Posted 1:37 PM ET | Comments 0
The Philadelphia Flyers surprised everyone last year with a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, and there are a lot of people in Philadelphia who expect more of the same this year. Hell, with the Phillies' season coming to a close shortly (satisfyingly or otherwise) and the Eagles playing awfully at the Linc, the Flyers are going to feel the weight of the city on their shoulders quite soon. Are they ready to stand up to the pressure?
Forward-wise, they're among the best in the league. If Simon Gagne stays healthy all season, they'll be adding a top-20 NHL forward to a rotation that is as deep as any other team. They'd also be adding a partner-in-crime for Danny Briere, something he seems to need desperately in order to be the player the Flyers know he can be.
Defense-wise, the team took a hit with the loss of Ryan Parent, in part because he's a good young player and in part because it might force rookie Luca Sbisa into the pros too soon. The Flyers have been good at not rushing young players onto the ice early (hence uber-prospect Claude Giroux being sent down to the AHL last week), so this is a bit of an interesting situation the team finds itself in. For as long as I can remember, defense has been the Flyers' weakness, and despite what seemed like an offseason that would feature a renewed commitment to the back-end, Philadelphia will probably go into the season lacking a solid six-man defensive squad.
Of course, solid goaltending from Marty Biron could ease the pain a bit. If Biron flashes the form he showed in the first two rounds of last season's playoffs, the Flyers will be a serious contender for the top seed in the East. However, if he displays the inconsistency that most people seem to expect, they'll be among the middle of the postseason pack.
Regardless, this is a team that can get hot quick, and a deep run is not out of the question. If John Stevens can keep everyone's head in the right place, the Flyers should be able to hold their own against the Canadiens, Penguins, Rangers, and other Eastern Conference behemoths all year. Game on.