Can’t believe it has been almost a month since I posted on here. Went away a few times and have been busy working this summer, and there hasn’t been much in the way of news since my last post. I try to steer away from reporting straight-up news on here because there are plenty other sites that have press credentials and can report a lot quicker and more often than I can. I like to keep it about my thoughts and analysis on the state of the team, their moves, and things I think should happen. That being said, after the activity of the Flyers this off-season, I think it is safe to say that we’re in for a fun season. On paper this team may not seem as ready to succeed as last year, but I don’t think there will be a time where watching this team with young talent will be boring… and we should rarely see them not show up to games ready to play.
Not to shortchange the impact of Richards, Carter, Leino, Powe, and others last season, but the organization taking a new direction and with different faces and a new guy wearing the ‘C’, it should help keep the team motivated throughout the year. The Flyers seemed complacent last year after continuing their playoff success into the following regular season. The team remained largely un-changed sans the departure of Simon Gagne and the addition of Andrej Meszaros, and I think in the end it cost them the motivation required to play hard every night and work towards the ultimate goal.
If I were to pick lines right now without seeing anything in training camp, they would look something like this:
(Lilja filling in sometimes)
These are all assuming that Pronger will be ready to go at the start of the season and Brayden Schenn makes the team. It is my hope that Giroux can find some chemistry with Jagr, and that Van Riemsdyk can become a first line player. Voracek and Hartnell should be able to make room for Briere, and Schenn can grow into his role playing on the third line with Simmonds and Nodl/Talbot. Nodl may be better suited to play a fast, aggressive game with younger guys on the third line, and Talbot can be effective on the fourth line just as well; at wing or center. I’d also like to see Sestito take Shelley’s space on the fourth line because he brings more to the table as far as skating ability and youth for a much smaller cap hit. The Flyers stand now with less than $200,000 in cap space and will need to make room for emergency use during the season. Shelley’s locker room presence is a big plus, and I don’t know if Holmgren will be willing to waive/demote him with such a young forward corps. If the Flyers can get Lappy on IR, it would definitely give them breathing room.
Defensively, they are pretty much set in stone as long as Pronger and Timonen are ready to go come October. I’m not sure about my pairings, but I think Meszaros deserves top-four minutes and has to with the way he played last season. He sure as hell proved me wrong after I was belly-aching about his cap hit. Carle may very well play with Pronger as he usually did, but I’m not the coach. Maybe rotate Timonen down to cut his minutes during the season? Coburn and Carle will become RFA’s next season, and I’m leaning towards thinking they are more likely to retain Coburn because of his speed, size, and grit he brings to the table over Carle. It would not surprise me if Carle is dealt at the trade deadline or the end of the season. Lilja will see limited time if Gustafsson or Bartulis can solidify a roster spot. Gustafsson makes more than either Lilja or Bartulis, and the Flyers have barely enough cap space to keep him on the roster if they send Bartulis or Lilja down.
The penalty kill will likely consist of the forwards Talbot, Betts, Nodl, Giroux, maybe even Simmonds. But that will be a discussion for another time when the season starts, along with powerplay looks. I definitely expect the first two lines I listed to be similar to the powerplay units come this fall. Goaltending is a no-brainer. You don’t sign a guy for nine years and not have him start (unless you’re the Islanders).
In my next post, I will be talking about the possible candidates to replace Mike Richards as next year’s captain.