Friday, July 12, 2019

Paul Holmgren Three Autographed Cards

Paul Holmgren has had prominent roles with the Philadelphia Flyers for over 40 years at this point, so many always assume he's one of the all-time greats alongside Bobby Clarke, Bernard Parent, Ron Hextall and Eric Lindros.

That is absolutely not the case.

In 500 games with the Flyers, Holmgren's 309 points don't stand out as much as his 1600 penalty minutes, and he wasn't part of one of the two championship teams, having come in to play a single game in 1975-76, a full year after Philly's last Stanley Cup.

He only surpassed the 20-goal mark twice, scoring 22 in 1980-81 and 30 in 1979-80, and even that was only good for fith on the team, behind Reggie Leach (50), Bill Barber (40), Brian Propp (34) and Rick MacLeish (31). That was a weird season in Philadelphia, as captain Clarke not only posted 69 points (good for fifth on the team behind Ken Linseman, Leach, Propp and Barber) but was also in his first of three seasons as assistant-coach on the team. He played two years past his three-year stint as assistant-coach... not that's a legend.

In case you were wondering where I was going with this, Holmgren resigned as the team's President earlier today and joined the ranks of "advisor" alongside Clarke, his predecessor both as GM and President.

Unlike Clarke, however, "Homer" made a lot of questionable moves that greatly backfired, such as trading young (and heavy-partying) core players Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to make room under the salary cap to sign the second-best available free agent goalie on the market, Ilya Bryzgalov, to a nine-year, $51M contract, a deal that was bought out in the summer of 2013 after two seasons and that will be on the Flyers' cap until 2027. (For the record, I don't think Richards and Carter get the wake-up call that turns them into two-time Cup champions if they don't get traded, so at least there's that).

Oh, and to make room for him on the roster, he traded Sergei Bobrovsky to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a second-round pick and two fourth-rounders; Bob, of course, would go on to win two Vezina trophies as the league's best goalie in Columbus and is the only active goalie who can make such a claim. (And yes, Henrik Lundqvist is till playing and just has one to his name).

By the way, the best free agent goalie on the market the year Bryz was signed? That was perennial All-Star Tomas Vokoun, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.5M.

Holmgren is also the one who traded playoff best and projected 30-goal forward James van Riemsdyk (he would hit the mark twice and come close another two in the following six seasons) to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defensive defenseman on a down slide Luke Schenn.

Was he also able to trade away valuable draft picks, you ask? How about the first-rounder who became John Carlson for defenseman Steve Eminger (man, does he ever love those stay-at-home defensemen!), who played a total of 12 games in Philadelphia (0 goals, 2 assists, 8 penalty minutes) before being shipped out?

Then there was the free agent signings of Nikolay Zherdev and the trade for Andrej Meszaros which put the team over the cap, forcing them to trade away a contract - namely that of fan-favourite and playoff hero Simon Gagné, a two-time 40-*goal scorer and one opf the most prolific scorers of the Dead Puck Era - for (you guessed it!) defensive defenseman Matt Walker, who played the final 8 games of his 314-game career with the Flyers. Gagné reached the Cup Final the following season with the Tampa Bay Lightning and won the Cup with Richards and Carter on a mighty Flyer-heavy 2012 Los Angeles Kings squad.

A trade of pests? Sure! Effective checking winger and semi-power forward Scottie Upshall for dirtbag and suspension magnet Dan "Carbomb" Carcillo comes to mind...

And yet he kept failing upwards. Until as team Preseident, he hired Hextall as GM, who did an admirable job stocking up the cupboards with blue chip prospects and getting rid of Holmgren's terrible contracts. Hextall was assitant-HGM on the Cup-winning Kings of 2012 and 2014, so he was more than familiar with the Flyers' roster; it was a marriage that lasted for four seasons, until last Christmas, when Holgmren decided Hextall wasn't bold enough and took his place to finish up the season, until he found his replacement in the form of Chuck Fletcher, the man who saddled the Minnesota Wild with so many bad contracts that they were never good enough to make a dent in the post-season despite carrying not one but two (Ryan Suter and Zach Parise) players on identical 13-year, $98M contracts.

Of course, the first few things Fletcher did was get rid of a third of the defense and, most importantly, sign Kevin Hayes - a middle-six center who had only reached the 50-point plateau once, and that was last year - to an albatross seven-year, $50M contract that includes a no-movement clause that guarantees he will have to take up a protection spot for next season's expansion draft.

Bold. Extremely stupid and ill-advised, but bold.

So, yeah. Holmgren.

This is what he looked like when patrolling the ice in a Flyers uniform, collecting penalty minutes the way some folks do frequent flyer miles:
The card on the left is #105 in Topps' 1981-82 Topps set, while the one on the right is #434 from In The Game's 2004-05 Franchises: U.S. East collection. Both feature him in the classic 1970s orange (away) uniform.

A Minnesota native, Holmgren started out his professional career playing for the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints for most of the 1975-76 season, and he returned to his home state at the tail end of his career, suiting up with the Minnesota North Stars for 27 games spread over two seasons, as seen on card #100 from O-Pee-Chee's 1984-85 O-Pee-Chee set:
He's wearing the team's amazing 1980s green (away) uniform. I miss those so much.

All three were signed in black sharpie in February 2018 when the Flyers were in Montréal.

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