How the Flyers beat the system

Updated: June 1, 2011, 4:01 PM ET
By Alvin Chang

When I said the Detroit Red Wings may be headed for a demise, many readers argued that the Red Wings have maintained a high level of success for 20 years -- and that there is no reason it should change.

But the key point -- one I should've emphasized -- was that the salary cap changed everything. All of a sudden, the NHL had a rule which limited the amount of money that could be spent on players. It meant teams like Detroit couldn't keep their entire club together and add an expensive free agent. In other words, the Red Wings could no longer maintain a playoff team by throwing around more money in free agency.

That's why, in today's NHL, it's difficult to maintain a playoff team for long periods of time. It requires smart, well-timed trades and a bit of alchemy -- turning invaluable assets into valuable ones.

One team that has achieved this feat is the Philadelphia Flyers. They've made the playoffs 15 of the last 16 seasons, and they look poised to make the playoffs at least a few more years. In 2007, though, it looked like they were on a downward spiral, perhaps caused by the NHL's parity-imposing rules.

But they managed to beat the system.