A history of the last 5 seasons of the Philadelphia Flyers and Why Jeff Carter is the perfect fit for the LA Kings
by: Trevor Rocco
The L.A. Kings are looking for scoring, that is a given. The Kings have been consistently in the bottom of NHL team scoring for quite a few seasons now. To their defense, they have one of the best defense (no pun intended) core and goaltending core in the league which have kept them in the playoff hunt for the last two or three seasons.
A lot has been said about Jeff Carter and the Columbus Blue Jackets recently. As the worst team in the league, the Blue Jackets are struggling in every department and are a team far off from the playoff potential of 2009.
The Kings are looking for scoring, Carter can score. Those are the givens, but a lot is being said about Carter’s attitude, locker room presence and consistent play. Kings fans, and a lot people around the league are skeptics, but I, however, am not. For me to explain why Carter’s supposedly cancerous locker room attitude and other potential problems are overly media hyped, were going to need to backtrack a little bit.
In 2005, after his team (The OHL’s Greyhounds) were eliminated from playoff contention, Carter joined the Philadelphia Phantoms for 21 playoff games, where he recorded 23 points and helped the team to a Calder Cup (Mike Richards was also on this team, recording 15 points in his 14 games). The following season both Carter and Richards made the Flyers out of training camp. At the same time, John Stevens, the model of consistency for the phantoms coaching staff (4 playoff appearances and 1 calder cup in his 5 years) was promoted to head coach of the team. The two players were a bright spot on an otherwise horrendous season for the Flyers. However, the following season the Flyers would be a huge surprise in reaching the conference finals under John Stevens coaching styles, as Richards and Carter became a model of consistency. With this came contract extensions and a captaincy for Richards as it looked like the future of the Flyers had arrived. For a while, things were great. Although they were eliminated from the playoffs early, the next season, Carter recorded 84 points including a whopping 46 goals. Carter and Richards were 1 and 2 in team scoring and Stevens was thought to be in contention for coach of the year after an amazing bounce back from 2006.
Enter Chris Pronger. In an attempt to add defensive depth, Chris Pronger was brought in the next season in a blockbuster trade that sent young forward Joffrey Lupul back to Anaheim in return. The team looked as if it was the heavy favorite for a cup winning season.
However, any time a team with a very young captain adds someone with the experience and leadership that Chris Pronger brings to a locker room there is a setup for trouble. At this point the media had begun to spin stories of Richards, Carter, Lupul and Umberger (the flyers youth core) in a negative way, saying that they had too much of a party life style. Richards went on record to say that the media had spun these stories negatively and were reading into things that weren’t there (This isn’t a Dennis Rodman/Kobe Bryant/Tiger Woods sized problem, obviously whatever lifestyle they were living did not interfere with career years and a captaincy for Richards, as well as the coaching staff having no complains). Up until this point the entirety of both Richards and Carter’s careers were coached by John Stevens. They knew his system and were obviously succeeding in it, however, Mike Richards lead-by-example leadership and his young age were not going to mesh well with noted outspoken media dynamo and born leader in Chris Pronger.
When the 2009-2010 season started off slow for the flyers (13-11-1) it was obvious that a problem of leadership was the reasoning. The media pounced and once again tried to attribute blame to Carter and Richards lifestyle outside of the rink. It seemed however, that their were two different styles meshing here. That is the wanted direction of the ownership to win now through veteran leadership (ie Chris Pronger) and the player favorite, quiet winning style of John Steven and Mike Richards. Unfortunately, the GM’s hold all the power in a situation where changes may be in need for a struggling team, and after a hard fought but troublesome 5 game loosing streak, the past successes of John Stevens were no longer impressive to the big guys upstairs as he was let go for the likes of Peter Laviolette. The team struggled mightily under Laviolette at first both as a result of learning a new system and the devastation of the teammates in the loss of the leader who helped them go from the bottom of the league to top contenders. Richards and Carter were among those most heavily affected due to their long history with Stevens. However, things picked up under Laviolette as Carter and Richards helped to turn the season around as the Flyers ended up on the doorstep of a championship, showing the coaches, management and organization that they cared and would do whatever they could to help the team and organization succeed.
However the management would prove that they didn’t feel the same way about them. The 2010-2011 season would see the flyers miss best-in-the-east by just 1 point. An injury saw Carter miss the majority of the playoffs and with Richards not matching the point per game pace of Briere and Giroux, the Flyers took an early exit. After all the effort and success from the young core of the Flyers over the past 5 years, by the summer of 2011, everyone was gone. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were the last dominoes to drop from a youthful roster that was the talk of the NHL just a few years before (ie Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger, Joffrey Lupul, Scottie Upshall, Joni Pitkanen, Dennis Seidenberg, Patrick Sharp, Antero Niittymaki and of course John Stevens [most of which were members of the 04-05 calder champs]). A combined 23-year $117 million contract extension in their early careers were traded away within hours of each other when Carter went to Columbus and Richards to LA.
Within a MATTER OF HOURS two consistently amazing players who believed that their next TEN YEARS would be spent with the Flyers organization a team that is known consistently as winners (partially because of their factors in the organization), and where they had spent their first six successful years together, would be shipped out.
No surprise, at least from my point of view, that Jeff Carter would refuse to speak to the media for the following weeks.
Jeff Carter saw his contract transferred to the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team whose future was in question and were attempting to make a big splash before next season. It was a failure. With the additions of Carter and Wisneiwski the question around the league was, would it be enough? And with major injuries and underperformance the Blue Jackets would find themselves at the bottom of the league, by a lot, just before the trade deadline. Unfortunately, things couldn’t or can’t be much worse for Jeff Carter.
On the flip side Richards was sent to the LA Kings who, with off season moves and signings, were looking for a last bump to put them into the pacific division and western conference elite. His season too, has been plagued by injury and lack of consistency with the new club. His season however is still salvageable on a team that could use a change or some help up front.
And thus we have a perfect storm. The LA Kings are scrambling to plug the holes in the sinking ship that can be helped. The Blue Jackets are swimming in the ocean looking for a new boat. The storm is coming on the open seas and in a perfect world, the LA Kings would see Jeff Carter swimming alone in the ocean and send out a life preserver. With successful moves the LA Kings can have their positives from the last few seasons success and add to it the success and potential that the Flyers once had. The Kings have the opportunity right now, to reunite what was once successful in Philly: Carter, Richards and John Steven (currently assistant coach).
Carter and Richards have played successfully together (692 points in 914 games played for the Flyers alone), and their most successful under John Stevens. I argue that their is no reason to attribute any validity to locker room issues, attitudes and inconsistencies for Carter as management issues were the real problem. Some say his cap hit is too large and its length, until 2022, is too long, but for LA, even the potential of having a 60+ point/30+ goal scorer is well worth the 5.27 million they take on with his contract. Heres what happens with Jeff Carter for the rest of this season if he signs with LA: he can have the ability to move from the worst team in the league to a playoff contender, to reunite with his team mate and coach with whom he was most comfortable and successful, and to prove to the team that abandoned him that they made the wrong choice. In this perfect scenario, the former 40 goal scorer will be more motivated and excited to play than he ever has in his career.
LA Kings organization, it’s your move.