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Philadelphia Flyers

The End of a Drought

Attention Philadelphia:
Your title crave is about to be soothed.  The championship drought is about to be ended.  The 23-year losing streak is about to be ended by one team.  Could it be the Phillies who last won the World Series in 1980 (the only one in their 122 year history)?  Or could it be the Eagles who’s last championship came in 1960, before there was a Super bowl?  Or could it be the 76ers, the last team to win a championship?  Or maybe even the Flyers who have not won a Stanley Cup in 30 years?  The team that will end the Philadelphia championship drought is a team that has had a long time to think about their last loss.  The team that will finally bring us home a title is a team that is led by one of the games top coaches.  Well, that rules out the Phillies leaving us with the 76ers, the Eagles, and the Flyers.  This is a team with great depth, which is clearly not the Eagles seeing as how poorly their backups played in the final pre-season game of the 2005 pre-season, so now we’re down to just the Flyers and the 76ers and anyone who thinks that the Sixers will win the NBA title this year must be out of their minds so of course it is the Philadelphia Flyers.

The last time the Flyers were on the ice was during the 2003-04 Eastern Conference Finals.  After locking up the #3 seed in the playoffs the Flyers set out on their quest for the cup, and that quest started off with a round 1 showdown with the hated New Jersey Devils.  The Flyers won the series 4-1 and went on to round 2 to face the Toronto Maple Leafs who always prove to be stiff competition for the Flyers.  The two teams played with heart and intensity that we have all come to expect from these teams whenever they square off.  The Flyers won the series 4-2, the final win in overtime with the goal coming off the stick of Jeremy Roenick.  The Flyers went on to face the top seeded Tampa Bay Lightning who were coming off of a sweep of the Montreal Canadiens.  The Flyers who were on the brink of elimination in game 6 managed to tie the game with under 2 minutes left in the 3rd period thanks to captain Keith Primeau.  They proceeded to win the game by way of a Simon Gagne overtime goal.  The Flyers who were hoping to ride the emotional wave from the game 6 win down to Tampa for game 7 came just short losing 2-1.  Tampa went on to win the Stanley Cup while the Flyers went on to the golf courses.  

During the 2003-04 regular season and playoffs many wondered what the fait of the NHL was with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire at the end of the year.  Unfortunately the worst-case scenario played out and the entire 2004-05 season became a casualty of the war between NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and the head of the players union Bob Goodenow.  Experts feared the worst for the NHL, many wondering if there would ever be an NHL again.  With both sides seeing how much damage was done to the game, serious negotiations began in the late spring and early summer.  Every week there were reports of both sides meeting, and every weekend there were reports that no progress was made until finally on July 13th after a night of non-stop meetings both sides reached a tentative agreement.  On July 22nd the NHL board of governors ratified deal making it official, hockey was back.  The new CBA included a $39 million dollar salary cap, revenue sharing, salary rollbacks, and a new set of rules.  

The Flyers who before the new CBA had one of the highest 5 salaries in the game, and they knew they needed to get under the cap.  So naturally Flyers management met with the Philadelphia Eagles management who are masters at dealing with the salary cap.  The following frenzy of roster moves revived hockey nationwide sparking new interest in the big names that were being thrown around.  The Flyers were the first team to make a roster move cutting 2 veterans, RW Tony Amonte, and longtime Flyer LW John Leclair.  The Flyers then proceeded to either cut, decline to resign, or trade away players like fan favorite LW Todd “Fridge” Fedoruk, C Alexei Zhamnov, D Marcus Ragnarson, and D Danny Markov just to name a few.  Then the Flyers went on to begin rebuilding the team that was just 1 goal away from the Stanley Cup Finals.  They went into the free agent signing period with defense set as their #1 priority, and they needed big defensemen to play with the small, less physical defensive core of Eric Desjardin (6-1 200 LBS), Kim Johnsson (6-1 205 LBS), Joni Pitkanen (6-3 200 LBS), and Dennis Seidenberg (6-1 190 LBS).  In 1 swing on day 2 of the free agent signing period GM Bob Clarke made a huge splash by signing 3 big defensemen.  He signed former Flyer Chris Therien (6-5 234 LBS), former San Jose Shark Mike Rathje (6-5 230 LBS), and former Detroit Red Wing Derian Hatcher (6-5 225 LBS).  Hatcher was also a member of the 1999 Dallas Stars team that won the Stanley Cup with Ken Hitchcock.  With the Flyers top need filled the ex-Flyer star turned GM Bob Clarke said and thought that the Flyers were done making big acquisitions, but boy was he wrong.

