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Bringing Hexy Back • 42 Years Old • Male
Ok, we're only in the very early hours of July 3rd here, so this is very preliminary. I have been messing around with line combinations since the Briere signing was announced, and intensified that following the Lupul and Smith additions.

So far, I remain very happy with the maneuvers of Paul Holmgren and Peter Luukko. Here's a quick glance at what could be the opening night roster:


1st Line:
Simon Gagne-Daniel Briere-Joffrey Lupul.

Gagne and Briere are almost certain to be linemates, so that was the easy part. Mike Knuble has been on Gagne's line for most of his time in Philadelphia, but I'd like to see Lupul tried here to see if he can use his size and grit to free space for the two French-Canadian speedsters and perhaps get back to where he was as an Anaheim Duck, where he scored 28 goals prior to being traded to Edmonton in the Chris Pronger trade.

2nd Line:
Scott Hartnell-Jeff Carter-Scottie Upshall

Carter and Upshall showed a great deal of chemistry last season down the tsretch and I like the snarl that Hartnell would add. The biggest concern is that there isn't anything resembling a true playmaker on this line. Still, the two former Preds could keep Carter's focus and motor running and perhaps help him take the next step forward.

3rd Line:
Sami Kapanen-Mike Richards-Mike Knuble

Kapanen has been the Flyers Mr Everything since arriving five years ago. He brings heart and speed and guts. He doesn't have twenty goal hands any longer, but he's still an excellent PK guy and two way winger with speed. Richards will not get outworked by anyone. He's got the tenacity, smarts and ability to be a really good NHLer for a long time. The only thing that hasn't been consistent with Richards has been goal scoring. Knuble had some successes with Richards in the past and provides a solid veteran presence on this line who can score 20+ goals, giving the team what should be at least one solid scoring threat on each of the top three lines.

4th Line:
Ben Eager-RJ Umberger-Riley Cote

This line is more a collection of spare parts than a true line. Eager is a willing tough guy who has talent. Umberger is a good forward that simply hasn't found a steady position. He was excellent on the Flyers PK last year and played all three forward spots at various points. Cote is an average NHL enforcer. I'd honestly be looking at dressing seven defensemen on a lot of nights.


1st Pair
Kimmo Timonen-Jason Smith

Timonen provides a good all around defenseman. He can move the puck, skate well, play the PP, kill penalties...basically everything except be a physical force. Hence Jason Smith, a big defensive defenseman, who is a shot blocking machine. Smith is a smart defenseman, can bang with the best of them and skates well enough to not be a liability.

2nd Pair
Derian Hatcher-Braydon Coburn

Both are big men. Hatcher is a stay at home guy, with limited mobility, who is a liability in a wide open game. But on the PK he is an absolute beast. There aren't many who work harder than Hatcher, or play a nastier game. Coburn is a slick skater for a huge man, and he's a good passer. He's still feeling his way, but he's working hard and seems to learn from his mistakes. He's got a good shot, too.

3rd Pair
Denis Gauthier-Lasse Kukkonen

Gauthier, or Goat, is a big hitter. He's a borderline dirty player, and woe to the forward who enters the zone with his head down. The Goat also has the ability to make a good first pass and has a booming slap shot. The problems? He's apt to put himself out of position to make the big hit, suffers from untimely brain cramps and gets hurt quite often. Kukkonen is one of those guys that simply goes out, and never gets noticed because he just does a good job, rarely makes any mistakes and knows his limits and stays within them. He's a PERFECT partner for a guy who plays as undisciplined as Gauthier does at times.

Randy Jones-Ryan Parent-Alexandre Picard

There will be a race and why, right now, I'd lean to dressing seven defensemen a lot.

Jones is a decent depth guy. If you limit his minutes, he'll provide solid play and an occasional "Holy Cow" offensive play. But limited talent and a propensity to do too much leave Jones as a spare part on a good team.

Parent was a key piece to the Peter Forsberg trade last season. He's a lot like Coburn, but doesn't have the offensive ability. If he makes the Flyers, he'll get a regular shift, probably at the expense of Hatcher or Gauthier. In all likelyhood, Parent is AHL bound, but could make a strong push.

Picard is purely an offensive defenseman, despite his good size. He had a 5 assist game against the Devils last year, has an absolute cannon from the point and good offensive instincts. However, he is more raw than a little green tomato on defense. He could stick, maybe splitting time with Hatcher and as a PP specialist.


Martin Biron
Antero Niittymaki

Biron gets a shot at starting for the Flyers. Most know he was inconsistent when he got his shot for the Sabres a few years back, but he was an immensely calming influence on this team after his deadline day arrival from Buffalo. If Biron plays as well as he did for the Flyers down the stretch, the Flyers will be extremely happy and set in goal.

Niittymaki is a strange case. A lot of fans love the little Finn. He did battle a hip injury, which he says didn't affect his game. Niittymaki struggled mightily behind a poor team last year. He wasn't the sole issue, but he did very little to help matters. His focus was lacking, his glove hand was awful, he tended to drop into the butterfly way too early and stay there, and just seemed to not be able to adjust.

His confidence isn't an issue and if he can bounce back and challenge Biron as he says he's going to, it's great news for the Flyers.

