Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010-2011 Philadelphia Flyers Preview

Last Year's Results

41 wins, 35 losses, 6 OTL, 88 points, 14th overall in the league

Team Analysis

The Broad Street Bullies have consistently been one of the powerhouse teams in the league since the team's inception in 1967 and have only missed the playoffs once in the last fifteen years. The Flyers are entering the year after a miracle run to the finals. The Flyers were lucky last year to sign former Stanley Cup winning head coach Peter Laviolette mid-season who saved the ship that was sinking under former coach John Stevens. The Flyers are a very well balanced team boasting one of the best forward and defense groups but they still lack that franchise netminder which has been the number one problem in Philly since the departure of Ron Hextall over a decade ago. The Flyers enter the season as one of the premiere teams in the league but with serious questions in net.

Leading down the middle is Flyers captain Mike Richards who's evolved into one of the best players in the game. Richards is a gritty two-way center who will contribute a point per game while displaying a keen defensive acumen. Richards is the absolute personification of what a hockey player should be while being only 25-years old with the potential to get even better.. The Flyers are extremely lucky to have another premiere 25-year old center in Jeff Carter who's become one of the most consistent goal scorers in the league. Carter may get significant time on Richards' wing this season as the Flyers have so much offensive depth they can afford to have their two best offensive players together. Likely getting significant time on the first line will be former second overall pick 21-year old James van Riemsdyk who had a respectable 35 point campaign in his rookie debut last year. JVR boasts excellent size and plays a strong power forward game in front of the net. it seems very likely that this will be the break out season for the young American power forward.

Daniel Briere was a force of nature in the playoffs last year. The small scoring forward was the target of ridicule and loathing by the Philly Faithful for his large contract contrasting his place on the depth chart. However the critics turned into believers when Briere scored 30 points in 23 games and spearheaded arguably the best line of the post-season. Briere will be entering the season as the Flyers' second line center showing elite offensive instincts but stricken at times with inconsistency. Playing on Briere's line will be Scott Hartnell who also had a fantastic post-season. Hartnell is the embodiment of a Philadelphia Flyer with his gritty approach to the game and a high penalty minutes count. Hartnell is one of those rare players who will consistently score 40 points while notching 100 penalty minutes every season. Completing this line will be 26-year old surprise Ville Leino who was quickly approaching bust territory before coming out of nowhere to score 21 points in 19 games in the playoffs. Leino is a tough player to project as his post-season performance last year was such an aberration in comparison to the rest of his North American hockey career. Leino will be a fantastic complimentary scorer if he can maintain the magic he found for himself in the post-season but I remain skeptical. Look for Leino to bounce around the Flyers depth chart this season.

Claude Giroux is yet another talented player who arrived to prominence last year after being developed in the Flyers' system. The 22-year old former 22nd overall pick displays flashes of creative brilliance in the offensive zone but still lacks polish to his game. Giroux was another post-season warrior scoring 21 points in 23 games in a complimentary role. The Flyers made a strange move signing former NHL defector Nikolai Zherdev from the KHL this season. The 25-year old former fourth overall pick is stereotypical Eastern European skill winger in that he oozes offensive skill but lacks the work ethic or polish in his game to fully utilize his innate abilities. Look for Zhedrev to bounce all over the top three lines for Philly. Also likely to bounce around the depth chart is agitating winger Daniel Carcillo who's another classic Flyers player. The agitating winger has embraced his role as the Flyers' villian and has the ability to enrage the opposing team. Carcillo also offers a respectable two-way game but would be a better player if he wasn't so focused on being a pest. 

Rounding out the Flyers' forwards group is Blair Betts who will be the de facto defensive center on the fouth line. Depth forwards Darroll Power and Andreas Nodl will likely get significant time on the wings on the fourth line. Recent UFA signee and veteran enforcer Jody Shelley will bring his fists to Philly for 50 something games this year. Gritty grinder Ian Laperriere's career is in doubt as he's facing serious PCS and remains "sidelined indefinitely." 

The Flyers achieved an absolute coup acquiring arguably the best defenseman in the game trading for Chris Pronger last season. Pronger was born to be a Flyer with his hard nosed approach to the game and his in your face physical play. Pronger will once again be among the top names in statistical categories for defensemen and hall of famer when he retires. The Flyers are fortunate to have another legit number one defeseman in Kimmo Timonen who's been on of the most consistent point producers from the blue line through his career. Timonen will likely anchor the second pairing with Pronger on the first.

