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Under Pressure: Paul Holmgren

Sep 18, 2013, 2:40 PM EDT

Paul Holmgren AP

“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Philadelphia Flyers, we pick… Paul Holmgren.

No GM made more big financial swings than Holmgren this summer, whether it was $66.2 million to extend Claude Giroux, or $26 million to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov and Daniel Briere, or the $21 million to sign Mark Streit, or the $22.5 million to sign Vinny Lecavalier.

That’s a lot of money. A lot of money.

While some moves were no-brainers — retaining Giroux was a must, Bryzgalov had lost the plot and needed to go — others were pretty risky ventures.

Holmgren signed Streit as a 35-plus contract, meaning Philly’s on the hook for the entirety of his deal (much like it is with Chris Pronger). What’s more, the veteran blueliner looked like he lost a step last year, especially in the Isles’ opening-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh when his ice time dropped to 20:18 a night, fifth among New York defensemen.

Then, there’s Lecavalier.

While still a skilled physical presence, the former Tampa captain turns 34 this season and hasn’t scored more than 70 points in five years. He’s also shown signs of injury proneness (missing 44 games in the last three years combined) and, as many have pointed out, didn’t really fit any of Philadelphia’s needs.

Like, say, goaltending.

In an ironic twist, Holmgren’s biggest gamble this season is one he did on the cheap. The Flyers GM is now rolling with one of the league’s least-expensive goalie tandems in Ray Emery and Steve Mason, who will earn a combined $3.15 million this year.

Both come with a fair level of risk. Yes, Emery’s proven to be one of the league’s better backup netminders over the last two years and, in a timeshare role with Chicago during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, put up great numbers (17-1-0, .922 save percentage, 1.94 GAA).

But Emery also turns 31 this month and hasn’t handled a starter’s load since 2007… three years before he underwent major hip surgery for avascular necrosis.

Mason faces just as many questions, if not more. His career nearly hit rock bottom prior to the trade to the Flyers — he called his final few seasons in Columbus “extremely humbling” — and many will be watching to see if he can maintain confidence in Philly, a notoriously difficult town for goalies.

(Part of Mason’s confidence issues stem from years of defeats. At 24, he’s already lost more than 100 games.)

In the end, though, all these gambles come back to Holmgren, who’s entering his seventh season on the job and can’t afford a second consecutive year of missed playoffs.

He’s spent an awful lot owner Ed Snider’s money, which has to be worrisome — even if he’s received a vote of confidence.

“‘[Holmgren's] not on the hot seat,” Snider told CSN Philly last week. “Not at all. I don’t think anybody can look at the job Paul Holmgren did in the offseason this year and not say it was outstanding.

“Every move a GM makes isn’t going to be perfect. They all make mistakes.”

Strong message? Sure, until you remember another of Snider’s votes of confidence — the one he gave Bryzgalov seven months ago.

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

  1. jpelle82 - Sep 18, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    holmgren is too easy for this series, you could make this case every year for him.

  2. amityvillefun - Sep 18, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    He clearly has a passion for horsehead bookends.

    • amityvillefun - Sep 18, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      Lighten up, Francis.

    • rippit2000 - Sep 18, 2013 at 4:43 PM

      You don’t need your family. You don’t need your friends. As long as you have, a horsehead bookend.

  3. crazemastercraze - Sep 18, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    If the flyers miss the playoffs this season, through typical flyers convoluted logic, they’ll turn that into a positive…..somehow

  4. semin28 - Sep 18, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    They’ll miss playoffs AGAIN fithadalphia

    • jpelle82 - Sep 18, 2013 at 4:32 PM

      hey semin lover, its too early for all that mess. at least spell your lame insults better next time.

      • twpguy1964 - Sep 18, 2013 at 5:13 PM

        He loves semin more than a gay convention. BwaHaaaaaaHaaaa

    • mcphillthy - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      Lol. I think he was trying to make fun of us but he can’t even spell. Hahahaha. Come on, man…

  5. philly4lyfe - Sep 18, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    very original. did you come up with that all by yourself or did your mom have to help you out?

  6. icelovinbrotha215 - Sep 18, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Any prominent sports figure is always ‘Under Pressure’ in Philly. It comes with the territory whether it’s the Flyers, Eagles, Phillies or Sixers. Us fans always expect success.

  7. blackandorangeforlife - Sep 18, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    Bryz was Sniders move ( as far as signing)….Streit was going to get that much just maybe not the contract length….Same with Vinny…….Homer has actually done a pretty good job….And yes the returns on Richards and Carter have been worth every day of the week…..It’s the Media that makes it look bad…..Notice the writers dont have his job!

  8. tcclark - Sep 18, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    Wow original. Why not just say Under Pressure: Goalies in Philly, or Under Pressure: Santas in Philly. Ed Snider has been very happy with the moves he’s made. Why would he fire him? The biggest reason he is actually under pressure is because of Hextall waiting in the wings and you didn’t even mention it.

    • jimw81 - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:59 PM

      seriously santa thing happen 4 decades ago and they are still talking it.

  9. jimw81 - Sep 18, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    i really do think paul and lavy are the people under the pressure this season. if they are just as bad as last year in the first 25 games, beat writers are going to have a field day and this site will be very busy…..

  10. mcphillthy - Sep 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    I didn’t think homer was under pressure until Hexy came back. Now it’s a different ballgame. We all know why Hexy is here. We just have to waituntil the day comes and this is Hexy’s. I like homer but I also like what Hexy can do here. Homer made a LOT of good moves this year and added two solid picks with Morin and hagg. And I blame Snyder for losing bobs. Snyder wanted Bryz so homer had no choice but to let bobs go. It sucks but it is what it is. Believe me if homer was the reason for that happening he would already be fired. But wither way I like the team we have this year. Go flyers!

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