The only real concern I have is adding a puck moving defenseman, but even that is not a pressing issue now. A guy like Umberger, Gauthier or one of the team's prospects could be traded for one and there's still a few names in FA available.

Well, so far free agency has been worth the wait for me...
Filed Under:   Jsaq   Holmgren   Briere   free agency   Flyers  
July 3, 2007 2:31 AM ET | Delete
SO weird to see Briere there. Always thought he'd retire a Sabre. Love the line-up.... Welcome back to the Playoffs Philly! Hopefully we'll be able to see you there...
July 3, 2007 2:56 AM ET | Delete
That first line is gonna b a killer in the east.
July 3, 2007 5:09 AM ET | Delete
Remember: Briere does not finish in the corners. He's afraid to get hit, and will shy away from any contact. Oh, he'll be able to put up some numbers for you, but I don't think it will be 95 points. I think his numbers were more from the system the Sabres played than from just his talent. Now, if the Flyers change their style of play, then the rest of the east WILL have to watch that line. Danny likes to skate, and if he's not bothered with a D first style of play, he'll get you the numbers. Good luck this year. My guess is we'll see you in the playoffs!
July 3, 2007 7:53 AM ET | Delete
It IS weird seeing Briere as a Flyer. He used to murder us. I think the Flyers will be a more offensively aggressive team than they were under Ken Hitchcock. Holmgren, despite the overuse of his checkbook, seems to have a plan. I do think the Sabres will be a good team, too, even without Briere and Drury. Even when they had injuries they were able to pull a Stafford or a Paillie or Paetsch out of the system and not miss a beat. They also still have Ryan Miller, which means that outside of two or three teams, they have a better goalie than anyone. More good news for the Sabes is after arbitration, there will be good player that hit the market and they will have a TON of space.
July 3, 2007 8:01 AM ET | Delete
I could have sworn I saw on CSN that they interviewed Stevens and he said the only line set in stone was Gagne-Briere-Knuble. Personally I'd like to see Knuble play with Carter since Carter is an uzi and will shoot, shoot, shoot. Knuble would be a good mop up guy in front of the net on Carter's line.
July 3, 2007 8:05 AM ET | Delete
Jsaq, I agree with your assessment on just about every player you mentioned. I do see the line combinations working out a little differently, though. The major change I would make is putting Knuble on the 2nd line and Upshall on the 3rd line. Jeff Carter is still a raw offensive talent and having an experienced winger like Knuble on his line could go a long way. As for Upshall, he did a very nice job last season playing on the 2nd line with Carter. That being said, the only reason Scottie was up there is because of the dearth of offensive players we had last season. With the additions of Briere, Lupul and Hartnell, Upshall will be back on the third line - where he belongs (he just doesn't have the offensive upside that the others possess). Just my thoughts...great job!
July 3, 2007 9:40 AM ET | Delete
The Flyers are going to have a very solid team. Briere is a great addition!! I will def. miss him on the Sabres. I like the lines but I would rather see Knuble on the Briere/Gagne line and Lupul with Carter and Upshall. Hartnell I think would fit better on the third line with Kapanen and Richards. Just my opinion on it, either way the Flyers are going to be solid. It is weird as a die hard Sabres fan how the hate towards the Flyers has gone away..LOL.
July 3, 2007 10:42 AM ET | Delete
great recap. nothing much to add except that i think goat will be out of the picture. the team needs to have a 2-3mil cushion for the trade deadline and or/ injury reinforcements. this is the most exciting off season since i started watching the flyers in '70. (made necessary by their worst season in their history, of course)
July 3, 2007 11:12 AM ET | Delete
The basis for this was basically me filling my salary cap notebook with pages of line combos and defense pairings. So a lot of it is just thoughts. I basically had three names set in stone(Gagne, Briere
July 3, 2007 11:37 AM ET | Delete
I originally thought of keeping Knuble with Gagne but the prospect of having Lupul in there seems like a good idea. Lupul could be good with Upshall and Hartnell since they already know each other well. I think we will have to wait and see what lines click during the season. This is really fun just thinking about hockey in July after a tough season last year. I can't wait for training camp.
July 3, 2007 2:52 PM ET | Delete
Thanks for the hard work Jsquella! The lineup looks great, I agree with the guy above that training camp and preseason will help mold the lines with regrard to chemistry and types of players but its fun to work them out now. I would like to see Picard make the big club this year- full time - and Gauthier move on. If he is not traded he will most likely get hurt since he has only played one full season in his career. I also like the idea of giving Picard the chance to prove himself as an offesive D man while playing with Smith (mentoring him). Many fans seem to think Picard is far from being NHL ready- I disagree. He played 62 games last year with the flyers and had 3 goals and 19 assists with a -22 ( /- better then Pitkanen).Kukonen-Timmonen (2 finns togeather)Coburn-Hatcher (played well togeather last year)Smith-Picard (picard can rush the puck and play more offensively knowing he has back up behind him)Just another thought...thanks again for your insight!
July 3, 2007 4:29 PM ET | Delete
Awesome read Jasquella!! I like you line combos. If Knuble does end up on the 3rd line it wouldn't be like he would complain. He's a great guy and team guy. So I can see where that would work.
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