While there were many great players out on the market, 1 name stood out more than all the others.  Peter Forsberg who is regarded as one of the best if not the best player in the NHL was unable to work out a deal with the Colorado Avalanche making him fair game for any team to add.  Many teams expressed interest early on, and the Flyers were not one of them. “I was talking to a few teams when Philly came in,” said Forsberg. “They came in pretty late, but when they came in I was really excited and very interested and it went really fast from there.”  During the NHL draft Clarke talked to Forsberg’s agent Don Baizley asking him if he thought Peter would be out on the market.  Baizley responded by saying he did not know but if Peter did become available the Flyers would be a team he would be interested in playing for.  Then on August 3rd Clarke contacted Baizley wondering if Peter was still available or if the Flyers still had time to make a run at him.  Baizley responded by saying that they had from noon until 4 PM, which led to Clarke moving faster than he ever did on the ice to try to clear up cap room for Forsberg.  

Naturally to clear up cap room you go straight to the highest paid player that was C Jeremy Roenick.  Clarke told Roenick that he was trying to sign Forsberg and that he might have to trade him.  Roenick replied by telling Clarke that if the Flyers could land Peter Forsberg than he’d understand if he had to be traded away.  Clarke then called Flyers Chairman Ed Snider and informed him of the entire situation.  He told Snider that the Flyers could sign Forsberg and temporarily go over the cap by 10% but that the team would not be over the cap for long.  Snider gave Clarke the thumbs up and the Flyers signed Peter Forsberg later that day.

 Unfortunately every cap leads to cap casualties and the Flyers did have to trade fan favorite C Jeremy Roenick to the LA Kings for future considerations.  The top player in the game was finally going to play with the team that drafted him 14 years ago.  He was traded to Quebec before he ever played a game for the team along with Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, a first round pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, and $15,000,000 for Eric Lindros in what is now regarded as one of the most infamous trades in Philadelphia history, but all can be forgotten if Forsberg can help lead the Flyers to their first Stanley Cup title since 1975 and bring home the first pro championship since the Philadelphia 76ers won in 1983.

The face of the team has changed, but only for the better.  With the additions of Forsberg, Hatcher, Therien, and Rathje, the veteran leadership of captain Keith Primeau, the net play of the ever growing Robert Esche, and the arrival of the two prized prospects Jeff Carter and Mike Richards who both played a huge part in the Flyers AHL affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms Calder Cup championship run and in Team Canada’s World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal winning team that Richards was the captain of, Ken Hitchcock’s Flyers have made it clear that they are here to win.  They are favored to win the Stanley Cup by many, and Bob Clarke has made it perfectly clear that the Flyers are not here to compete but rather to win the whole damn thing.  It’s time Lord Stanley pays another visit to Philadelphia and all I can say is GAME ON!

6 replies on “The End of a Drought”

very well written I love the topic, I love the recap of the Flyers end to their last season and offseason.  Great facts, lots of backup to statements.  I liked this article a lot and I hope it gets posted

i have attempted to space it out i keep trying to space it out but it keeps on reseting back to this.  I can email you a copy of it spaced out

i spaced it out my HTML coding was off, I was using a differant codec set that simply dissparead on this forum, but its all straightened out

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