One year ago, the governments of the Philadelphia region were discussing adding Prozac to the water supply to keep unhappy Flyers fans from jumping off the Walt Whitman bridge as the team staggered to a 1-8-1 start on the way to a 56 point season.
Now a year later, much is good about the Flyers.
-Trade Deadline pick up Martin Biron has been providing good to excellent goaltending since pulling on a Flyers sweater. He's provided the team with confidence and comfort and when he's mic'd up, he provides Flyers fans with several good chuckles during the game telecast.
-Big ticket free agent signing Danny "Don't Call Me Daniel" Briere has been the gamebreaker the team was missing last season.
-Joffrey Lupul looks a lot more like the guy that scored 28 goals for Anaheim than the guy that never found a comfort level last year in Edmonton. Lupul has meshed well in the line-up and has been playing a physical, defensively responsible game.
-Braydon Coburn has progressed nicely and been a big solid component for the team's defense. His mix of size and mobility has brought what the team thought it had when it added Mike Rathje after the lockout.
-Jeff Carter seems to have finally the key to the door of his world class talent. I don't know if it's maturity or if he found a way to simplify the game in his head, but he's been the offensive presence the team saw in him when they made him the 11th pick of the 2003 NHL draft.
-Jason Smith has brought stability and leadership to the roster and the defense. The team's eagerness to stick up for one another is exemplified in Smith's play-blocking shots, being physical and doing whatever it takes to win.
-Mike Richards is being rewarded for his hard work. Last year this guy busted his tail and got minimal offensive production for it. Now, he's a key piece of the power play unit, playing with Lupul and RJ Umberger on a surprisingly effective two way line and providing the snarling leadership he did every since his rookie season. Richards is also showing the face-off ability he displayed in juniors-winning draws at a 63% clip.
-Lasse Kukkonen might be a slightly built European, but he plays a game straight outta Moosejaw. He sacrifices offense for a responsible defensive game, blocks shots without a care for health or safety and is more than willing to stand up for teammates who he feels get treated wrongly by opposing players.
-John Stevens has done a great job at making adjustments and fostering a sense of team. This team simply doesn't have two bad periods in a row and that is a testament to Stevens and his staff. He also revamped his system to take better advantage of his players' abilities and hides their weaknesses.
-Randy Jones has paired with Kukkonen and has played like Mark Howe. Ok, that is overstating things, but Jones has been great for the Flyers in the role of a regular rotation defenseman and lessened the need to play guys like Kimmo Timmonen for 30+ minutes a night.
-Timonen, for that matter, has done a good job of providing the steady all around play that Eric Desjardins gave the Flyers for a decade. He's also been more physical than I expected.
-A four game winning streak with limited offensive production from the KGB line? Last year the only consistent offense came from the 2112 line, and then it was only when Peter Forsberg was healthy enough to play at his HOF level.
-Sami Kapanen has found the rejuvenation machine. The tough little Finn has rediscovered his scoring touch and been an excellent all around player to boot. He and Carter have found great chemistry.
-I personally LIKE the new RBK jerseys.
-I have concerns about a few things, most notably the lack of production by the KGB line over the past few games. Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble seem to be battling injuries or perhaps they just have some adjustments to make as they further gel with Briere's style and get used to the system. Hopefully it's a temporary thing, because that line started off on fire for the Flyers.
-One other minor concern is that Scott Hartnell has started slowly, at least as far as production goes. He's played well, but the results aren't there yet.
In closing, what a great turnabout. so far the elation over the work of Paul Holmgren and the rest of the front office has been justified. It's been a great start for Flyers fans and all I have to say is, Let's Go Flyers