Flyers counting on first year players

DAVID W. UNKLE -- SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 1:08 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Could Friday's announcement of Don Luce as the new Philadelphia Flyers' Director of Player Development signal a new direction for a team that traditionally has placed more of an emphasis on acquiring versus developing talent?

 

For the first time in recent memory, the Flyers had to heavily dip into their AHL-affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms when mounting injuries and the salary cap necessitated filling holes with an assortment of 14, first-year players during the 2005-06 season.

 

This season, the Flyers find themselves with a dearth of talent on their AHL roster, especially on defence, where one or two more injuries could signal doom for both squads.

 

That's where Luce figures in.

 

Filling a variety of roles in his 22 years in the Sabres' front office as a North American scout, director of player development and director of player personnel, Luce was involved in the drafting of 13 of the 22 players currently on the Buffalo roster.

 

"Obviously, drafting and developing players has always been key, it's probably more so now," said Holmgren, on how the "new NHL" has altered how teams retool their rosters.

 

Defenceman Brian Campbell, forwards Maxim Afinogenov, Paul Gaustad and Ales Kotalik, along with goaltender Ryan Miller, were all selected between the third round and the seventh rounds of the NHL Entry Draft during Luce's tenure.

 

"But, do (the hiring of Luce and Chris Pryor as Director of Hockey Operations) represent a change in (the Flyers') philosophy...I don't think so," Holmgren said.

 

"Overall, in the big picture of building our team, not only now but in the future, (Luce and Pryor) are going to be huge in (shaping) the direction of the (Flyers') organization."

 

Successful rebuilding in the "new NHL" requires teams to manage the salary cap at the NHL level while investing financial resources and personnel to support player development at the AHL and ECHL levels.

 

That wasn't necessarily the case in 2005-06 when the Flyers stocked their AHL affiliate with the likes of cast-offs such as Marc Cavosie, Eric Chouinard, Dan Cavanaugh, Kiel McLeod, Blake Bellefeuille, and Jim Campbell.

None are seen as serviceable NHL players.

 

"From the time we draft a player, (Luce) will get hold of that player until the time he becomes a Flyer...that means for the two years that he's in juniors or wherever else, and the mini-camps in the summers, (Luce) will be in communication (with the player) and going to their games," explained Holmgren.

 

"I think the role that Don is going to assume...from a player development standpoint and overseeing the Phantoms, is something that we've been lacking here in the last couple of months...when I moved into (the role of general manger), I thought the Phantoms were getting lost in the shuffle," added Holmgren.

 

In years past, it was Holmgren and former Director of Pro Personnel, Ron Hextall (who departed for the Los Angeles Kings' front office) who oversaw the Flyers' picks in the AHL and ECHL.

 

"Chris (Pryor) has been on our staff for eight years as an amateur (scout), and I think he's a really strong judge of talent...he's a guy that can help to not only build the Flyers but the Phantoms through the (Entry) Draft, the (player) development process, and by spotting key free agents that we may target down the road," explained Holmgren.

 

Not to be lost in the shuffle is Dave Brown, the Flyers' Director of Player Personnel.

 

Brown's listed responsibilities include scouting at the NHL and AHL levels, as well as having a hand in the operations of the Phantoms.

 

How Brown, Luce, and Pryor work with Holmgren in cultivating a feeder system without tripping over each other remains to be seen, but the general manager seems unfazed by the increase in his front office staff.

 

"When it comes to building the hockey team and building the Flyers from a free-agent standpoint, to (determining) who's ready to play, (now) there are more voices involved," said Holmgren.

 

"(Don and Chris) have fresher ideas, different opinions, and Don will be a voice from outside of the Flyers' organization...having a couple of fresh voices is not a bad thing."

 

The bottom line according to Holmgren is that, "we strengthened our organization."

 

In doing so, he may also have strengthened his grip of the general manager's role which seemed tenuous just a few weeks ago.


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