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Rossi: Hockey fans not so sunny in Philadelphia

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 9:53 p.m.
Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, right, pauses during an NHL hockey news conference in Philadelphia with newly hired head coach Craig Berube on Oct. 7, 2013.

The Philadelphia Flyers are lousy. How are they this bad, though?

Winners just once in their opening eight games, the Flyers were minus-13 in goal differential and 24th in overall goals-against before NHL games played Saturday.

Traditionally, the player between the pipes has been blamed for the Flyers' seasons that have ended without the Stanley Cup returning to Philadelphia.

Well, the Cup is not coming back this summer, and will be a 39th season without a title will probably stretch into the 40s because of the Flyers' real problem.

Their culture, and a big part of that is haphazard management.

General manager Paul Holmgren is reputable for correcting problems with aggressive moves, but there are too many things to fix for this season — and the list of problems is only going to grow.

Consider arguably the Flyers' best player: center Claude Giroux, who was signed to an eight-year extension in the offseason. He will count $8.275 million against the salary cap on that contract.

Giroux never has scored 30 goals in any season, has topped 75 points only twice, and — though it is early — appears to be yet another young Flyers captain not suited for that role (see: Eric Lindros and Mike Richards).

Two years ago, after his brilliant performance in Round 1 of a playoff series, Flyers brass seemed to genuinely believe Giroux had surpassed Penguins captain Sidney Crosby as the world's best player. Two years later, Giroux might crack a list of the top 10 players in the Metropolitan Division.

He is very good, not great. He is not — as are Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin (Capitals), Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers) and Eric Staal (Hurricanes) — a franchise player.

This is not to suggest the signing of Giroux was a disaster by the Flyers.

They did commit too much for too long to him, though.

They always do.

Defensemen Braydon Coburn ($4.5 million), Luke Schenn ($3.6 million) and Nicklas Grossmann ($3.5 million) are all signed for two more years, and each will count more against Flyers' future caps than Rob Scuderi, who returned to the Penguins as a free agent for an annual hit of $3.375 million.

Scuderi has played a pivotal shutdown role for two Cup winners.

The Flyers will spend $4.5 million on a past-his-prime Vincent Lecavalier for the next four seasons. Scott Hartnell will cost $4.75 million over each of the next five years.

Holmgren has the right idea in identifying core players, but he has not picked the right players to comprise a core.

That is why it is very much not sunny regarding the future of the hockey club in Philadelphia.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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