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Luukko and Holmgren Take Part in Conference Call

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
(March 14) – Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko, along with General Manager Paul Holmgren, took part in a conference call with the media on Wednesday regarding the Flyers and Holmgren agreeing on a two-year contract extension. Below are excerpts from that call.

Q: Is this something that you felt that you had to earn with the moves that you made?

Holmgren: "It was certainly a process that I think I needed to go through both with Peter (Luukko) and Mr. Snider. In my role as an assistant general manager to Bob (Clarke), a lot of times you are not really that involved with sitting with Mr. Snider, Peter or Ron Ryan before that, you are kind of along for the ride. Consequently they didn't get to know me very well because of that, because of my role on the hockey club. I think over the last months since Bob stepped down, I think Peter and I have certainly gotten to know each other a lot better and developed a real relationship and I think Mr. Snider got to know me a lot better as well."

Q: Talk about how this will be a good thing because of the close relationship with Head Coach John Stevens.

Holmgren: "No question. John and I have been together for a number of years now, first with the Phantoms and now with the Flyers. We do understand each other. We have a good rapport where we can say pretty much whatever is on our mind to each other when we are together. I think we feed off of each other very well. We have a real understanding of what each other's job and responsibilities are and we work together well."

Q: Do you think the (Peter) Forsberg trade really impressed the front office?

Holmgren: "I don't know about that. I think it is part of a long process leading up to what happened in and around the trade deadline. I think getting to know Mr. Snider and Mr. Snider getting to know me. And Peter (Luukko) and I, our relationship has been building over this last while I think is probably more important then what happened in and around the trade deadline.

Luukko: "When Bob (Clarke) resigned it happened at a time that isn't really typical of a General Manager stepping down. You are just a few games into the season. At that time because of what Paul has done for the organization we named him immediately interim general manager. Because we know Paul and what Paul has done for the organization, we thought he could at least get us through that period of time.

"As we grew on we named him GM through the rest of the season and discuss with Paul that we would sit down with him and discuss the future. As great as that move is and it was fantastic what Paul has done for our team, working with Paul day to day and along with Ed Snider, Paul has certainly shown that he can lead our organization. Paul was put in a tough position in terms of taking over. Right away Paul immediately thought about the long-term future of our organization. He could have been in a position where maybe he wanted to make some quick moves to move some of our young players, get some players just to make it into the playoffs and it was totally to the contrary with Paul. All he talked about was our young prospects, where we had to go, what our future was, the salary cap and how to build a team. He really showed both Ed and myself his leadership qualities and he started to build a team that can compete for many years, not just make it into the playoffs and win but to compete for the (Stanley) Cup.

"I think he continues to prove himself by what he is doing and making that fantastic move with Forsberg, what he did in the (Alexei) Zhitnik trade, and to bring in these young players to get draft picks and then sign Mike Knuble and Sami Kapanen and clear up cap room so we can participate in the free agency market. So, it has been a process, but frankly all along we were always going to fair on the side of Paul being our guy."

Q: Do you think two years is enough time to say this team is a legitimate contender?

Holmgren: "I think it can be one year. The game today is so close, the teams are so close and the parity is there. I think with the right development of our young players this year, with the addition of a few players over the course of the summertime, we can be a very, very competitive team next year.

Luukko: "We have used the term re-tool as opposed to re-build. We believe we have a very good core of players both young and veteran. We have some prospects coming, we will have a top draft pick, we have assets in draft picks as well as being able to participate in the free agency market. I know Ed Snider said at one of the press conferences 'We do not know what re-building is.' We believe that we have the core to move very quickly.

"I will echo what Paul mentioned, in today's world and the parity of the league, we can be right back where we are very quickly. I think the beauty of young players is they get better every year so aside from making a move here and a move there and adding players, this core is only going to get better. They have proven it over the last segment of games."

Q: Peter, continuing that thought, were you and Ed satisfied that Paul has brought the Flyers up to speed with the new NHL?

Luukko: "We're absolutely, 100 percent confident with all the moves that Paul has made. He's in-tune with the new game, as witnessed by these moves."

Q: There are times the Flyers have been criticized for promoting from within. Did you have to kind of bail against that and just evaluate Paul as to what he can bring and not [hire] just another former Flyer that is running things?

Luukko: "When we look at any situation in any of the businesses we're involved in, you look at the specific situation and the person. You look at Paul, and what I think is very interesting, is you look at these deals that he made for Scottie Upshall, and Braydon Coburn, and what he's done. Not only have our scouts seen all these players, but Paul personally had. So, when he made these deals, and [Ryan] Parent was a big part of that, he's seen them all. I think in today's game, with the movement with young players, that we're very fortunate that Paul was ahead of the curve because he's personally spent a lot of time looking at these types of players. We looked at the situation, and yes, it's promotion from within, but we really have the best man to move forward."
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