The Philadelphia Flyers will be fighting all of their Metropolitan Division opponents this hockey year in an effort to return to the playoffs. Will that battle and a roster filled with questions dash hopes for a renewed playoff push?
Last season is gone
Peter Laviolette’s 2012-13 shortened-season squad was beset by far too many injuries and a lack of roster depth. Both factors prevented a legitimate chance at the postseason play.
Ilya Bryzgalov and Danny Briere each received their amnesty papers in the off-season and are now mere memories.
While ‘Bryz’ showed flashes of consistency, he wasn’t able to play at the level the Flyers hoped that he’d be able to maintain when they traded for him and subsequently signed him to a massive contract in the summer of 2011. With all emotion removed from the equation, it’s fair to say that Bryzgalov didn’t fit into the Flyers’ scheme and the defense that played in front of him was hardly stellar.
‘Danny B’ turned out to be a fine free agent addition over his six orange and black seasons. Clearly the team’s best playoff performer, Briere was energized by the bright lights. Even though he’s about to turn 36 (October 6), this veteran forward should help the Montreal Canadiens this season.
The late-season addition of Steve Mason and the off-season re-acquisition of Ray Emery gives the Flyers the lowest-paid goaltending tandem in the National Hockey League. Considering that both men are playing in contract years, appear to be healthy and were effective last year, Philadelphia might have struck the right chord in their realigned crease.
The additions of Tampa Bay Lightning icon Vincent Lecavalier (33) and former New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit (35) add needed veteran leadership and offensive potential. While it’s risky to assume that any hockey player in his 30’s can be counted on to produce at the levels he did in recent seasons, or even last season, it’s reasonable to believe that both players should fit Laviolette’s ice vision on a nightly basis.
Captain Claude Giroux and forwards Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek stand as a strong top line. Obviously, Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Max Talbot also remain key cogs in what was and could again be, a balanced set of four forward lines.
Behind the blue line every D-man simple needs to do one thing: Stay as healthy as is realistically possible. No team can survive if they face as many health-related issues as these pairings did last year.
There’s no reason to mention the name of any specific defensive player within this group. As long as the overwhelming majority of these blue line men are seen on the ice for most of the season, both the goal line and the front lines have the potential to be stable and productive.
Hedging playoff pick
There are 16 teams in the NHL’s revamped Eastern Conference, as compared to the 14 teams in the Western Conference, this season. Eight teams will qualify for the playoffs from each Conference, making the task tougher within the Flyers’ realm.
With multiple question marks digitally dotting their roster and a more challenging road to postseason access likely pre-paved, it’s not going to be easy for the Flyers to print playoff tickets. At this point, the odds of being able to do so are no more than 50-50.
Sean O’Brien worked in the front office for the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A team that formerly was located in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and later became a print sports writer. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his blog Insight.
Additional features from this author include:
5 Stunning Old School Philadelphia Flyers’ Trades
5 Traits Old School Philadelphia Flyers’ Fans Possess
Philadelphia Flyers: Ron Hextall Returns For Another Stanley Cup Run
Philadelphia Sports: Why Richie Ashburn and Bernie Parent Are Equally Revered
The Mystery Behind These 1970s’ Topps Hockey Cards is Revealed