With all the Flyers have done in the past few weeks, it's easy to forget how this team was built.

Sure, stars like Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Danny Briere were in place already.

But general manager Paul Holmgren has been so on-point with most of his moves in the past year that he might want to consider a trip to Atlantic City.

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First, there was the Chris Pronger trade. I'll admit I didn't like it at the time, and I wasn't alone.

Holmgren sent a 20-goal scorer (Joffrey Lupul), a very promising young defenseman (Luca Sbisa) and two first-round picks to Anaheim. In return, the Flyers got a 35-year-old.

Pronger has been, in the words of Will Ferrell, "scrumtrilescent" - meaning I can't think of an actual word to adequately describe how good he has been. For half of every game, the Flyers have a guy roaming the blue line who simply dominates.

Never mind that Lupul and Sbisa struggled this season. They could be All-Stars for the rest of their careers and the Pronger trade still would have been a good one.

After the Pronger trade came a less-noteworthy move: the signing of Blair Betts.

Betts, in his eighth NHL season, was so unwanted on the free-agent market that he started the preseason on a tryout contract and had to earn a roster spot.

But his prowess on the checking line and the penalty kill has been invaluable. Don't bother trying to tout any of his individual stats. The one that matters is that the Flyers are 46-26-5 with Betts in the lineup and 5-13-1 in games he has missed.

Holmgren's next big move was choosing a coach after firing John Stevens on Dec. 4. Instead of promoting assistant Craig Berube, as at least one Philadelphia newspaper reported at the time Holmgren would do, he hired Peter Laviolette. Laviolette had impressed him, of all times, in a prior interview for a minor-league coaching job.

Laviolette has made this team his own, installing an aggressive system that the players are mastering at the perfect time. He has them truly focused on one game at a time in the playoffs, rather than just saying that as many teams do.

Just 11 days after hiring Laviolette, Holmgren needed to pick up a backup goalie when Ray Emery - one move that didn't work out - went down with a serious injury. Enter Leighton, who was on waivers after being cut from the last-place Carolina Hurricanes.

Only Holmgren knows for sure whether he really saw something in the journeyman Leighton. But the move looks like pure genius right now as Leighton, a playoff rookie, has gone eight periods and counting without allowing a goal.

Finally, there was a trade so minor that it barely warranted a few paragraphs on the inside of The Press sports section on Feb. 7. Holmgren sent little-used seventh defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen to Detroit for a struggling former prospect, forward Ville Leino.

Leino didn't play much during the regular season but was forced into the lineup when Jeff Carter got hurt in the first round of the playoffs. Since then, he has 11 points in 10 games. He has found incredible chemistry with Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, helping form the Flyers' best line right now.

The Leino deal, like the Pronger trade, Betts signing and Laviolette hire, looks better and better each game.

None of the moves seemed at the time like they would become etched in Flyers lore, but now they're well on their way to just that.


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