How nice is it to be a Flyers fan nowadays? At the All-Star break last season, the Flyers were sitting with 27 points and in the midst of a January where they accumulated four points - yep, four. The O&B were well on there way to the most futile season in the franchise's history. Oh, how times have changed.
So far, 2007-2008 has seen our club return to - at the very least - respectability, with the possibility of so much more. As a Flyers fan, it seems like the O&B is right back where it belongs; and full credit needs to be given to the entire organization for the complete and utter u-turn it has made from last year's debacle. To me, though, this isn't the year that has me excited. Don't get me wrong, I love what I have seen from the Flyers so far this year. What gets me giddy is thinking about the future of this club, and it got me thinking about what the roster may look in 3-5 years:
We might as well start with the obvious one - the future captain. Mike Richards has consistently been hailed as the organization's 21st century Bobby Clarke, and he has been delivering this season. He has turned into that all-around player that every team covets. He's the guy that does everything, he's the heart and soul. His counterpart from 2003's first round, Jeff Carter, is turning into a very nice player in his own respect. He is playing more and more in specialty situations, and continues to put up more points. Danny Briere will of course be around in a few years from now, and while I have been slightly disappointed with Danny so far, I really do believe that he will continue to put up points and contribute offensively for years to come. RJ Umberger is another guy that I think has grown by leaps and bounds this year. He's also a player that plays well in almost any game situation and will only get better. On the wings, we will have current Flyers Gagne, Lupul, Downie, Hartnell and possibly Upshall. Also available are ocassional call-ups Ryan Potulny and Stefan Ruzicka. They could be joined by guys in the system like James vanReimsdyk, Claude Giroux, Andreas Nodl, Patrick Maroon, and Mario Kempe. After watching JVR play in the World Juniors, I am pretty excited to see this kid play in the O&B in a few years. He needs to fill out and grow into his body a bit, but I don't think that his skill can be questioned. I have also seen Nodl play a few times this year and am pretty fired up about his possibilities as well. He's the type of guy that handles the puck so well in traffic and always seems to be at the right place, and then is able to bury his chances.
If this season is any indication of what Kimmo Timonen will bring for the remainder of his contract, that is a pretty good start on the blueline. Coupled with current Flyers Braydon Coburn and Randy Jones, it seems like the defensive side will be ok. Current Phantoms Ryan Parent, Oskars Bartulis and Alexandre Picard will have to step it up to help solidify the defense, but by all accounts, they have looked solid at the AHL level. Also on the horizon could be Kevin Marshall and Joonas Lehtivuori.
It is pretty hard for me to say anything overly optomistic about the Flyer's goaltending situation. I am not sold on either of the current goaltenders in Nitty or Marty, and in 3-5 years we could definitely be looking for a replacement. It sure doesn't sound like any of the current Phantom goalies are solid NHL prospects at this point. Jakub Kovar did play for the Czech team in the World Juniors but has struggled in the OHL so far this year. If there is any position where the organization is struggling, it's in net. Some things never change, I guess.
When you start thinking about the future for the Flyers organization, it's pretty hard not to get fired up. Between the current group of NHL stars in Briere, Gagne and Timonen, to the young emerging stars that are starting to succeed at the NHL level in Richards, Carter and Coburn, and the stars of the future in Giroux, Nodl and Parent, it is (once again) good to be a Flyers fan.
Thanks for reading my first attempt at the world of blogs!