'Keith the Thief' was more than just a GM


'Keith the Thief' was more than just a GM

They called him “Keith the Thief.”

It was a title bestowed upon Keith Allen by the Philadelphia media in the 1970s and the Flyers general manager wore it with every bit of pride as that famous, flaming orange jacket that he insisted on being photographed in.

This is how Keith Allen, the greatest general manager in Flyers history, earned the nickname with these trades:

• Darryl Edestrand and Larry McKillop to Hershey for Barry Ashbee.

• Mike Walton to Boston for Rick MacLeish and Danny Schock.

• Serge Bernier, Jimmy Johnson and Bill Lesuk to Los Angeles for Bill Flett, Ed Joyal, Ross Lonsberry and Jean Potvin.

• Brent Hughes and Pierre Plante to St. Louis for Andre Dupont and a third-round pick.

• Potvin and a future player to the Islanders for Terry Crisp.

• A first-round pick and future considerations (Doug Favell) to Toronto for the rights to re-acquire Bernie Parent and a second-round pick.

• Larry Wright, Al MacAdam and a first-round pick to California for Reggie Leach.

And that’s just the trades.

We haven’t talked about the players he drafted. Such as Bill Barber, Bill Clement, Jimmy Watson and Tom Bladon.

Or the crucial checking-line free agent center he signed in Orest Kindrachuk.

Take a good look at the names above because just about every one of them formed the Flyers’ two Stanley Cup rosters in 1974 and 1975.

Oh, Allen also convinced club chairman Ed Snider to take a gamble on a very successful coach in the minor ranks named Fred Shero, who Snider admitted he had never heard of before the Flyers hired him in 1971 on pure “gut” instinct, Allen would later say.

“One of the best general managers of all time,” Bob Clarke said on Tuesday night upon hearing of Allen’s passing at the age of 90.

He had lived most of his retirement years in Florida and was especially fond of Marco Island.

Parent and Clarke may have been the two Flyers in history most responsible for the two Cups on the ice, but without question, Allen was the genius behind the scenes, willing to take risks and make judgment calls based on little more than first-hand accounts minus formal scouting reports.

What he left behind was the legacy upon which the Flyers built their hockey empire in Philadelphia.

He started with the Flyers even before they were officially awarded a franchise, coached the team through 1969-70, then succeeded Bud Poile as general manager.

As Flyer historian Jay Greenberg pointed out, in the 14 years Allen sat in the GM chair, seven of his clubs reached the league semifinals while amassing 100 points. Meanwhile, 13 of his players would appear in the Cup Final.

“Keith Allen always found a way to bring exceptional talent to Broad Street and weave it into the fabric of a team that would succeed and endure at the highest level, because in Philadelphia, for his Flyers and their fans, no other level was acceptable,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

“The National Hockey League sends heartfelt condolences to Keith's family, to his friends and to the Flyers organization, which has lost one of its patriarchs.”

Allen was elected to the NHL Hall of Fame’s “Builders Category” in 1992.

“Keith was the first coach in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers and a man for whom I have tremendous respect,” Snider said.

“In my mind, he was and always will be one of the greatest general managers in the history of hockey. He was known as 'Keith the Thief.' I never knew of a bad deal he made.

“This team would never have reached the level of success we have had over the past 48 years if it were not for Keith.”

Funny thing is, every player who played for him, idolized him.

“Keith was one of those men you rarely come across who was fatherly, grandfatherly to all of us players and families,” Clarke said. “And yet was tough enough and strong enough to do the things that were necessary so that we had the right players to win a Stanley Cup.

“Every player who ever played under his leadership liked Keith. Everybody traded liked Keith. One of the few men in hockey, and maybe the only man, who everybody liked. Didn’t have a person who disliked him in the world. A wonderful, wonderful man.”

His personality was such that Allen often referred to the beat reporters covering his team as “his boys.”

In the formative years leading up to and surpassing the Flyers' two Cups, Allen developed close personal bonds with those who covered his team. They weren’t house men, but Allen treated them like insiders.

“Come to the bar, boys, we’ve got something to talk about,” he would say as the beat reporters joined him.

On more than one occasion, Allen would talk about the team and potential moves he might make, with the understanding it was off the record.

You don’t find that kind of trust among GMs and reporters these days, but it existed back then.

Quite simply, Keith Allen was a man who trusted himself and his judgment about people in and even around the game of hockey, above all else.

It’s why the Flyers won and were able to create a legacy of winning that endures to this day.

