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Flyers' GM Holmgren gets three-year extension

by Dan Rosen

PHILADELPHIA -- Paul Holmgren has the job security his bosses feel he's earned. The Philadelphia Flyers GM signed a three-year contract extension on Tuesday.

"I'm particularly proud of the job Paul Holmgren has done with our hockey club and excited to offer him this three-year extension," Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider said in a statement. "He continuously finds the right opportunities to improve our team and get us closer to our ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup."

Holmgren's Flyers fell two games shy of reaching that goal last season, losing the Stanley Cup Final in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Flyers didn't even make the playoffs until the final day of the regular season, earning the extra point by beating the New York Rangers in a shootout before making a historic run to the Final.

Philadelphia knocked off New Jersey in five games and then became just the third team in NHL history, and first in a quarter-century, to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series. The Flyers had to come back from 3-0 in Game 7 to beat the Bruins and advance to the Eastern Conference Final, where they took out the Montreal Canadiens in five games.

The Flyers currently sit first in the Eastern Conference, well on their way to their fourth consecutive playoff berth -- all under Holmgren's aegis.

"I'm particularly proud of the job Paul Holmgren has done with our hockey club and excited to offer him this three-year extension. He continuously finds the right opportunities to improve our team and get us closer to our ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup."
-- Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider

"This is such a great sports town, I'm really honored and proud to be part of what is going on here," Holmgren said. "Our fans are ravenous, our fans passionate for all sports. The sports teams in this town are all pushing each other, pushing the envelope, trying to get better to win the championships in their respective sports and I look forward to continuing to accomplish that goal with the Flyers here."

Holmgren, 55, is in his fifth season as the Flyers GM and 32nd in the organization. He was named the interim GM on Oct. 22, 2006 and had the interim tag removed three weeks later.

His start was not indicative of what was to come -- 2006-07 turned out to be the worst in Flyers' history as the team won just 22 games and earned just 56 points.

"That was an awful year," Holmgren said. "I don't want to think about it, so thanks for bringing it up."

However, Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko talked prior to Tuesday night's game against Washington about how Holmgren came to him and Snider with a plan early that season to eradicate some of the hefty contracts and to allow the young kids in the organization, the kids he knew so well from scouting and developing as assistant GM under Bob Clarke for seven years, to develop on the fly.

It's pretty clear that Holmgren's plan had merit. In fact, it was that plan that convinced Snider and Luukko to remove the interim GM tag they had given Holmgren when he was hired and replace it with a full-time GM tag just three weeks later.

His fingerprints are now all over this Flyers' roster.

Holmgren has acquired 19 of the players on the current roster through trades, free agent signings or the draft. As assistant GM to Clarke, he helped draft and develop current stars such as Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux.

He has built one of the most respected blue lines in the League with Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, Andres Meszaros and Matt Walker all acquired via trade.

His moves, specifically trading Peter Forsberg to Nashville for Scottie Upshall, Ryan Parent and a pair of high draft picks allowed Richards, Carter and eventually Giroux to take on significant roles both on the scoresheet and in the leadership department.

Holmgren gave the draft picks he got in the Forsberg trade (a first- and third-round pick in 2007) back to Nashville for the right to talk to impending unrestricted free agents Scottie Hartnell and Timonen. He convinced both to sign with the Flyers almost right away. Danny Briere came on board the following summer, and the Flyers went to the Eastern Conference Final just two years after their worst season in history.

"Those moves gave us the ability to get back on track," Luukko said.

One of the things Luukko said Holmgren has done so well is keeping the Flyer way through all of his moves. The League has changed, becoming younger, faster and more skillful, but the Flyers are still that same lunchpail team that Holmgren grew up playing for and grew to admire so much.

"You know how bad our record was but you could see he saw the future," Luukko said. "Bob (Clarke) said he's ready, he's good, and he's a Flyer. We've had that style of play, but it's hard to keep up. It's a plan, but it was a Flyer plan."

"I think they have a pretty good mentality about the players they want here and if that player doesn't do that they make sure he doesn't stick around," Giroux said. "All the guys in that room are on the same page and that's one reason why we're just going forward right now."

Holmgren also made the bold move of firing popular coach John Stevens on Dec. 4, 2009, and replacing him with Peter Laviolette, who led Carolina to the Stanley Cup in 2006. Laviolette's success is bringing him back to Raleigh, N.C. later this month to coach in the 2011 NHL All-Star Game presented by Discover.

"I think he's one of the top general managers in the League, and also I think from a coaching point of view he's a great general manager because he's coached," Laviolette said. "He understands what you deal with in the locker room. He's a great sounding board, valuable for me.

"Our organization is deep not just in players, but as a whole, and that's a credit to him."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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