The Philadelphia Flyers lost the Stanley Cup finals on a soft goal allowed by a journeyman goaltender, and as of now the team has failed to upgrade the position.

That's the only thing many Flyers fans will focus on, but it's not that simple.

The Flyers, according to several reports, tried to get a more proven goalie than Leighton, the midseason waiver-wire pickup who signed a two-year extension earlier this week. They apparently negotiated with Evgeni Nabokov, Marty Turco and Dan Ellis, but nothing came to fruition.

So they did the next best thing. While Nabokov likely would have stopped Patrick Kane's shot in overtime of Game 6 of the Cup finals, the Flyers might not have been on the brink of elimination at that point if they had played better defense against the Chicago Blackhawks throughout the series.

Defensemen Chris Pronger, Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn were superb. But they were overused throughout the playoffs and appeared less effective in the last game or two against Chicago. And during the rare times when Lukas Krajicek, Oskars Bartulis or Ryan Parent were on the ice, the puck seldom made it out of the Flyers' zone.

In other words, in a series in which the Flyers lost three one-goal games, having legitimate NHL players make up the third defensive pairing might have helped them just as much as having Nabokov in goal.

So when the big-time goalies turned down the Flyers' offers, they decided to get better somewhere else rather than overpaying a goalie who could be the next Cristobal Huet - a free-agent bust eating up salary-cap space in Chicago while languishing on the bench.

The bottom line is the Flyers should be a significantly better team going into next season. They basically kept the same group that was two wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup, but with Meszaros and steady veteran Sean O'Donnell (who signed Thursday) as the Nos. 5 and 6 defensemen.

The other huge difference will be Jeff Carter - for better or for worse.

There was a school of thought, endorsed by yours truly, that Carter was not really a part of the inspirational playoff run, when the team came together and established its never-say-die identity. And that even at his best, he wasn't enough of a game-changer to justify giving him the kind of money he likely will demand as a free agent a year for now. And that moving Danny Briere back to wing to accomodate Carter at center would be a huge mistake.

Trading Carter for a package built around a top young goalie such as the Los Angeles Kings' Jonathan Bernier or the Vancouver Canucks' Cory Schneider seemed to be the perfect way to fill their biggest hole and get maximum value for a guy who is only a year away from free agency.

But the Flyers didn't subscribe to that school of thought. They apparently labeled Carter untouchable and think it's no big deal moving Briere back to wing, where he disappeared for two seasons before setting the franchise playoff scoring record back at center.

If they are right, then a healthy Carter could make this team much better. He is, after all, a 40-goal scorer being added to a team that reached the Stanley Cup finals. If coach Peter Laviolette can get four centers - Carter, Briere, Mike Richards and Claude Giroux - to play up to their potential despite one inevitably having to play wing, that's a dynamic offense.

And, hey, it's not like trades aren't allowed during the regular season. If Leighton falters, or the offense needs a shake-up, they can always trade Carter, Briere or Gagne for a goalie before the trade deadline.

Right now, though, Leighton is the goalie. And that's not such a bad thing. Forget that he gave up Kane's soft goal. Remember that he was good enough to get the Flyers within two wins of the Cup. Remember that Andrej Meszaros and Sean O'Donnell might have made enough difference to get those two wins.

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