Report: Flyers, Kevin Hayes closing in on 7-year contract

Report: Flyers, Kevin Hayes closing in on 7-year contract

It appears Kevin Hayes is nearing a payday and Chuck Fletcher is close to getting his guy.

Hayes and the Flyers are closing in on a seven-year, $50 million contract, according to a report Tuesday night by TSN's Bob McKenzie. That would be an average of $7.14 million per season.

Per Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fletcher said Tuesday night: "We are still working on things. I'm hopeful we'll get it done."

If it gets done under the reported terms, it's a hefty contract.

It shows you how much the Flyers' general manager wants Hayes, who projects to be the team's second-line center. For some context, Sean Couturier is making $4.3 million a season. James van Riemsdyk, a two-time 30-goal scorer, is making $7 million a season.

But when you have $30 million in cap space and you're looking to get better significantly and quickly, you make a splash and this would qualify as one.

Hayes, a 6-foot-5, 216-pound forward, is 27 years old, scored a career-high 25 goals in 2017-18 and a career-best 55 points this past season. That doesn't exactly meet or warrant the reported terms of the contract, but the Flyers are clearly projecting and believe his prime years are ahead. They also wanted to do their best in preventing Hayes from testing the free-agent market, starting June 23.

The Flyers traded for his rights on June 3, sending a 2019 fifth-round pick to the Jets. Without a deal, Hayes will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Hayes, who played under Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault from 2014-18 in New York, is a smart and responsible two-way forward. The Flyers want more of those qualities after putting up a minus-37 goal differential and allowing the NHL's third-most goals per game at 3.41 in 2018-19.

"There are not a lot of centermen in the marketplace and Kevin is a quality hockey player," Fletcher said last week. "He plays a strong 200-foot game. He's a guy who can play both specialty teams. He's familiar with our coach and our coach is familiar with him. So, we just thought it made sense to try to get ahead of it.

"He plays well away from the puck. He understands the game. He has hockey sense. He can contribute offensively. We gave up 281 goals last year, we have to get better. We have to have more players that play a strong 200-foot game. I'd like to improve the penalty kill. Having depth through the middle of the ice will make us harder to play against."

Fletcher has been busy, reshaping the Flyers' defense. Now it's time to lock up Hayes, his strategy all along.

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More on the Flyers

2019 NHL draft profile: 'Elite skater' Philip Broberg could help Flyers restock on defense

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2019 NHL draft profile: 'Elite skater' Philip Broberg could help Flyers restock on defense

The 2019 NHL entry draft is Friday and Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia. General manager Chuck Fletcher, assistant general manager Brent Flahr and the Flyers hold the 11th overall pick and eight selections in total.

"This draft's a little unique," Flahr said last week. "Especially in the top 15, there are a number of different types of players, which is interesting — some power wingers, some smaller scoring wingers, some centermen, there's a number of D, a goaltender.

"We've identified probably five or six guys that we think have a chance to be there at 11 and probably some of the other teams in front of us will dictate that. But we're really confident we're going to get a good player."

This week, we are breaking down options for the Flyers at No. 11.

Philip Broberg

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 200
Shoots: Left
Team: AIK

Scouting report

Watch video clips of Broberg and he will wow you with his skating. He looks like an NHL forward the way he uses his powerful stride to singlehandedly push the puck up ice and create plays in the offensive zone.

The Swede is considered a top-three defenseman in the draft because of his impressive size and polished skating. He has a super high ceiling and played 41 games at the pro level in his home country, scoring nine points (two goals, seven assists).

"Good size, elite skater, played with men all year, so I don't think he had the best year statistically when you watch him, but he had a real strong April tournament," Flahr said. "He has a physical package that's really intriguing for a lot of teams. He's an NHL player, for sure. Whether he has the upside offensively as some of the others, maybe not, but he's going to be a terrific player."

Fit with Flyers

If Broberg is available at No. 11, don't be surprised to see the Flyers take him. Flahr and Fletcher emphasized drafting upside over anything else in the first round, while the Flyers have goals to replenish the organizational depth at defensemen.

With a forward-heavy top half of the first round, there's a good chance the Flyers will have an opportunity to take the second or third defenseman in the draft. Flahr said the Flyers have a couple of blueliners ranked in their top 10.

Broberg's upside would be a welcomed addition to the Flyers' prospect pool, which has steadily seen a promising crop of defensemen graduate to the big club.

More on the 2019 NHL draft

• Flyers take one of draft's best D-men in this 1st-round mock

Trading No. 11 pick? Draft dynamic? That and more here

• Flyers like 'unique' winger Boldy as option for No. 11 overall pick

• Impressive playmaking center Krebs could be there for Flyers at No. 11

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