After a disappointing, lockout shortened season last year the Flyers made a flurry of offseason moves to get them back on track for this year. The big question was and still is goaltending, and GM Paul Homlgren made a few moves to shore up our situation in net.
Not to the surprise of many, the Flyers used a compliance buyout on Ilya Bryzgalov, whose rollercoaster stats and off ice concerns became too much for the organization after just two years into his nine year contract. I was personally torn between whether or not they should have gotten rid of him. After Bryzgalov was sent packing, the Flyers needed a partner for their late season acquisition of Steve Mason, which came in the form of signing free agent Ray Emery to a 1-year contract.
Emery has returned for a second stint in the orange and black after the 2009-10 season. Emery won the Stanley Cup last season as a Chicago Blackhawk and also shared the league’s lowest goals against average with Corey Crawford, the other Hawks goalie. The Flyers hope his success can translate into this year to help backstop the team to a long awaited Stanley Cup. The tandem of Mason and Emery may pay dividends for Philadelphia this year.
Another struggle the Flyers have had for a while is solidifying their defense. Ever since the loss of Chris Pronger, the team hasn’t had a prominent defenseman. The defensive problems may be positively impacted by the acquisition of Mark Streit from the New York Islanders. Even though Streit is getting old – already being 35 – he may bring a breath of fresh air to the Flyers’ defensive core. He is a solid player and can make a difference on the blue line.
Streit will be with returning players such as Kimmo Timonen, Nicklas Grossmann, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn and Andrej Meszaros who will all be holding down the blue line for the team. Concerns for the defense are mainly injuries and sloppy play in front of the goalies, so hopefully the defense will play great this year.
The thing that the Flyers do have a great amount of is offense. Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek both had great years last year. Giroux posted a point per game, and Voracek tallied a new career record for goals with 22 in 48 games. Wayne Simmonds also shined, as he got his first career hat trick last year and worked hard every game.
All the current forwards can definitely step their game up from previous years and produce great offense for the Flyers this year. One question, however, was who is going to replace Danny Briere? Briere was bought out last year along with Bryzgalov after a bad season and a wrist injury.
Who would’ve thought the Flyers would sign Vincent Lecavalier, long time captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning? Lecavalier brings a great veteran presence to the Flyers and can fill in the role of second line center. Look for some great chemistry between all the forwards this year. One thing the Flyers don’t lack is offensive depth, they have a great mix of skill in Giroux, Voracek and Lecavalier plus a strong physical presence in players like Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill. Offense isn’t a problem for this team.
Fans are looking for the Flyers to be a lot better than they were last year, even being in a new, tougher division. The team has great potential, but there are still some questions and concerns about defense and goaltending, especially after some of the preseason performances. Follow the Flyers as they start their quest for the Stanley Cup on October 2nd at 7:30pm at the Wells Fargo Center against Toronto. It all counts from there.