Five Questions: Rebuilding the Phantoms and Titans

John Stevens: Calder Cup winner, Stanley Cup winner, and baker extraordinaire


Flyers Faithful revisited a former recurring feature, Five Questions, to address some current hot and important topics, including the draft, prospects, and the future of the Flyers. For this edition of Five Questions, we asked John Saquella, Jim Butler, James Centifonti, Joshua Janet, and our very own Jared Abbott to participate. Below, you will find their answers to today’s question.

The organization has failed to produce winning clubs at the AHL and ECHL levels in recent years. With your GM cap still on, how do you go about fixing that? Is it even a big deal?

John Saquella: Winning at the AHL or ECHL levels isn’t necessarily indicative of developing players properly. The 1997-98 Phantoms won the Calder Cup with a team that had no future NHL stars and very few top prospects. The other Phantoms team to win the Calder was loaded with NHL prospects(Umberger, Sharp, Pitkanen, Seidenberg, Carter and Richards), but that was in large part because of the NHL lockout that cost us the 2004-05 season. To me, the drafting and development of good players will lead to the minor league teams being better on the ice, because the NHL team would need to show patience. But when your AHL or ECHL team’s best players are undrafted guys, they’re not going to perform very well

James Centifonti: To me system depth is a very big deal not having one forces them to constantly make trades to fill holes or to chase after something that they are missing only to create more holes with any moves(s) they make to fill that area.  Make the system so deep that you can afford to make a move if you need to without hurting it that much now or down the road.  In a cap era this is a major area of need to focus  on for the Flyers.

Jim Butler: Winning is always a good thing regardless of the level. I think the Flyers need to have all 3 teams play the same system if possible, when players get called up they are familiar with what needs to be done and they’re not being asked to do something that’s not their calling. Again, I hate to keep harping on it but in the cap era it’s essential to keep your picks and draft well and stock your system.

Joshua Janet: There are three basic ingredients to managing a successful hockey team- coaching, talent and depth. Neither the Trenton Titans nor the Adirondack Phantoms have had any of these provided to them from the Flyers organization, in any surplus or at the same time.

I can’t speak to the coaching in Trenton, but of the three coaches in Glens Falls in the last three years, only Joe Paterson seemed to have a handle on his players. Neither Greg Gilbert nor Terry Murray have inspired their teams to much success, and both coaches saw talented players moved out of the organization (Pat Maroon and Matt Ford) because of player apathy/outbursts.

The farm system has been a joke now for about six seasons. The one year when the Flyers had “top prospects” like Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, the Flyers refused to give them time to develop and started them immediately in the NHL. It’s difficult for a team to be successful when there aren’t that many “elite” players in the fold.

As for depth, many NHL teams sign career AHLers knowing that their main role is to help their prospects be successful at the minor league level. The Phantoms recently added Jon Sim and David Laliberte to their roster to help bolster the offense, but the Flyers don’t usually get that involved. Instead, they sign overager players with low talent ceilings. Danny Syvret has been a big help on the back end, at least.

In short- (1) hire a better coach; (2) stop trading draft picks like they’ll give you Hepatitis; (3) sign depth AHL players instead of low ceiling overage CHL players.

Jared Abbott: The minor league system in hockey is often forgotten because many players are seasoned in the WHL, QMJHL, or OHL before signing entry-level contracts and jet to the show. However, that doesn’t diminish the importance of a competitive feeder program. Since the move to Adirondack, the Phantoms have seemingly been forgotten amongst the Flyers following. When the team was in Philadelphia the organization and the fans were able to keep an eye on the young up and comers. Players like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Patrick Sharp have starred for the Flyers’ AHL affiliate in past years, but without top talent consistently feeding into the system, the affiliates have struggled.

I mentioned earlier in the week that Terry Murray would be the best option for the Flyers if they chose to fire Peter Laviolette. Murray returned to help turn around the lackluster performers with the Phantoms, bringing the most NHL experience to the AHL ranks in the 76-year history of the league. If Murray were to be promoted the Flyers would have to go back to the drawing board in consecutive years and find his replacement. For me the most necessary fix in order to produce winning farm teams is the goaltending. Brian Boucher (36-years old) and Scott Munroe (31-years old) are the two backstops in Adirondack, which is a big problem. Young goalies develop slower than position players so they tend to filter in to the AHL and ECHL after successful stints in juniors or college. Anthony Stolarz will eventually get a chance to show his pro potential but other than him Cal Heeter rounds out the depth.

If the Flyers want to regain complete organizational strength they will have to start from the bottom up. Adding goalie prospects like Carsen Chubak or Eric Hartzell would be major lifts to the prospect pool and would immediately increase the compete level among the minor league goalies. Neither Boucher nor Munroe are worthy of NHL roster spots, so one has to wonder where the competition is going to come from. If I am the general manager I am making a strong push for both of the aforementioned college goalies. Young goalies that can hone their skills in the minors while getting relief call-ups if a goalie goes down create stability in the most crucial position for any team.