The Flyers made two absolute steals to acquire two premiere young defensemen. Braydon Coburn has had difficulty living up to his eighth overall status but blossomed under Laviolette in the second half of the season last year. Coburn is a big bodied defenseman who can play a respectable game in all three zones while occasionally displaying a mean streak. The 25-year old Coburn has been used primarily as a shutdown defenseman has shown the potential to be more. It will be interesting to see how Coburn fares this season as it could be a career defining campaign for him. Matt Carle had one of the best seasons of his career scoring 35 points and playing excellent hockey last year. The 26-year old offensive defenseman has absolutely excelled in Philly as Pronger's defensive partner and will once again see significant offensive minutes in the Flyers' top four. 

The Flyers made a pair of strange trades this off-season bringing in two defensemen from Tampa Bay. Andrej Meszaros looked to be on his way to becoming a premiere offensive defenseman in the league before becoming a train wreck in a bad situation in Tampa Bay. 24-year old Meszaros stands a decent chance of having a bounce back season in a premiere system like Philadelphia but it's going to be hard to shake the two years of hockey hell in Tampa Bay. The Flyers also acquired physical defensive defenseman Matt Walker from the Lightning. Walker is a gritty big bodied presence who's not afraid to protect teammates but lacks the skill to be much more than a depth defender. The acquisition is particularly puzzling as it pushes Philly right to the edge of the cap. The Flyers signed 38-year old training camp invitee Sean O'Donnell this pre-season. The long time vet offers a gritty defensive oriented game and veteran leadership. O'Donnell will be a fixture on the Flyers' bottom pairing but is beginning to grind down from nearly two decades of professional hockey. 23-year old Oskars Bartulis will look to factor into the Flyers' lineup as a depth defenseman. 

Now here's where this article gets interesting. The trades with Tampa Bay are even more perplexing in that Philly already had one of the best defenses in the league yet are absolutely woeful in net. 29-year old Michael Leighton has bounced around the league as a reserve and AHL goaltender before exploding out of nowhere at the perfect time for Philly after a string of injuries brought him to the starting role last season. Leighton's performance last year is one of the stranger abberations in my memory and it seems unlikely he'll be able to duplicate his fantastic numbers from last season. However the Flyers will look to him to be their 1A entering the season. Leighton unfortunately suffered a back injury in training camp and will be out for the first month of the season. This has opened the door for another long time backup who's bounced around the league Brian Boucher to get the starting job heading into the season. Boucher has been one of the most perplexing goalies through his career going through stretches where he's the best goalie in the world to stretches where he's the worst goalie in the world. Boucher will likely consistentally be the 1B through the season but the consistency of his play remains in question. The real wildcard of Philly's netminders is 22-year old Sergei Bobrovsky who was signed out of the KHL this season and already is something of a fan favorite among the Flyers faithful. Bobrovski has distinguished himself in international competition while achieving excellent numbers on a god awful KHL team. It's this writer's opinion that Bobrovsky is the most talented netminder in the Philly system but may endure some mid-air turbulence adapting to the North American game. Due to Leighton's injury and a fantastic training camp Bob is entering the season as the backup to Boucher who's consistency we've already discussed. Keep your eyes on this kid as he has huge sleeper potential at the time of this writing.

Team Trending

The Flyers have a heck of a team this season with a top five offense and defense. The Flyers also are finally in the hands of a capable coach who coaxed an incredible performance out of this group last season. However the Flyers still have some serious questions in net. The Flyers will be a regular season  powerhouse but must prove that their key players can repeat their success from last year's post-season. Look for the Flyers to come in somewhere between 3rd-7th in the league and potentially be a cup favorite if one of their three goalies can get hot again at the right time.

BVB's Projected Opening Night Lineup

van Riemsdyk-Richards-Carter



Player Projections


James van Riemsdyk - 24 G/36 A 60 P
Mike Richards - 34 G/50 A 84 P
Jeff Carter - 45 G/40 A 85 P

Scott Hartnell - 25 G/25 A 50 P
Daniel Briere - 28 G/33 A 61 P
Ville Leino - 15 G/16 A 31 P

Dan Carcillo - 10 G/16 A 26 P
Claude Giroux - 21 G/33 A 54 P 
Nikolai Zherdev - 23 G/27 A 50 P

Jody Shelley - 1 G/6 A 7 P
Blair Betts - 5 G/10 A 15 P
Darroll Powe - 8 G/8 A 16 P


Chris Pronger - 12 G/40 A 52 P
Matt Carle - 5 G/30 A 35 P
Kimmo Timonen - 6 G/38 A 44 P
Braydon Coburn - 6 G/20 A 26 P
Andrej Meszaros - 5 G/19 A 24 P
Sean O'Donnell - 2 G/10 A 12 P
Matt Walker - 0 G/6 A 6 P 


Michael Leighton - 20-12-3 | 2.78 GAA | .908 Sv%
Brian Boucher - 5-9-1 | 3.10 GAA | .896 Sv%
Sergei Bobrovski - 19-11-2 | 2.63 GAA | .913 Sv%

1 comment:

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