As if we've not been inundated enough with Politics already, there is a new issue looming on the horizon in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area...a Right Wing Conspiracy. No, this issue has nothing to do with the impending Presidential election, the balance of power within the U.S. House of Representatives or some smoky, backroom dealings of the Grand Old Party...this is much, much
more important. I'm talking about a Flyers' Right Wing Conspiracy.
As it stands now, the Flyers have five right wingers - Mike Knuble, Scottie Upshall, Joffrey Lupul, Sami Kapanen and a modified right wing in Danny Briere - which he played well during the playoffs. Add to that the potential to have Scottie Hartnell play right wing, with Briere as the centreman and Simon Gagne as a healthy left wing next year and it poses another set of issues. Toss in the hat of QJMHL super-stud and playoff MVP, Claude Giroux and now you could have the potential for as many as SEVEN
right wingers - that many right wingers in one place at one time could easily constitute an Attilla "The Hun" party and bring a slight curl to the lips of even Newt Gingrich. Oh...Steve Downey is a RW and and R.J. Umberger can play right wing, as well.
Be that as it may, the Orange and Black will not head into the pre-season - barely four months away - with any more than four Right Wingers. So, the question is...who's it going to be???
You could easily make the case that Danny Briere belongs in the middle as a pivot between Gagne and Hartnell. Briere sets the table, Hartnell does the dirty work in front and in the corners and Gagne pots the goals. This line makes the most sense to me - assuming a healthy Gagne. If Gagne cannot go next season, then it means the Flyers patch things together to make a pickup at the deadline. Hopefully, that is not the case.
Going into last year, I had the KGB line together with Knuble doing the heavy lifting for Briere and Gagne. http://my.hockeybuzz.com/..._id=3682&post_id=2380
While is a still possibility, the hard hitting, tenacious and in-your-face play of Scottie Hartnell necessitates that Knuble be dropped to the second line...or possibly traded? Nah, he has too much value on the PP and in front of the net.
You could make the case that the playoff line of Hartnell - Richards - Briere might be just as formidable, with Briere playing right wing and having more room to create. While I like the premise of this line, I don't think that Briere on the Right and Richards in the middle makes long term sense. Briere need to be the spark plug on the first line and Richards needs to anchor the second line, to maintain the scoring balance the team so beautifully achieved in 2007-08.
Knuble and Lupul ended up on the same line many a time last year and could continue to do so in the next campaign. Knuble on the left and Lupul on the right between new Flyers Captain and Mr. Everything - Mike Richards - would make a versatile, potent and dangerous second line. I love this line and hope to see it when we open up the preseason in September. It has grit, scoring punch and enough speed to keep the opposing forwards honest.
Our resident pest and ball of energy, Scottie Upshall (6'0", 197lbs), will need to make a change and play left wing on my third line (as he is left handed) with newly made man, Jeff Carter (6'3", 200lbs) in the middle and Star-in-waiting Claude Giroux (5'11", 172) on the right side. Yes, Giroux has not played three games in the NHL and at 5'11" and 172 pounds, he would not be taking too many forwards to the woodshed. That being said, Giroux has proven to be a responsible defender (+40 last year with Gatineau) in a wide open QJMHL and the kid has serious skills - a QJMHL record 51 points in 19 playoff games is nothing to sneeze at. While this doesn't look like your traditional "shut down" line, their speed and skill might make up for what they lack in size. Remember, in the "new" NHL - speed kills.
My fourth line would consist of Rockin' Riley Cote (6'1", 210lbs) on the left wing, Sami Kapanen (5'10", 185 lbs) on the right and Steve Downie (5'11", 200lbs) moved to center. Is it a stretch to think that Downie can play center? Maybe. Is it a stretch to think that Kapanen can and will play another season of 4th line minutes? Dunno. Is this line too small to be a factor? Could be.
So here are my four lines, with what we know today:
Gagne - Briere - Hartnell
Knuble - Richards - Lupul
Upshall - Carter - Giroux
Cote - Downey - Kapenen
Now, the player I omitted was, obviously, R.J. Umberger. Could he be placed into my scenario instead of Lupul and play the left wing, moving Knuble back to the right? Sure. The reason I didn't consider that is that I agree with Ek that he will be moved to help sure up the defense. Could Lupul end up being the one traded? Absolutely. However, I firmly believe that Umberger has greater trade value with a higher potential return, due to his hot playoff run and renowned versatility.
I think it is Giroux's time to scratch his NHL itch with meaningful minutes on a serious line. No player showed greater emergence during the end of the season and into the playoffs, than Jeff Carter. He has the skills and mental makeup to change any game. Pair him with a young sniper like Giroux, know that there will be problems and inconsistencies in the young man's transition to the NHL, but stick with it and the results could be awe inspiring. Add the energy and grit of a Scottie Upshall and that third group could be a real counter-attacking, speedy and under your skin kind of line.
Let me know what you think. If I am totally out of line, please tell me your combinations. I am more excited about this off-season and heading into the '08-'09 campaign than I have been since the days of the Legion.
Tell me your Right Wing Conspiracy...oh, and I'll be the one with the cigar, nursing a single-malt in the corner. I love a good conspiracy...
Thanks for reading...