What a run!
I have kind of avoided writing about the Flyers during the 2010 playoffs. I have limited the current content. This team and Chicago were the popular picks to play in the Finals before the season started. The Blackhawks played great all year and deserve congratulations for their season and Cup win! Enjoy the silver Chicago. It is truly the hardest championship in sports! Remember that the Flyers had injuries and played poorly for long stretches to create a truly underachieving season. They were the last team to qualify for the playoffs on the last day of the season. How many Flyers fans were excited to see them HAVE to win a shootout to get in? Count me in the doubting column on that one. The shootout record of the Flyers is dismal since the shootout showed up. The nice part was the Philly took advantage of the opportunity and quickly dismissed the Devils. Then promptly lost 3 straight to Boston when we all doubted them again! Then of course they made history by ripping off 3 straight wins before playing awful in game 7 during the first 15 minutes to be down 3-0. Back to doubting when wham they really turned their game on to dominate the rest of the way and win the series. Then they were the underdogs to the Canadians after Montreal dispatched both Washington and Pittsburgh who were the 2 best teams in the East all year! But Philly leveraged its strengths against Montreal to really dominate 4 of the 5 games. However in what was a very evenly matched Final, the Blackhawks just outplayed Philly at the right times to win the Cup.
The problem in pro sports now is the business never ends. So after what was truly an unexpected run by the Flyers to a point where they were 2 games from the Cup, what is next? Let’s examine the players by position to see where the team stands for the 2010-2011 Flyers team.
The following players are Unrestricted Free Agents: Arron Asham, Lukas Krajicek, Michael Leighton, Ray Emery, and Mike Rathje (thank God –what a waste that guy was and why he didn’t retire I have no idea)! Restricted Free Agents are Braydon Coburn, Dan Carcillo, Ryan Parent, Darroll Powe, and Danny Syvret.
Centers: Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, and Blair Betts. Of this group only Blair Betts must play center. During the past season all have played on the wing. I think that during the playoffs it was shown that Briere is 100% more effective in the middle. I will list my suggested lines at the end of this post.
Wingers: Simon Gagne, Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino, James vans Riemsdyk, Ian Laperriere. The crazy thing is that most of these guys could play in a left wing on the top line. Nice scoring depth.
Defense: Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle and Oskars Bartulis.
Goaltenders: Brian Boucher is the only NHL goalie signed for next year.
So that puts the Flyers with 10 forwards, 4 defensemen and 1 goalie signed for next year. This means that they must add or resign at least 2 forwards, 2 defensemen, and 1 goalie.
My suggested moves
Resign Leighton, Asham, Coburn and Syvret. This leaves the competition open for a winger and defensemen for the opening roster. Why do I suggest these moves? Asham is the perfect complement to the team. He can play with skilled players, can provide toughness and does not complain about his role. Coburn had a bad year but really played well again with Timonen in the playoffs. If they can pay him as a solid #4 defenseman keep him. Leighton is 28 and looks to have “figured the game out”. He is big, competitive, and has a calm demeanor. He is the perfect fit for a highly paid team in front of him. Also resign Backlund and let him dominate at the AHL one season then he will be ready for the NHL in 2011-12. Syvret looks to be defensemen in the mold of the smaller puck moving guys. As a 3rd pair guy, he has a lot of skill. This allows Powe, Carcillo, Krajicek and Emery to look around – if you can resign Powe or Carcillo at 4th line money take it. If Emery is healthy and can play, I would sign him to prove his durability at the AHL level. He was great while he played.
So what does this do to potential lines combinations? The givens are that Betts and Briere must play center to be ultimately effective. Of the others, I really feel with training camp and coaching that Jeff Carter can become a really effective scoring winger. He just needs to be healthy when the switch is made and having 2 recently broken feet does not equal healthy. Finally Giroux is a center.
Carter – Richards – Gagne
Switch the wings to put them both on the off wing. It puts their forehands on the wall in the defensive zone where they can skate away with puck control. It also puts Carter’s lethal shot off the left wing wall in the offensive zone. Just think of Ovechkin coming off the wall and having Carter come off the left side and ripping his wrist shot all year. This group will force teams to really concentrate on stopping the talent on this line. All 3 guys can dominate offensively and will command the best defense pair against them all year.
Hartnell – Briere – Leino
A great mix of skill, speed and power as both Hartnell and Leino control the walls while Leino and Briere can both provide pure stick handling skill and shots. If they perform like in the playoffs, this line will cause problems as a 2nd line all year! This group showed that it is a formidable combination and dominated against even top defense pairs.
JVR – Giroux – Asham
If a young player makes the team on the wing, I would add him to this line and drop Asham to the 4th line. But Asham is a favorite of mine since he can do a little of everything. He could not kill penalties, but he is tough, skilled, and passionate. He could provide a net presence on the power play if others are hurt or missing. Giroux and JVR will benefit greatly from both raising their play during the playoffs. I do not think they are both ready for superstar status yet, but there are flashes there. I would hate to have to match against this 3rd line for long stretches. If you pay too much attention to these guys, the top 2 lines will kill you if you ignore them, just remember that Claude has MAD SKILLS and will make 3rd pair guys look foolish!
Laperriere – Betts – someone
I would not be unhappy with resigning either Powe or Carcillo for this role. This is a great energy 4th line as they can all kill penalties and provide a cycling presence in the offensive zone to eat up some minutes.
Pronger – Carle
With all the talk about Pronger it seemed to go overlooked that Carle played big minutes too. He will only get better playing with Mr. Pronger!
Timonen – Syvret
I really liked this pairing and I hope Danny gets another shot with the team. He has nice passing skills and a big slap shot. These two played together as the team turned it around from late December until Syvret had his shoulder injured. While I don’t consider Danny a top 4 guy, he has the skill to play with a top guy and not look out of place.
Bartulis – Coburn
I am hoping that this could become a reliable 3rd pair and create part of the defensive wall. This would mean that even a matchup versus the 3rd pair still shows Coburn on the ice.
When does the season start again? Good Night and Good Hockey!
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