PHILADELPHIA (AP) - In 30 whirlwind minutes, the Philadelphia Flyers changed the face of the franchise _ just not the course of it.
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards ran out of time to bring the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia for the first time since 1975. Linked in the orange and black from 2003 when they were drafted together, Richards and Carter were shown the door together in a pair of franchise-shifting trades that were as stunning in their swiftness as they were in execution.
Here comes the hard part.
For all the questions and concerns about how they handled themselves in the locker room, with the media, and on the streets of Philadelphia, Carter and Richards did do a few things well _ namely score and win. Carter had 115 goals the last three years, Richards, the team captain, had 84 and the Flyers fell only two wins shy in 2010 of winning it all.
Younger, cheaper, and maybe more talented, van Riemsdyk and Giroux gave a tantalizing taste this season of how they can anchor a franchise. Giroux led the Flyers with 76 points and was named an All-Star. Van Riemsdyk scored four goals in a sizzling, albeit abbreviated, postseason run. Oh, and van Riemsdyk did so in the playoffs while Carter was out with an injury.
Van Riemsdyk knows it’s his time to fill the void left by the departed stars.
“I’m embracing this challenge,” he told The Associated Press. “This is the kind of stuff you live for as a player. You kind of live to be put in that role. You want to take it and run with it.”
That’s the kind of attitude that makes 20,000 fans want to roar and pound the boards at every home game.
Van Riemsdyk was no different from any other Flyer on Thursday when he got the news that general manager Paul Holmgren tossed a thermal detonator into the core of the roster. Van Riemsdyk was napping when he was flooded with texts looking for the scoop. Defenseman Chris Pronger was fishing with his kids when he heard about the trades.
But moving forward, Pronger, a respected leader in the locker room, is a prime candidate to assume the captaincy. Richards never felt comfortable in the role, leaving Holmgren to scold the team, or Danny Briere to rally them like he did in the playoffs. Richards‘ frosty relationship with the media never helped alter the perception that he was prematurely awarded the “C,” either.
“I think we just needed more life in the locker room,” Pronger said. “It all has to do with your play on the ice. If you’re playing well on the ice, there’s never any questions as to who’s doing what, or is there a rift, does this guy like that guy, and all of the rest of the stuff that gets thrown out.”