- Associated Press - Monday, September 26, 2011

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Only 16 months ago, Mike Richards hoisted the Eastern Conference championship trophy to a roaring Flyers crowd.

His chance at winning a Stanley Cup in Philadelphia is over.

Same with Jeff Carter. And Brian Boucher. Throw in Ville Leino and Dan Carcillo. All of them gone.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren stripped the roster of so many key cogs in that unforgettable run to the finals in 2010. When they grossly underachieved and failed to match that feat a year later, Holmgren decided it was time to start over.

He shocked the NHL with a stunning summer that saw Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Max Talbot, and Jakub Voracek all wearing the orange-and-black when training camp opened.

It’s a whole new look _ and outlook _ in Philadelphia.

Winning the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1976 always remains the goal for one of the signature franchises of the NHL. But even the most optimistic members of the organization are curious about how all this new talent will mesh with returning future stars like Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk. One immediate plus is a lighter locker room. Richards and Carter had a strong distaste for the media, but Bryzgalov is as much a class clown as he is one of the top goalies in the league.

Can the locker room that laughs together dominate together?

“I think the guys are enjoying themselves and you can kind of see the pieces coming together,” new captain Chris Pronger said. “I think guys are enjoying themselves and having some fun.”

There was no fun at the end of last season when the Flyers fell into a miserable stretch after the All-Star break. A year after losing to Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals, the Flyers positioned themselves as early contenders to play in June. Philadelphia spent a portion of the season atop the Eastern Conference standings, were 40-15-6 in late February.

The season unraveled down the stretch and imploded in the postseason. They were swept in the second round by the Boston Bruins _ just the sixth time in franchise history they were swept in a seven-game series and the first time since the 1997 Stanley Cup finals vs. Detroit.

Holmgren had seen enough. It was time for a change.

There was no bigger move than the one in net. The Flyers were openly mocked for using a trio of goaltenders in the playoffs, none any better than the last. The Flyers did not have a shutout all season.

The carousel stopped when Holmgren acquired the rights for Bryzgalov and signed him to fat contract.

The departure of Richards and Carter may have weakened the offense, but there’s no doubt they went from suspect to stout in the net.

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