In a long interview after the season, Flyers chairman Ed Snider rated the team a lot higher than their first-round defeat by the Rangers would seem to justify
Q: Where do you think the team needs to be improved next season?
Snider: “It’s really too early to make an observation like that. I’ll wait to talk to Paul and his staff before even venturing into that. You always want to improve, but I kind of look at what we’ve done in the past and how I think our team shapes up.”
Q: What were your observations from the Flyers’ first-round playoff loss to the Rangers?
Snider: “Well, they outplayed us. They won, it was very, very close, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the teams. Home ice advantage turned out to be home ice advantage because we took it away in the first two games and then gave it back. Basically they had Game 7 and I think the one-goal difference is the difference that you have when you have home-ice advantage in Game 7. I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between the quality of the teams. There’s a lot of difference in the style of play, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything in the end result. We won three games, and they won four.”
Q: What do the Flyers need personnel wise?
Snider: “I think that we need certain things, obviously, and the hockey department will analyze it and tell me what they think our needs are, and we’ll try to then go out and get them. By the same token, I think when you have and you’ve found an outstanding goaltender, [and] when you have one of the top three guys for the Hart Trophy in the league, it’s a good place to start . We’ve got a lot of other good assets, a lot of good young talent, but you never can be satisfied being knocked out in the first round.”
Q: Would you agree the Flyers need more speed in the back end?
Snider: “I can’t agree to anything. We’ll see.”
Q: If you had to give the whole season a grade, what would you give it?
Snider: “B, probably. Because we started out so poorly and our record after the (1-7) poor start was excellent. I’m anxious to see what Craig Berube can do with a full training camp and a fresh start. If we play like we did after the horrible start, we’ll be a very, very good team but not necessarily one that can win the Cup, and that’s our goal. We want to win the Cup and we want to do everything possible to fix whatever we have to fix in order to win it.”
Q: What did you think of the job Paul Holmgren did, and will he be back?
Snider: “Of course Paul will be back. Basically he’s the head of our hockey operations. But the job that he did, I think was excellent. Not too many guys would have guts enough to fire the coach after three games.”
Q: So you expect Paul to be in his current post when next season begins?
Snider: “Yeah. I expect our operation to be solid, good hockey men. We have a lot of people that are analyzing this entire situation.”
Q: What did you think of Vincent Lecavalier’s season?
Snider: “I think Lecavalier will have a great year next year. He got off to a bad start with injuries, never found his groove. That’s something the hockey guys are going to have to figure out. He’s a good, good hockey player. He got 20 goals with all the problems.”
Q: Did you think head coach Craig Berube had trouble finding a spot for Lecavalier, who went from center to left wing to center.
Snider: “Basically he did have a problem this year, but it’s got to be solved before next year. There’s all kinds of things that can happen. It’s ridiculous to speculate, but Lecavalier is not a fourth-line center and we don’t want him to be. But that’s going to be up to the coach and the hockey department to figure out how to work that out.”
Q: Was Lecavalier injured?
Snider: “He was injured, yeah … early in the year. As far as lately … obviously it affected him, let’s put it that way. He wasn’t injured when he was playing. We wouldn’t have allowed him to play.”
Q: Why didn’t the team meet expectations this season?
Snider: “We got off to a terrible start. We had a horrible training camp. The head coach was fired after three games. Once the change was made, we started to make progress. And we had a very good record after that. Good enough to win the Cup? No, because we got knocked out in the first round.”
Q: How happy are you that for the first time in a while that we’re not talking about goaltending as being an issue with this team?
Snider: “That’s what I’m saying. We’re excited about the fact that we have a very young, outstanding goaltender with his future ahead of him. Goaltenders today, they mature later, usually. Steve (Mason) has done a great job. We’ve got one of the best players in the league in Claude Giroux. We have a lot to build around. We have a lot of good, young players. I’m happy with the core, but I know that we need more.”
Q: Paul Holmgren is the leader of your hockey club. Will he have a different title next year?
Snider: “We’re going to all sit down and it’s going to be up to Paul.”
Q: So in your mind if your team needs a team president, he’s the guy who signs off on that?
