sanderson, Pitkanen (I swear I typed Pronger and caught the typo) and a pick:

Lupul would be great for Philly his first (injury shortened) season. He had ~45 pts in ~55 games and scored an OT goal in game 7 vs the Capitals. He'd be gone after being part of the Jeff Carter Party Crew when he'd be traded for Pronger after signing an extension. (We're covering the extension later.) Smith would be a good shutdown defenseman, but his age would show and he'd be weakened for the playoffs, as Captain though, he was good. Pitkanen is Pitkanen and Sanderson was sent to the closest NHL team to his home in the Northwest Territories. Overall, this trade gets a B+.

So, looking at the Roster, the Flyers opening night roster looked like this
(Line combos may not be accurate)



Kukkonen-Randy Jones


This lineup, was a bit top heavy (Richards hadn't proven he could be a point per game player yet, 4th line had 2 goons, Kapanen was towards the end, Tolpeko an unknown. The 4th line played a combined 17 minutes, half of which came from Jimmy Dowd. Sad, no?

This team, like the current team, had some really good young forwards with lots of upside, veteran AGING defenseman, (tho the young Carle-Old Coburn-Mesz trio DWARFS the talent of Young Coburn-Kukkonen-Jones)

I give Holmgren's offseason a B: he made some solid depth moves and goaltending moves. a very good trade for a captain. Conversely he overpaid his UFA's (though compared to the market in 07, he didn't really have much choice with Briere)

Now his inseason moves:

We start with trades.

December 10, 2007To Philadelphia Flyers

7th-round pick in 2009
To Dallas Stars

Jussi Timonen
December 18, 2007To Philadelphia Flyers

Jim Vandermeer
To Chicago Blackhawks

Ben Eager
February 19, 2008To Philadelphia Flyers

Jaroslav Modry
To Los Angeles Kings

3rd-round pick in 2008
February 20, 2008To Philadelphia Flyers

3rd-round pick in 2009
To Calgary Flames

Jim Vandermeer
February 25, 2008To Philadelphia Flyers

Vaclav Prospal
To Tampa Bay Lightning

Alexandre Picard
2nd-round pick in 2009

Jussi Timonen for a pick: Grade N/A, late pick for AHL-er. Nothing to grade here.

Eager for Vandermeer: Goon for goon. Eager was traded after getting murdered in a fight by 41 year old Gary Roberts during an 8-2 win vs the Penguins. Vandermeer would be dealt after a gaffe in a game vs the Habs lead to a Habs goal in 5-2 loss (that featured Riley Cote's only NHL career goal). Vandermeer would be dealt later for a third round pick from Calgary. In reality making this trade Eager for Calgary's 3rd. That net gain is pretty good, Final Grade: B+

Pick for Modry: Jaro Modry really anchored the Flyers depth defense when Hatcher got injured, a third round pick was the cost of said trade. Still a decent move FINAL GRADE: B

Picks for Prospal: Remember how I said the opening night team lacked scoring depth? Gagne's concussion (and season ending recovery) as well as Lupul's injury really put a lot of pressure on Richards, Carter and Umberger to deliver big numbers. Richards was a point per game player, Carter missed 30 goals by 6 inches on an empty net on the last game of the season and Umberger had 50 points. That's delivering. Then Prospal game to really bolster the depth along with Lupul's return from injury. All of a sudden an opening night question mark was really set as a good solid playoff team. Final Grade: B+

Holmgren's in-season trades grade: A-, each move by itself was B worthy, the sum of the parts however built a VERY solid team heading to the post season.


One waiver move: Flyers claim Patrick Thoresen from Edmonton. Thoresen would be a depth third line guy who really helped the lower lines before quite literally, giving his balls to the cause in the first round of the 2008 playoffs. Thoresen's emotional heroics, heart and willingness to lay his body on the line and most importantly the fact that he came for free give this, Final Grade: A.

The postseason Flyers roster in 2008 was extremely strong. Biron was a solid goalie. The Flyers had lots of capable scorers. 8 players had 40 points or more (40 points being the baseline for a top 6 player). Also, Scottie Upshall was on pace to come close to 40 before being injured (he missed 21 games) and so was Simon Gagne, giving the Flyers 10 players with top 6 scoring talent. That's a solid offense.

On Defense:

Smith-Hatcher-Modry-Timonen provided excellent top 4 leadership and kept the puck moving forward. Coburn really showed why he was an early first round pick. The 6 spot, Jones-Kukkonen-Parent's been a problem even during the 2010 Cup Run with Parent-Krajicek-Bartulis.

Goalie: Biron: Played dececntly during the playoffs, though not to the tune of his regular season performance. his .904SV% was a bit weak. He was also inconsistent posting a sub-.900 SV% in 8 of 17 games. He was BRILLIANT during his on games, but he did get lit up. (he also gave up 4 goals on 40 shots in a game, that's .900SV% but a lot of goals.

Conclusion: Holmgren get's a B+ for the season.

While I'd have rathered he developed the centers he had and not signed Briere. Briere in Montreal could have swung that round 2 series. Also a GM has no control over injuries, imagine if the Flyers had Gagne healthy for the playoff run. Imagine if Smith didn't have 2 separated shoulders, Coburn wore a visor and Timonen didn't have a broken foot/blood clot. The Flyers top 3 D-men were either out or playing hurt, and a healthy defense MAY have been able to shut down Crosby-Malkin in 2008. Maybe, just maybe, a healthy team extends the series, but again, you can't fault a GM for injuries. Holmgren built the team, he didn't have control over concussions, broken feet or slapshots to the left eye.

What keeps Holmgren from getting an A is the weaknesses of the draft (Marshall over Subban, Goon in round 3, overpayment on Hartnell, Briere and Timonen).

Also, while I get that Holmgren was loyal to Niity as the backup goalie because of his Calder Cup with the Phantoms, I've always wondered if a better backup goalie could have at least given another look in the ECF of 2008 when Biron was getting overmatched. From 2/28/08 to the end of the playoffs, Biron played 34 of 35 games, I know the Flyers were floundering at times during that season, but John Stevens lack of faith in Nitty was a weakness that could have been addressed. The only question, who was available?

Anyway, Paul Holmgren is still a B+ GM at this point. Next time, Draft day 2008 to Draft day 09.

Carry on with your normal life until then.

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