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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Flyers’ Forwards: Team Toughness, Leino, Carter, Versteeg, etc.

Another big part of the Flyers’ off-season will be the re-signing of their forwards. Ville Leino, Dan Carcillo, Darroll Powe, Nikolai Zherdev, and Andreas Nodl will all be free-agents on July 1st, and the Flyers don’t have the cap space to accommodate all of them. Not all of them will be re-signed, especially with guys like Wellwood, Rinaldo, and Holmstrom hoping to crack the Flyers line-up during training camp. The forwards this year were arguably as deep as any other team, but they lacked execution during the second half of the season and could not seem to fully sync for more than a game at a time in the playoffs. There are a lot of options this off-season to fix the team, and many overlook the play of our forwards because of the goalie situation this playoff. But there definitely was something missing from our forward corps this season, so how can they fix it?
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The Defense

The Flyers defense was outstanding in the regular season. For most of it, their bottom pairing of Meszaros-O’Donnell led the league in plus-minus and helped shorten the minutes of Timonen and Pronger (when he played) after their heavy workload in 2009-2010. The Flyers head into this off-season with Timonen and Pronger needing the off-season to rehabilitate their injuries sustained during this season, and hopefully they’ll be 100% ready when next season starts. Meszaros, Carle, and Coburn are all locked up for next year at least, even though the potential for one of them to be moved is still there for cap reasons. O’Donnell did an admirable job for us, but I don’t see the Flyers re-signing him on July 1st. Same with Boynton, who was an insurance policy at the end of the year.

Matt Walker is buried in the minors, and I think he’ll stay there because of his $1.7 million cap hit when they could have AHL standouts Danny Syvret or Erik Gustafsson fill his spot. If the Flyers were to move on of their top defenders (probably Carle), then maybe they would sign a cheap free-agent or move Walker up to help the third pairing. Another thing we might be forgetting is that Oskars Bartulis has come a long way since he entered our organization, and should be ready to go this year after sustaining a season-ending injury late in the year. Bartulis and Syvret are likely the best candidates to fill the void left by O’Donnell, but will there be veteran to pair with them if Timonen and Pronger are not able to go come the start of the season? If the rosters stay the same, my pairings would be something like this:

Pronger-Timonen
Coburn-Meszaros
Carle-Bartulis/Syvret

I could also see switching Meszaros and Timonen and re-uniting Coburn and Timonen. But I really like the idea of a strong veteran pair and a physical mid-aged pair with great skating. That’s probably all fantasy though, because they’ll likely split Timonen and Pronger up. Syvret has more offensive skill than Bartulis while Bartulis has a slight height advantage. I personally haven’t seen enough of either to figure out which one works better, but I have always stood by the thought that Bartulis will be a solid 3rd pairing guy for us in the coming years. In my mind, Meszaros and Coburn are the mesh of our defensive corps and will become anchors when Timonen and Pronger are long gone. Of course, we will need some prospects like Bourdon, Hostetter, or Gustafsson to pan out, and probably some free-agent signings/trades. But that’s in the future. Timonen for another two seasons, Pronger is locked up for a while, and we have Coburn and Carle for next year. Meszaros has three years remaining on his contract, so our core is in place if everyone places to their potential and remains healthy.

As far as ability, it’s there. A few tweaks to fix our third pairing, limiting injuries, and execution should all equal another strong year defensively for us. If the goaltending issue is addressed, our defenders should even be stronger with more faith in a proven, new goaltender that can make timely saves to bail them out if need be.

 
 

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Salary Cap Issues and The Goaltending Dilemna: Part XXXXIV

The Flyers enter this off-season with a glaring need between the pipes. This may sound familiar, as the Flyers arguably have never had a definite answer/solution to their goaltending problem since Pelle Lindbergh’s death. Two decades without a true number one goalie, and the Flyers have lost two Stanley Cup Finals, quite a few Conference Finals, and plenty of early first and second round exits. Previous Flyers teams have played strong defense, and always had depth at forward. Yet, they have not been able to get over the hump. Goaltending was not the only issue this season, and it did not ultimately send them packing in the second round. Although the Flyers played poorly in front of their goaltender, it’s hard to imagine that a better goalie would not have at least made things a little easier for the Flyers. Maybe steal a game or two, make some timely saves. The play of the goalies in question wasn’t terrible, but a team with confidence in themselves AND their net minder will be playing a lot better hockey than a team that is scared of their goalie giving up a soft goal (see: Flyers vs. Boston this year). The free agent market this summer has some good goalies whom the Flyers might want to take a look at. There are also trading options with plenty of young to middle-aged goalies playing behind established veterans. And then, there is the hope that Bobrovsky will magically become a number one in only his second NHL season. What do the Flyers do?

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What Went Wrong in 2011

Coming off an exceptional Stanely Cup Final run in 2010 that left them two wins short of glory, the Philadelphia Flyers were poised to make a return with a deeper defensive corps and experience from a deep run on their side. In the first half of the season, the Flyers were among the best in the league, actually holding down the top spot in the league for some time. They were beating some of the best teams in the league, and some of them pretty handily. They were getting strong defensive play, surprise goaltending from their rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, and Claude Giroux, Ville Leino, and Danny Briere were continuing their hot streak after an amazing playoff run. Fast forward to the end of March, and the Flyers still have a chance to lock up the #1 seed even after coasting through the second half of the season. After failing to beat some teams who were out of the playoff picture along with some divisional opponents, the Flyers finished the season as the #2 seed to face the seventh seeded red-hot Buffalo Sabres. This match-up had the hottest team from the first half of the season (Philly) playing the arguably hottest team in the second half (Buffalo). After a few games of musical goalies and physicality, the Flyers emerged victorious in a Game 7 demolishing of the Sabres. The Flyers apparently righted the ship, and were playing good hockey again. Until of course, they were utterly dominated (albeit Game 2) and got swept in the second round by a hungry and focused Boston Bruins team. So why did this team come up VERY short of its intended goal?
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Season Ends in Disappointment

To make the week of the Flyers getting swept by the Bruins, I was swamped in finals and had absolutely NO TIME to update the blog. I had a laundry list of things to say after attending Game 1, but due to my rigorous schedule I couldn’t get on a computer and talk about it. But here I am, school is done, the Flyers are done, and it’s summer break for me filled with work and enjoying the weather. The Flyers have a lot of questions to address this off-season, considering they were (supposedly) a deeper team this time around, yet fell WAY short of their expected exit. I think if the Flyers lost valiantly to the better team in a conference final or the cup finals, this pill would be a bit easier to swallow.

1. WTF do we do about goaltending?

2. How do we re-sign/replace all of our free agents?
(Leino, Zherdev, O’Donnell, Nodl, Carcillo, Powe, Boucher,Boynton)

3. Who do we dump in order to remedy our cap space that’s under $500,000? (About $430,000)

4. How will aging veterans Pronger and Timonen respond to their most recent injuries that both might require surgery?

The Flyers have a lot of options with free-agent goalies this off-season, and there are a good amount of young goalies on the market if the Flyers were looking to trade some of their bigger names in order to alleviate space and grab a goaltender until Bobrovsky can start. Signing free-agents is going to predicate on the cap space we have, and who we deem expendable. Timonen and Pronger, at this point, have until September/October-ish to get healthy. The window is closing for these guys.

I will be spending the next few weeks going more in-depth into these questions and preparing for free-agency, draft, and trades in the upcoming months.

 
 

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