As most of us know by now, Flyers welcomed several new players yesterday in lieu of their blockbuster deals which sent former captain Mike Richards to LA and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter to Columbus.
Here's my rundown:
1. Carter - The guy has a killer wrist shot. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that his scoring prowess will be sorely missed. Despite the fact that I do not consider myself a Carter basher, I do believe he only put his best game on the ice when he felt like it. There were games where you could tell Carter had pretty much taken over and others when he simply disappeared.
Even during the playoffs there was no definitive change in the level of his play. It's difficult to assess a player's performance during the playoffs when they have been injured for long stretches, but when your leading goal scorer doesn't stand out time and again when you need him to the most, he becomes more and more replaceable, especially when the need for cap space arises.
Personally, I don't understand the excitement behind uniting Carter with Nash in C-bus at all. Two Snipers playing on a line together does not automatically create the play-making that has been lacking on that team for so long.
2. Richie - This past season he sort of turned into an anomaly. He still put up good numbers for a 2nd or 3rd line forward, but almost seemed like he took a step back, possibly due to the wrist injury he sustained. Richards also took a lot of flack for not acting like the captain everyone thought he should. That, along with whatever the actual relationship issues he maintained with Laviolette, and it looked as though Richie ad just deflated at the end of the year.
One of the problems with the whole "Lead by example" method of captaincy is that when you can't put your best game on the ice and do just that, lead by example, for whatever reason (perhaps injury in this case) it essentially looks as though you aren't leading anyone at all. The captain then has to find other ways to step up and fill that role of the team leader. One way to do that is on the bench and in the locker room, not to mention dealing with the media with maturity.
Mike Richards is a great two-way player and a strong team leader. It's time for him to start a new chapter in his career and I know I definitely wish him the best of luck as he will be missed.
The New Guys:
Wayne Simmonds - I'm really excited about this guy. To the point where I might find myself greatly disappointed if he doesn't pot those 25 goals I think he can manage next season. He still needs to be resigned, but he will fulfill one of the significant needs at foward and wing for a good price.
Brayden Schenn - I think I would be much more excited about this guy if his $3 mill didn't kick in next year. Not only does he have to live up to the hype of being the top prospect in the game right now, but he also carries a large enough cap hit where he really will be expected to produce. The good news is that despite all of the talk about how questionable his skating is, he still dominated the WHL last year with 53 points in 27 games and was the WJC MVP. So his skating ability really can't be that sub-par, can it? Good things are coming for this kid.
Jake Voracek - If the Flyers can get this guy signed at less than $3 million, I think it will be a great deal. He's already capable of putting up 50 points and I think he would be a great fit on a line with Schenn and Simmonds on the third line, or maybe even with Giroux and JVR on the 2nd line. If he can pot 20 goals next year, I'm completely sold.
Ilya Bryzgalov - There are a surprising number of fans who are not happy with the cap hit Bryzgalov will carry for the next 9 years. Flyers fans are a little too used to seeing their goalies carry less than 5 million collectively against the cap. If a team wants a skilled, veteran goalie, they're going to have to pay for it. And if you can get an all-star goaltender for less than 6 million against the cap, you sure as hell better do it. I'm not crazy about the length of the contract either, but thats really as low as the Flyers were going to get without developing a franchise goalie through their farm system. Because by that time, Pronger and Timonen are gone.
Bottom line is, Bryzgalov is a top-five goaltender in this league right now. The last two seasons speak for themselves, especially on a Phoenix team with little scoring and a rag-tag defense. Phoenix would NOT have made the playoffs the last two years without Bryzgalov, end of story. That being said, it's obvious that a supreme goaltender does not guarantee a cup run, or else Boston would have won the last five cups. However, though there are never any guarantees, the Flyers are in a good position at this point all around their lineup, especially if they can resign Leino and possibly shop Versteeg for another top 6 forward. The salary cap game is all about putting and keeping your franchise in a good position to make deals and draft players for the immediate future and the long-term. There is most definitely an art to it and Homer displayed with these recent deals that he understands that.
Matt Read - Amidst all of the goaltending, Richards and Carter hubub, one recent signee has been vastly overlooked, in my opinion. I am arguably most excited about the potential of Matt Read. He has a great chance to crack the lineup this upcoming season if he works his tail off. I agree that collegiate level of play is not quite the same as a player coming out of the OHL, WHL, etc, but in his 11 games with the Phantoms last year, he finished with 13 points. That consistency is just enough to peak my interest. The last Flyers player to something similar to that was.....Claude Giroux.
I'm not saying they're on the same level in any way, but I think Matt Read has a good chance to be a 20-30 goal scorer in the NHL someday, maybe even sooner than we think. I'm already getting ready for training camp...
In Philly Faith,