VOORHEES, NJ – Another NHL season in the books and nothing to look forward to but potential free agent signings across the league. Each NHL team’s prospect camps have either started or will start in the upcoming weeks.
The Philadelphia Flyers ended theirs on Sunday, but the lack of top prospects in this year’s camp gave it a ho-hum feeling. Now that camps are exciting to begin, especially in the Flyers’ case since the NHL Entry Draft means very little to them.
As I have said many times in these pages, the Flyers feel it more important to go out and spend money on other people’s players than to show patience and actually build a team through the draft. As more than one member of the organization has said to me, that the Flyers would rather spend money on a player that can play right now than wait 3-four years on someone who may or not play for them in the future.
Well, back in the days where no salary cap existed, that might have flown, and did for many years. One would have thought that since the lockout and the implementation of the salary cap that teams like the Flyers who spend money like a drunken sailor would have learned their lesson. It hasn’t.
Before the cap ever went into place, the Flyers were spending almost $60 million dollars in salaries. When the cap became a reality in 2005-06 it was set at $39. Today the cap is set at $59.4. As you can see the cap has now gone up to levels that rivaled what the team use to spend in salaries before the lockout.
Instead of teaching teams to spend money wisely and utilizing the draft, teams like the Flyers are back to the status quo. The funny thing is that teams that are building through the draft such as Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Anaheim, Detroit, and Chicago are the ones that have won the Stanley Cup since the lockout. If you don’t believe me, go look at each teams’ rosters and you will find out that at least one third of each teams’ rosters were drafted by that team.
One look at the Flyers roster and how many home grown players do they have on their roster? Simon Gagne, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, and James Van Riemsdyk. Brian Boucher and Oskars Bartulis are also drafted by the team but none are regular starters and published reports recently suggest that Gagne might be traded by the end of the week due to, you guessed it, the salary cap.
Oh, and don’t forget that Carter and Van Riemsdyk has also been named in trade rumors as well. With Gagne all but out the door, that means starting next season that only five starters on the roster will have been drafted by the Flyers; only one fourth of the team’s roster will be home grown talent.
To put things into greater perspective, so far only Van Riemsdyk has made the Flyers roster since 2007 and since the 2004 draft only Van Riemsdyk and Giroux have made the roster. That’s two draft picks out of 51 since 2004. Since 2000, only Bartulis, Richards, Carter, and Giroux has player in over a full regular seasons worth of games (82) played in a Flyers jersey. Gagne was drafted in 1998 and Boucher was drafted in 1995.
Oh, there have been few players here or there that have also played in over a full seasons worth of games for the Flyers. How about Joni Pitkanen, Patrick Sharp, Justin Williams, Dainius Zubrus, Roman Cechmanek, Antero Niittymaki, and Todd Fedoruk.
If you go back to 1998 there have been five drafts where the Flyers did not have a single prospect make the roster (2010, 2009, 2008, 2004, 1999) and only two drafts where more than one prospect made the team and played in over 82 games (2003 and 2000).
And they wonder why they haven’t won the Cup since 1975? Think about it for a second. Pittsburgh had 10 players who were drafted by the Pens, while Detroit had a whopping 15 prospects the year before. This year’s Chicago squad had 14.
Are you feeling a draft yet? In these dog days of summer, I hope you are feeling some kind of draft. The point that I am trying to make here of course is that the Flyers need to start taking the draft more seriously; It is time to stop treating the draft like it is the trading deadline and start treating it like a reason to build a championship.