The Philadelphia Flyers' depth at center was rivaled only by the depth of their mandate to win the Stanley Cup. Now their failure has led to a rapid dissolution down the middle.
After Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, arguably the second greatest strength at any position in NHL was Philadelphia's Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. And within hours on Thursday, Paul Holmgren traded away both captain Richards and leading goal scorer Carter for picks, NHL-ready prospects and cap relief that enabled them to also ink what they believe is the top-level goalie the franchise has needed for almost 25 seasons.
Ilya Bryzgalov has been given nine seasons to close the Flyers' five hole, a lot longer than Holmgren has to fill the hole he boldly punched Thursday. It is almost inconceivable that the Flyers, two wins from the Cup in 2010, spending $51 million on a final piece in the puzzle, were on the same day going into rebuilding mode. So another shoe, besides the one Holmgren shockingly put in the backside of a team swept in the second round by champion Boston, is going to drop. And it starts in the center of the ice.