The Philadelphia Flyers ushered in a new era in franchise history on Thursday with a series of moves which sent two key players to the Western Conference, while securing an elite goaltender to a long-term contract. While most Philly fans applaud the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov, who has averaged 33 wins per season in the past four seasons in Phoenix, many others are questioning the decision made by Philly’s GM Paul Holmgren which sent Richards and Carter packing.
We all know that Richards and Carter were fan favorites in Philly, but let’s get one thing straight: Richards and Carter were the most overrated duo since Captain and Tennille.
Yes, that’s right. For six seasons, I’ve cringed as every sportswriter in Philly referred to Richards as “The next Bobby Clarke”, comparing the underperforming centerman to one of Philly’s all-time greatest sports icons. Other than wearing the captain’s C on their sweater, I didn’t see much similarity. Clarke averaged 0.31 goals per game as a Flyer, while averaging 0.74 assists per game and 1.06 points per game throughout his career (along with 1.27 penalty minutes per game). Richards, on the other hand, averaged only 0.77 points per game throughout his career as a Flyer. In other words, in any given season, Bobby Clarke chalked up as many assists as Richards’ total offensive output. Clarke was also a much tougher opponent, as evidenced by the disparity in career penalty minutes-per-game; Clarke averaged 1.27 (mostly in the form of fighting majors), as compared to Richards’ 0.88 penalty minutes-per-game.
The main difference, however, is that Bobby Clarke led the Flyers to two championships. Clarke averaged 0.88 points-per-game in playoff competition, while Richards averaged only 0.79 points-per-game in the playoffs, capped by a dismal 2010-2011 playoff run which included only one goal. Compare the eight-time All Star’s accomplishments to the one-time All Star’s accomplishments, and you can see why Holmgren deemed it necessary to ship Richards off to Lala-Land.
And why did Holmgren decide to issue Jeff Carter a one-way ticket to Cowtown? Despite tallying 46 goals during the 2008-2009 regular season, Carter was also a no-show in playoff competition, averaging a lackluster 0.45 points-per-game throughout his playoff career, along with a career playoff plus-minus of -14 (Richards’ career playoff plus-minus currently stands at -11, by the way).
How do these playoff numbers compare to those posted by former Flyers? There have been dozens of Flyers in the past two decades with career playoff points-per-game averages higher than those posted by Richards and Carter. Unfortunately, the types of players whose playoff points-per-game numbers fall in the Jeff Carter realm (between 0.4 and 0.5 points-per-game) aren’t guys like Eric Lindros, Rod Brind’Amour, or John LeClair. They are guys like Dan Quinn, Daymond Langkow, Anatoli Semenov, Dainius Zubrus, Kevin Haller, Alexandre Daigle, and Brent Fedyk (all over 0.4 ppg in their Philadelphia playoff careers). Only the most diehard of Philly sports fans remember those names, and none of those players ever earned the type of long-term multi-million dollar contracts which were awarded to Jeff Carter or Mike Richards.
What it all boils down to is playoff production, my friends.
How poorly did Jeff Carter perform in the 2010-2011 playoffs? During the Flyers’ most recent playoff run, the much-hyped forward chalked up two points (1G, 1A), ranking him 181st in scoring. By contrast, legendary Philadelphia goaltender Ron Hextall matched Carter’s goal production by racking up a goal in the ’88-’89 playoffs. Hextall also chalked up two assists in the ’87-’88 playoffs, doubling Carter’s assist total from 2010-2011. Another Flyer goalie, Garth Snow, did the same during the ’96-’97 playoffs. When goaltenders pose a more potent scoring threat than your superstar forward, it’s definitely time to make some changes.