Hockey is a team sport. Some of the greatest teams ever formed were thanks to a duo that unlocked inconceivable magic and made NHL history. Yet, sometimes those stars never get a chance to align. For the Flyers, there have been many opportunities in free agency or via trade to make a legendary duo form, but for one reason or another they never ended up happening.
Number 5: Claude Giroux and Patrick Kane
Just imagine had the Flyers not gotten screwed at the 2007 entry draft. Claude Giroux was drafted 22nd overall in 2006 and broke into the scene two and a half years later when the Flyers were gearing up for their Stanley Cup Final run. Patrick Kane was drafted first overall in 2007, a spot that should’ve been the Flyers’ but lost it in the lottery to Chicago. They took Kane and the Flyers ended up with James Van Riemsdyk. Kane went on to be one of the best players of his generation and Giroux, while had a great career in his own right, never reached the same level. Had the Flyers managed to keep the first overall pick and Giroux and Kane came up together, They had the potential to be a top power couple in the league, and the fate of the 2010 Cup Final may have swung in a different direction.
Number 4: Sergei Bobrovsky and Evgeni Nabokov
The Flyers settled for a Russian goaltender in 2011, but it wasn’t the one they were originally targeting. Before they inked Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year deal the Flyers were circling San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov in the summer of 2010. Nabokov had just posted a career year with a 44-16-10 record and a .922 save percentage. At 35, he was demanding too much money and the Sharks weren’t going to pay up. Paul Holmgren had a trade worked out, a seventh round pick in exchange for Nabokov’s rights, but only if Nabokov would sign with the Flyers. Nabokov’s camp held firm on their price and it was too rich for Holmgren’s blood and the deal never happened. The same summer the Flyers signed Sergei Bobrovsky out of Russia and he ended up splitting time with Brian Boucher for most of the season. While the two did form a formidable duo during the 2010-11 campaign, adding a veteran like Nabokov could’ve helped come playoff time, when Bobrovsky ended up floundering the hardest.
Number 3: Ron Hextall and Curtis Joseph
In the summer of 1998 there were a few big goaltending free agents on the market- Mike Richter, John Vanbiesbrouck and Curtis Joseph. Richter ultimately ended up staying with the Rangers, and then-GM Bob Clarke opted to sign former Panthers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck to a two-year deal and Curtis Joseph underwent a career renaissance with the Maple Leafs. While Breezer ended up being a perfectly fine goaltender by the numbers during his tenure in Philly, nothing he did compared to CuJo. Joseph posted three consecutive 30+ win seasons, was a two-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy, and won the Lester B. Pearson Award in 1999 as the most outstanding player in the regular season. Joseph also came back to bite the Flyers in the playoffs, helping the Leafs sweep Philly in the first round in 1999. Hextall was entering the last season of his career in 1998-99 and wasn’t the player he was a few year previous when he returned to Philly, but was still a crowd favorite. Imagine Joseph carrying the load and Hextall suiting up in relief.
Number 2: Jaromir Jagr and Peter Forsberg
Without a doubt the biggest draft miss in Flyers history when when the selected Mike Ricci fourth overall in 1990, one spot ahead of some guy named Jaromir Jagr. The following season, the Flyers made the biggest trade in their history when they shipped a king’s ransom to the Nordiques for superstar forward Eric Lindros. Ricci was apart of the Lindros deal along with their 1991 first round pick Peter Forsberg as well as a multitude of player, picks and cash.
As the story goes, the Flyers were set to take Jaromir Jagr fourth overall in 1990. but a regime change from Bob Clarke to Russ Farwell meant that the team opted to go in a different direction and draft Mike Ricci instead. Had they drafted Jagr, and then Peter Forsberg the following year as they did and never made the Lindros deal, imagine the pinnacle prime Forsberg and prime Jagr could have reached together?
Number 1: Eric Lindros and Peter Forsberg
Possibly the biggest “what if” moment in Flyers history is “what would have happened had they managed to acquire Eric Lindros without giving up Peter Forsberg?” For those that need a refresher, Forsberg was part of the blockbuster Eric Lindros trade and ended up becoming a key piece in the powerhouse that was the Colorado Avalanche in the late 90s and early 2000s and became one of the greatest players in NHL history. Lindros was a dominant player in his own right, and was part of the intimidating trio known as the Legion of Doom that rode roughshod over the league for three seasons. He became one of the greatest Flyers of all time, but imagine them together? Not only would the Flyers have had a one-two punch of Forsberg and Lindros, the perfect mix of skill and physicality, but had Rod Brind’Amour still been acquired in the summer of 1991, that may have been the best trio of centers in NHL history.
Paul Coffey and Eric Desjardins
While Paul Coffey and Eric Desjardins were technically on the same team for 94 games from late 1996 to the summer of 1998, it could’ve been a whole lot longer if the Flyers were able to acquire him in 1987 when he was engaged in a contract dispute with the Oilers. For as great as Paul Coffey was, he didn’t stick in one place very long. He played for eight teams in his 21 year career, so even if the Flyers had managed to snag him in 87, he may not have lasted until Desjardins was acquired in 93. But had their paths overlapped at their peaks, two of the best two-way defensemen of their generation on the same pair? It may have been enough to push those late 90’s teams to glory.
Jaromir Jagr and Eric Lindros
the alternate alternate reality would be that the Flyers drafted Jagr in 1990, then still traded for Eric Lindros in the summer of 1992. Unlike the Forsberg/Lindros scenario, where both players are centers, this would mean Eric Lindros and Jaromir Jagr would be on the same line. Two of the biggest, baddest players of their generation on the same line at the same time. It’s would’ve given the Legion of Doom a whole new meaning.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: phillyflyerstalk.com / nhl.com / si.com / courierpostonline.com