After playing a huge part in the turnaround of the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2007-08 season, General Manager Paul Holmgren was rewarded with a three-year extension through 2011-12 Monday afternoon.
"We're certainly pleased with the progress our team has made and also the foundation that Paul has laid out for us in the future."
-- Comcast-Spectacor President and Chief Operating Officer Peter A. Luukko
"I am extremely excited and looking forward to continuing on and trying to help this organization win a Stanley Cup," Holmgren said. "It's an honor to be part of the Flyers organization for all these years and I've been here a long time. I'm looking forward to working with all the coaches, young players and the veterans this season."
Since the NHL expanded the playoffs to four rounds, starting with the 1980 Playoffs, the 2007-08 Flyers were only the second team to finish with the worst record in the NHL one season and reach the third round of the playoffs the next season (the Detroit Red Wings in 1987 were the other). The 2007-08 Flyers were also the first team in 13 years to advance to the second round of the playoffs after finishing the previous season with the worst record in the league (San Jose Sharks in 1994).
"Certainly, Paul has done a tremendous job and both (Chairman) Ed Snider and I are pleased with the progress of our team," Comcast-Spectacor President and Chief Operating Officer Peter A. Luukko said. "We're certainly pleased with the progress our team has made and also the foundation that Paul has laid out for us in the future."
Holmgren took over the GM role on October 22, 2006 when Bob Clarke resigned and head coach Ken Hitchcock was fired after the Flyers started the season, 1-6-1. In less than two seasons, Holmgren transformed a struggling young roster into a Cup contender.
2007-08 SEASON STATS
(6th east/11th NHL)
|Change from 2006-07||+39|
(8th east/17th NHL)
(4th West/7th NHL)
"I have known Paul for a long time and realize that he knows the players in this League and in the amateur ranks very well," Luukko said. "The timing was good when Paul came aboard as interim GM (in 2006) in that we were going through a transition on our team in terms of the style of play. Paul's knowledge of the professional and amateur players really benefited our organization. He did an outstanding job via trades, free agency and in the Draft in building a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup, while managing within today's salary-cap system."
Holmgren knows there is still work to be done.
"I think we still have a strong nucleus of young players that we've drafted and developed and we've improved our mobility and our puck-handling ability in our back end and that has really helped," Holmgren said. "Having said that, the Eastern Conference will be even more competitive this coming season, so it'll be a battle to the end to even make the playoffs. Like we told the players at the end of last season, it's only going to get harder and the players are aware of this and determined to work twice as hard heading into training camp this year."
Luukko knew from his first meeting with Holmgren that the former player/coach wore his heart on his sleeve.
"Right from beginning (as an interim GM), he told me that in order to win, we needed a combination of speed and grit," Luukko admitted. "Obviously, the grit is from his Flyers' past, but he also believed in speed. So he added quick forwards and puck-moving defensemen but also added toughness. Speed and grit were always his mantra, but Paul's also an adaptive guy and he saw many players in junior hockey and throughout Europe so he knew what would work for our team. He's his own man."
Holmgren retired from playing after the 1984-85 season, having scored 144 goals, 179 assists and 1,684 penalty minutes in 527 career regular-season games with the Flyers and the Minnesota North Stars. He scored 138 goals, 171 assists and 1,600 penalty minutes in 500 games over parts of nine seasons with the Flyers (1975-76 to 1983-84). His 1,600 penalty minutes with the club are second all-time in club history.
Holmgren served as Flyers head coach for four seasons (1988-89 to 1991-92), compiling a 107-126-31 record. He was named head coach of the Flyers on June 1, 1988, after serving three seasons as an assistant coach with the club. He was the first former Flyer to be named head coach of the team.
"It's always tougher to go from a final-four team to one," said Luukko. "To get to the final four was fantastic last season, but winning the Cup is extremely difficult. We have a strong nucleus of young and veteran players and I think we'll only benefit as an organization having Paul here another three years. We don't want to be retooling every year and to reach the next level, it's important to keep your own and add some parts here and there. I believe we're poised to compete for the Cup."
"I'm not sure what my extension really means to the players, but from an organizational standpoint, it shows stability and makes it easier for everyone else," Holmgren said. "Mr. Snider and Peter Luukko have both been terrific in their support and I am honored to be a part of this franchise. I am really thrilled beyond words."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.