Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Keys to Improving Their Power Play Next Season

Dan Fremuth@@hometownphanContributor IIIJune 14, 2012

Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Keys to Improving Their Power Play Next Season

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    One of the biggest reasons the Philadelphia Flyers were so successful last season was their power play.

    A team built on youth, speed and skill generated an NHL-best 335 man-advantage opportunities producing a league-best 66 power-play goals. Philly's power play percentage (19.7 percent) was good for sixth-best during the regular year while the Flyers boasted the league's top man-advantage (35.7 percent) in the playoffs.

    But it wasn't all fist pumps and salutes for the Orange and Black. While Philadelphia's power play was off the charts (12-for-23, 52.3 percent) in the team's six-game series with Pittsburgh, it left something to be desired in its five-game season-ending tilt with New Jersey.

    The Flyers tallied just three man-advantage markers in 19 opportunities against the Devils and was an area of tremendous disappointment in the team's stunning second-round exit.

    With free agency looming and the offseason reconstruction well underway, here are five keys to improving Philly's power play next season. 

Everything Needs to Run Through Claude Giroux

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    It's apparent to everyone now that Giroux is one of the top players in the game today.

    An elite playmaker and pure sniper, the former first-round pick should be the focal point every time the Flyers power play hits the ice.

    Thirty-eight of his team-leading 93 points came on the man-advantage last season including an NHL-best 38 power-play assists. Then, in crunch time in the postseason, Giroux was a part of nearly half of Philly's power-play offense notching seven points as the Flyers produced 15 man-advantage tallies.

    The Hearst, Ontario native possesses the skill to find open teammates with pinpoint passes while also displaying the fearlessness to crash the net to clean up second-chance opportunities.

    And while Giroux only notched six power-play goals during the regular season he tallied half that many in just 10 playoff games and has proven he has the shot to quickly become a 15-20 goal producer on the power play.

    Just reference the bomb he shot through Martin Brodeur in Game 1 of the semifinals. Enough said.  

Sign Ryan Suter or Dennis Wideman

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    Chris Pronger is likely on the verge of retirement. And Matt Carle will likely be lost to free agency.

    With that, the Flyers will have two big holes to plug on the back end. Suter or Wideman could very effectively fill those gaps while giving Philadelphia an excellent power-play quarterback.

    Suter registered 25 points on the power play a season ago, including a team-best 22 man-advantage helpers. The 27-year-old blueliner has notched 99 career power-play points in seven NHL seasons and has recorded at least 17 points on the power play in each of the last four years.

    Meanwhile, with stalwart power-play quarterback Mike Green on the shelf for 50 games last year for the Washington Capitals, Wideman was forced into regular man-advantage minutes and responded admirably. The Kitchener, Ontario native produced 20 power-play points including a team-leading 16 assists. In fact, more than half of Wideman's career points (129 out of 251) have come on the power play.

    Both will cost the Orange and Black a pretty penny. And it's unclear right now just how big of a splash the Flyers are prepared to make in the free agent market.

    One thing's for certain. Landing either Suter or Wideman would drastically improve the Flyers' power play.

Andrej Meszaros Needs to Stay Healthy

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    If the Flyers aren't able to land either Suter or Wideman, Philly may have a built-in power-play quarterback option in Meszaros.

    But only if he's able to take the ice.

    The 26-year-old defenseman missed 20 games last season and was only able to suit up for one of Philadelphia's 11 playoff tilts. But with question marks surrounding Pronger and Carle next season, a healthy Meszaros could be a point option on the power play alongside the stalwart Kimmo Timonen.

    It's a role the seven-year NHLer filled early in his career registering 50 power-play points in his first three NHL campaigns. But the former Ottawa Senator hasn't played that part since his time north of the border. While splitting time in Tampa Bay and Philadelphia, Meszaros has notched just 21 man-advantage points in four seasons since.

    If Meszaros can stay healthy, though, he has the offensive upside and the kind of shot from the blue line that can trigger the Flyers' power play to even bigger and better things next season.

Get Wayne Simmonds to the Front of the Net

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    Simmonds is your prototypical power forward.

    A 6'2", 183-pound bruiser, Simmonds plays a high-energy, high-intensity game and isn't afraid to go to the rough areas of the ice to find offense.

    The former second-round pick was a bit of a revelation for the Flyers last season notching a career-best 28 goals after recording just 39 total tallies through his first three NHL campaigns. A big part of Simmonds' success was his effectiveness on the power play.

    The Scarborough, Ontario native finished second among all Philadelphia skaters with 11 power-play goals and tallied many of those cleaning up rebounds and second chances at the front of the net. Simmonds is fearless at the net front and has shown a willingness to absorb the punishment that comes with camping atop the goal crease on the power play.

    Whether it's screening opposing goaltenders or banging in second-chance opportunities, Simmonds has proven he's a valuable power-play commodity.

    Man-advantages can't survive on skill alone. Teams need grit and net front strength too. That's where Simmonds comes in as he provides an excellent complement to Philly's skilled skaters. 

Re-Sign Jaromir Jagr

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    Speaking of skilled skaters, it's hard to argue there's been a more skilled NHLer over the last 20 years than Jagr.

    He's notched: 189 career power play goals (including eight last season) and 546 career power play points (20 last year). In fact, Jagr's been so successful on the man-advantage, 33 percent of his career offensive production has come on the power play.

    At 40 years old, Jagr doesn't have a lot of mileage left, but he still possesses the raw skill to walk off the half boards and snipe one upstairs. The puck always seems to find the former fifth overall selection who has that innate ability to finish when the disc is on his stick.

    Jagr needs to keep it simple though. He can't be tasked with breaking the puck out. He tends to stick handle too much in the neutral zone and dumping the puck in simply isn't in his DNA.

    Instead, the future Hall of Famer needs to camp out in the offensive zone and wait for the puck to come to him. When it does, Jagr simply needs to do what he does best: score goals.