Hockey is back everyone! I know that I cannot wait to see the new-look Flyers this season, as the front office made a conscious effort to fix the issues that plagued through the tail end of last season, and which eventually led to their early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Though many fans are probably still reeling over the losses of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, and others, I am putting the past behind me, and seriously looking forward to seeing some fresh faces and a new mentality from this Flyers team. Following a statement by the Flyers front office that they would not let goaltending plague them any longer, they went out and got the most highly sought goaltender on the market in Ilya Bryzgalov. With this move, the Flyers go from having one of the more questionable goaltending tandems in hockey to perhaps the best (let’s not forget about Bob).
In addition to Bryz, the acquisitions of Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds bring youth, skill, and grit to the Flyers, as both players will be top six forwards on their new team, a they will join Danny Briere on the second line. In addition, Max Talbot brings several intangibles that will most likely make Flyers fans instantly fall in love with this once hated Penguin. Perhaps the biggest surprise out of camp has been 18 year old rookie Sean Couturier, who has played brilliantly both on offense and penalty killing assignments. Couturier has apparently made the 23 man roster, this is perhaps why the Flyers felt it was ok to waive penalty killing specialist Blair Betts, who was claimed by the Montreal Canadiens this afternoon. However, Flyers other heralded rookie, Brayden Schenn, looks to be headed to the AHL, as an unhealthy preseason and salary cap issues have forced the Flyers to need a better look at Schenn before promoting him. I don’t think Schenn will have a long stay in the minors, but it does save the Flyers a little over $1 million in cap space if he does not play in all 82 games this season.
What I am most excited for this season is the likely emergence of my favorite Flyer, James van Riemsdyk. I am all in on JVR this year, as he absolutely dominated in the postseason last year, and he will now be receiving top line minutes, with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr. To say this line is scary is an understatement, as Jagr looked superb in the preseason and called this team’s superstar, Claude Giroux, a “mini-Lemieux”. The huge question for Jagr of course, is whether or not he can hold up for a full NHL season, and that’s something I think the Flyers will monitor as an organization. I feel that Jagr will be fine, as he has been working extremely hard on and office the ice, and seems to have a new outlook now that he is in a Flyers uniform.
Some other Flyers that impressed in preseason and seem to be making the 23 man roster are Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, and Matt Walker. Jaromir Jagr needs only 42 points to surpass Joe Sakic for 8th all time on the NHL scoring list. Jody Shelley will miss the first 5 games of the season due to suspension. Ian Lapperiere will most likely be put on the LTIR list.
To wrap things up, in a tough division and conference, we will have to see how the new faces on the Flyers pan out throughout the course of the season, but I definitely think the Flyers are a team that will be in the playoffs and will earn a top 5 spot in the division, as they will finish with between 90 and 100 points. Though they have lost a few big scorers, the Flyers now have a rock in net, a new attitude, and a ton of young talent and depth that could absolutely surprise the NHL this season.
LET’S GO FLYERS!
Projected 23 Man Roster:
Forwards: JVR, Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Danny Briere, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Scott Hartnell, Zac Rinaldo, Max Talbot, Andreas Nodl, Jody Shelley, and Ian Laperriere.
Defense: Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Walker, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Carle, and Andreas Lilja.
Goalies: Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky.