Taking a look at virtually a brand new and young offense this offseason, I think it was safe to say many assumed the Flyers would be a middle-of-the-pack team, some cynics saying they'd be lucky to get themselves a playoff spot. I know it's still a young season, but 28 games in did anyone expect them to sit atop the Eastern Conference with 39 points already? Probably not. This team continues to excel. What is the reason they're still doing so well? Here are five reasons the Flyers have succeeded so far:
1. Claude Giroux
This guy has been on an absolute tear this season. He leads the league with 39 points, easily their best forward. Giroux has become a smarter player (which I'm sure Reason #2, Jaromir Jagr has been effective in that regard) and is more complete. He has been an effective replacement for Richards on the penalty kill and is a fearless player. Claude will take the body and is even willing to drop the gloves. He can read plays even better. Here's evidence from just the other night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WZThhGpASI
If he does not win any sort of trophy this year from the league, it would be pure robbery.
2. Jaromir Jagr
At 39 years old the idea of any player being able to be key to his team seems outrageous, but there is nothing outrageous about the fact that he is an essential to this year's lineup. With the whitewashing of the Flyers' offense this past offseason, Paul Holmgren needed to bring in someone who could make up for the points Richie and Carter put up. After seeing his preseason numbers, I was convinced he would be able to put up 65-70 points for the Flyers this season. So far, through 24 games, he is on pace to reach 82 points, which would be miraculous, for lack of a better word. Besides his point production, he serves as a mentor to the younger Flyers. His on-ice awareness just adds to his importance to this team.
3. Peter Laviolette
Yes, it takes the players on the ice to win but to get them organized to a team, that is left in the hands of the head coach. He was given the daunting task this offseason of congealing this new team together. 9 new forwards have seen ice time this year for the Flyers, as well as 3 defenders. Peter Laviolette has been able to get 20 skaters and a goalie to go out there every night and work together as a team. This just goes to show that you don't need 12 top forwards to win games. Peter Laviolette is responsible for this, and should be a Jack Adams Award finalist at the end of this year.
4. The Rookies
6 rookies have dressed for the Flyers this year. Matt Read from Bemidji State University has been an essential to this offense and easily one of the best forwards on the team. He has 11 goals and 19 points in 25 games this season.
Sean Couturier has been a fine addition to this team, and I think it's safe to say that between him and Voracek, the Flyers got the better end of the trade last June. He has been an excellent addition to the penalty kill.
Harry Z and Zac Rinaldo put a smile on every Flyer fan's face. They take full advantage of the time they get on the ice and put in the heart and determination every player should.
Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon are by no means ideal 3rd-pair defenders, however their play has not been as disappointing as some past 3rd pair defenders (see Bartulis and Parent). Obviously this is not what you want going into the playoffs but these guys have been decent substitutes.
5. Max Talbot
Ever since Ian Laperriere went down in April 2010, the Flyers have been looking for the penalty kill guy. The Blair Betts and Darroll Powe unit was almost as good but Max Talbot has greatly improved the defensive side of this team. Not to mention, he's scored more than his expectations permit him to, with 13 points in 28 games. Max Talbot is one of our most important forwards and is playing his money's worth.
I hope you enjoyed this article, sound off below. This article is based off of my opinion after watching hockey for 4 years. I invite you to disagree with me or teach me something knew I didn't know about. If you did enjoy this article though, stay tuned and I will soon give a further review of the season so far.