Snider: “We’re in the process of analyzing everybody’s title.”
Q: Will Paul still be making the decisions regardless of what his title is?
Snider: “He’ll be the head of hockey operations.”
Q: Is assistant GM Ron Hextall the Flyers’ GM of the future?
Snider: “That’s why he was brought in. He didn’t come in to stay assistant GM forever, but that doesn’t mean tomorrow. But I’ve got to sit down with Paul.”
Q: What would you prefer?
Snider: “It’s really Paul’s call. All I have to do is endorse it. If I don’t agree with it, then we have a behind-closed-door discussion.”
Q: What’s more valuable about Hextall in your mind? The experience he’s had in the organization as a player and off the ice, or the experience he’s had in LA that might diversify him a bit?”
Snider: “I think it’s a great thing to ask Ron that because he’s the guy, but obviously the experience in LA helps to see how another organization does things. The more experience you have, the better off you are.”
Q: Do you think you need more of that?
Q: Did you feel as we did that for six of those seven games your team didn’t play the kind of hockey that it did in Game 6?
Snider: “I don’t have answers for things like that. It’s a team game, we were playing another team – a very good team – and they beat us. Maybe they kept us from having the kind of results we’d like to have.”
Q: Do you think the Rangers played well?
Snider: “Yes, I think they played well. I think we played well too. We didn’t [allow] them [success] on the power plays. We were in the top 10 in the league during the season in penalty killing and power play… these are all good things. But obviously it’s not enough. I’m not sitting here saying I’m satisfied. I’m not satisfied. We’ve been focusing in the last two years on drafting young defensemen. We’ve got some in the hopper; when they’re going to be ready, I don’t know. I like to call (21-year-old defenseman prospect Shayne Gostisbehere) ‘Got-to-be-here,’ however you pronounce it … but he’s got to be here. I think this kid has tremendous potential. Who knows. Young defensemen are doing wonderful things all over the league. You saw what happened in Montreal last night with P.K. Subban (scoring a game-winning goal in double overtime for the Canadiens.) There’s a lot of young defensemen doing wonderful things in this league. There’s no reason for us to think that this kid can’t come in and help us. To be a plus-7 in an (NCAA) championship game (last month) when there’s seven goals scored and four against is pretty amazing.”
Q: When you say that you like the core but you need more, is this the area we’re talking about?
Snider: “You always want more. I think we have to see what happens. We have to replace maybe several defensemen. Maybe Kimmo wants to retire, I don’t really know. Maybe he doesn’t. These are all things that we don’t know yet.”
Q: In the past, you guys have been willing to trade away a younger player for something that would be immediate help in that pursuit of the Stanley Cup. Are you suggesting that perhaps the organization is taking a longer view?
Snider: “Well, we traded (James van Riemsdyk) for a guy his own age. It was just a positional thing. We felt we needed a defenseman. I read somewhere where people thought that defenseman was the best player in the playoffs. Some writers did… I’m not saying that. But we had to give up offense, a forward, for a defenseman, and we got a defenseman back – same age, not an older guy, unproven more or less in Toronto. It’s one of the things you try to do. We felt we were balancing it out a little bit.”
Q: Is the expectation that your young players are going to continue to grow as opposed to going into the offseason saying, “We’ve got to make whatever moves we can to win a Cup?”
Snider: “The organizational philosophy is we’re going to keep the young players that we have if we think they’re good enough. If we don’t, we’re going to move them. Are we going to move them for another young player? I don’t know. Are we going to move them for an older player? I don’t know. These are the things that the hockey department will decide. It’s not a philosophical thing. It’s a position-by-position, player-by-player thing.”
Q: Do you think the core of your team just needs tweaks or do you need a big acquisition?
Snider: “I think we need tweaks. Several tweaks. We want to always upgrade. We can’t stand pat. Obviously if we stand pat we have no reason to expect that we get out of the first round next year.”
Q: Specifically defensively, do you think there’s an area where you don’t have to stand pat?
Snider: “I think we’re looking out for anything. Good players. Offense, defense… you always look for good players. It’s not always easy to find them, but if you find a good, solid defenseman that you can add to the roster, you’re going to do it.”