During the 2009-10 season, the Flyers started off in a funk, turned it around, scrambled their way into the playoffs and clawed their way to the Finals. It coulda been a movie. Despite injuries, despite not having The League’s best goalies, despite all the reasons they started out slow, they made a heroic push and almost won it all.
It’s a great story for fans. Hey, it sold me lock stock and gear I couldn’t afford. But for an owner or a GM it might very well have been a dilemma, maybe even a trip through the looking glass.
Fall, Winter 2009
You watch your team underperform their way through the first half of the season. Seems like no one is up to snuff. You consider moving some pricey pieces just because they’re pricey. It’s still just a possibility, not a decision. This season isn’t going anywhere, there’s time. Good thing you avoid NMCs and NTCs.
You try the old fire the coach trick, because hey, this is an immensely talented team, players are peaking, others are on their way up, you have the best veterans money can buy. So what if your goalies aren’t all that? You have that guy just back from Russia. He was doing pretty well, he should be back any time…
Oh, okay, you don’t have him anymore.
The team rallies. You’re thinking “lots of teams rally, and this new coach clearly has their attention. Sure, the team is playing better now, but… we can’t have another start like that.” The ending doesn’t change the start, you can’t let this last minute effort distract you. Even if they win a couple rounds in the playoffs.
They almost win it all? What now? Have you been wrong all season about these guys? All those changes you had planned, do you need to reconsider? These guys look like they are made for each other, like some happy accident threw them together in perfect synchronicity. Look at that new guy, the Finn you picked up on waivers. It’s like he’s reading his linemate’s mind or something. It’s freaky.
What about the new coach? He doesn’t come across as the soft touch. There had to be some reason you found him hiding out on an island after being unemployed for so long. (Note to self: try to make your changes in the offseason next time.) He seems like he might step on some toes, piss some of these guys off.
But look what they did together.
Now what? Dump the goalie? There’s another reason to make your moves in the offseason. Haste is bad. It makes something bad.
What’s up with this goalie? He played pretty well for a guy living on the waiver wire. Maybe he just needs a little security? Move the veteran backup? But people love him, and what could you get in return? Nah.
Who else is available? There’s that Russian. He wants a contract to carry him until his kids graduate college, and wants more money than you want to pay. And why didn’t his team re-sign him? What’s up with that?
What about that Finnish goalie? The one who beat you? Could go after him, but… he really doesn’t seem much better than what you have. Besides, why won’t his team sign him again?
So, back to the plan before this crazy trip to the Finals. Should find a better replacement for the goalie who won’t be back. Should find someone younger for the blue line. Your vets are great but they’re getting long in the tooth.
The team is top heavy. Something has to give there. The team has a couple of young guys coming up fast, you don’t need so many overpaid forwards tying up your cap space. Move one. Should move two. Isn’t that too much? If you move two top forwards and a goalie, doesn’t that disrupt team chemistry? Is it safe to mess with the team chemistry after they did so well?
Wow. The team seems unstoppable. Even with the best defenseman out, they’re still doing pretty well. Better than pretty well. Maybe you did do good. You even found a new goalie on the cheap. That was a nice find. You bet all the other teams are jealous. Everyone’s picking your team for the Stanley Cup already.
Maybe you were wrong last Winter. Maybe they just needed a little tweaking. Maybe you did it by accident, found the right pieces. Maybe the team is great as is.
Oh. Okay, where is that to do list from December 2009?
Hey look, there’s another top-end Russian goalie available. What is up with Russian goalies out West? He wants too much, for too long… Right, look what happened last time you said no.
This is gonna hurt.