The most dramatic facelift of the offseason was by the Philadelphia Flyers. Despite making the Stanley Cup finals in 2009-10 and boasting several young, core players on long-term deals, GM Paul Holmgren blew things up this summer, dealing franchise cornerstones Mike Richards and Jeff Carter (in addition to bringing in free agent netminder Ilya Bryzgalov on a big multiyear deal). Philadelphia remains in "win now" mode, but it's an open question whether the team is actually better after such drastic alterations.
To investigate, we'll start by looking at the incoming and outgoing GVT of the players in question to see if the Flyers theoretically gained or lost Goals Versus Threshold in their big deals.
First, we'll begin with the big two: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Here are their GVT totals from the last three seasons:
Both guys are obviously excellent players. Their GVT's are better than most and just shy of the very best forwards in the league. To put their three-year averages in context, Jarome Iginla's mean GVT over the same time period was 14.5 (a player who was rumored to be headed to the Kings mid-season for a package of Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn by the way). To put things another way, the Flyers traded away two players as good or better than Jarome Iginla this summer.
The incoming skaters, though functional, aren't quite as impressive. Here are the three-year GVT's of Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds:
Even if we combine Voracek and Simmonds mean GVT's, they don't equal just one of Richards or Carter, let alone both. The good news for Philadelphia is that both guys are still relatively young and may yet take a step forward, but there's a good chance neither guy will ever be a 15+ GVT forward. The Flyers also added quality prospects in Brayden Schenn and Sean Courturier, but we're years away from knowing to what degree they will contribute at the NHL level. For now, the forward corps has been significantly weakened.
Of course, the apparent impetus for moving so much salary was the acquisition and long-term signing of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. The former Coyote has been one of the league's better puck-stoppers for a while and signing him to a long-term deal apparently fixes the Flyers' perceived Achilles heel since Ron Hextall retired in Philly.
His average GVT over the last three seasons is 15.8, although that number is grossly skewed by an aberrant performance in 2008-2009. If we throw that out and include his 2007-2008 season (22.6), then his mean jumps to 23.6, which is probably more indicative of Brygalov's abilities.
Making that assumption, here is how the incoming and outgoing GVT's of the players involved shake out:
Player out GVT out Player in GVT in Differential
Richards 16.2 Simmonds 6.0 -10.2
Carter 17.6 Voracek 4.6 -13.0
Bobrovsky 6.1 Bryzgalov 23.6 17.5
Total 39.9 Total 34.2 -5.7
Sergei Bobrovsky's rookie GVT was included because it's important to note that Bryzgalov will be replacing him as the Flyer's starter, meaning the team will be "losing" the kid's GVT in favor of Bryzgalov's. Overall, even if we throw out Bryzgalov's worst performance and use the resulting average, the Flyers are technically still down by almost six goals.
Of course, the GVT-based analysis might actually be understating the short-term damage done by the Richards and Carter deals. Goals Versus Threshold is essentially blind to on-ice circumstances, so it's important to note that Richards and Carter achieved their notable numbers despite playing against some of the toughest opposition on the team. Last season, Carter led the Flyers in terms of relative quality of competition according to behindthenet.ca, while Richards was fourth amongst forwards. In addition, both Carter (43.3% zone start) also Richards (46.8%) started more often in the defensive zone. Those are tough minutes and although Simmonds has played in similar circumstances the last few years, he obviously hasn't been quite as successful at swimming against the tide.
As a result, the Flyers are going to have to feed a couple of their existing centers to the wolves a bit more in the absence of "the big two". Claude Giroux is excellent and has already stepped into that role with aplomb (third on the team in quality of competition last year), but things become problematic after that. Daniel Briere has put up nice numbers as Flyer, but he's been one of the most sheltered players on the team thanks to the work of Richards et al. If he moves up the rotation and is forced to play a more two-way role against better opposition, there's a good chance his counting numbers (and therefore GVT) will suffer. Andreas Nodl and Blair Betts are a couple of pivots who have faced relatively tough circumstances in Philly, but neither is likely to do more than tread water, at best. There were other, relatively minor additions and losses this offseason (Nikolay Zherdev and Ville Leino out, Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot in), but they are unlikely to move the needle in aggregate.
Holmgren paid a steep price to sign Bryzgalov. Right now, it looks like the only way the Flyers drastic overhaul improves the team is if one or both of Voracek/Simmonds takes a giant step forward in the short-term, or if Schenn/Couturier become heavy hitters in the long-term.