There is nothing better than the start of hockey season. The Flyers face off tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes to start their season. As discussed many times, the Flyers made a flurry of trades and moves designed to bolster their team. In fact, some major hockey publications are selecting the Flyers as the eventual Stanley Cup champions. I wouldn’t go that far, yet. We haven’t seen them play, nor have we seen these Flyers develop an always win mentality. I hope it pans out, but I think there are many variables.
The goalie situation in Philadelphia has not been stable since Ron Hextall manned the pipes. This year, the Flyers start the year with Ray Emery and Brian Boucher as their primary goaltenders. Both of their contracts are salary cap friendly and they both have a lot to prove. Emery has had a tumultuous past with his former teammates and with the police. He needs to have a great and behaved year to get his career and life back on track. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren took a large chance handing the starting job over to Ray Emery. If it works out – Holmgren is a genius. If it doesn’t, we can all kiss this season goodbye. One thing Emery has going for him is the defense.
I don’t think that you can find very many teams in the NHL with a better top four defensemen than the Flyers have. With the addition of Chris Pronger to Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle and Ryan Parent, the Flyers defense should provide protection in front of the net, skills on the power play and provide some offensive puck movement. The offense is going to greatly benefit from this backline unit.
With the core of the Flyers, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell coming off career seasons, the sky is the limit. A healthy Danny Briere added to youngsters James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux and Darrell Powe. Simon Gagne, should he remain healthy, will get his standard allotment of points. Interestingly, the Flyers added proven penalty killers and checkers, Blair Betts and Ian LaPierrere. These two guys should take a significant burden off of Mike Richards as the lead penalty killer. Richards then should be able focus on his excellent two way 5 on 5 play and leading the top power-play unit. Even better, the Flyers are only going to have to dress one of Riley Cote, Aaron Asham or Dan Carcillo. This will allow the Flyers to have more skilled players on the ice.
Finally, the Flyers learned their salary lessons from a year-ago. By putting Randy Jones on waivers and sending him to the Phantoms, they freed up his cap space allowing them to keep the young players on the roster and leave room for an emergency call-up or if they want to make a trade. Also, it would prevent them from having to pull the Scottie Upshall trade of 2009-2010.
PhilaTude’s take on the Flyers season – they will win games, but I am still concerned about the intensity around this team and their ability to stay out of the penalty box. If they can reduce the penalties and show a desire to play tough for wins, watch out, because this team has talent.