Philadelphia Flyers: Five Flyers One Flaw Away from Stardom in the NHL
Many young players in the NHL are on the brink of being stars, if only they could overcome some hole in their game that holds them back.
On a young team like the Philadelphia Flyers, there are several of these players that, with a little improvement, could rise to be considered one of the top players in the league.
Since the success of the young talent on the Flyers will be one of the determining factors on whether or not they can make a serious playoff run, the identification and removal of those flaws would make them that much stronger.
In some cases, flaw may be too strong a word, but these players are all one improvement away from being All-Stars next season.
They are listed in order of their likelihood to develop into stars next season, based on how hard it is to improve their flaw and how strong their current game is.
5. Erik Gustafsson: Cut Down Turnovers
Erik Gustafsson spent 30 regular-season games with the Flyers last season, with an additional seven in the playoffs.
Gustafsson has a reputation as a more offensive defenseman, as he is a quick skater capable of both passing and scoring from the point.
While his numbers don't reflect that yet, he should put up better numbers with increased ice time and confidence in his game.
But that offensive skill alone won't turn Gustafsson into an All-Star, and his defensive skills sometimes leave something to be desired.
As a more technique-oriented defenseman, Gustafsson doesn't use his physical presence to shut down opposing players, so he has to be more aware of cutting off passing lanes and he needs a strong stick check.
But once he's caused the turnover, Gustafsson's job is to move the puck to the forwards and get the puck out of the defensive zone.
He struggled to do that at times last season, particularly in the playoffs against New Jersey, and that is a back breaker as a defenseman. You can't put in the work to get the puck only to give it right back.
If Gustafsson can improve his decision-making, there's no reason he can't become one of the better offensive defensemen in the NHL.
4. Eric Wellwood: Puck-Handling
Eric Wellwood only played 24 regular-season games with the Flyers last season, but he left an impression.
A solid two-way forward, Wellwood is one of the fastest skaters on the team. He can easily take a turnover coast to coast, and his effort and energy on the forecheck help to create additional chances in the offensive zone.
Wellwood is still a very young player at age 22, so his overall game still needs work. But he could develop into a lesser version of a player like Pavel Datsyuk next year if he could work on his stickhandling.
Wellwood has the speed and agility to go around people, but when his opponent can catch up to him, he'll need a few moves to get around them.
If he can combine speed with a few dekes, he can become a more difficult player; a threat to blow right by you if you play him one way or deke right through you if you don't.
It also wouldn't hurt him to work on his breakaway skills, as his defensive prowess and speed should combine to offer him plenty of one-on-ones with opposing goalies.
3. Luke Schenn: Threatening Shot from the Point
Luke Schenn, an offseason acquisition for the Flyers, has a reputation as a hard-hitting defenseman.
Labeled as a stay-at-home defenseman, Schenn has the potential to grow into a shutdown defender. That alone would make him a quality player and valuable member of the team.
But to take the jump to a star defenseman, Schenn will need to add an offensive dimension to his team. It's very hard for a strictly defensive defenseman to equal the production of guys like Shea Weber and Chris Pronger; guys that combine shutdown defense with deadly shots and outlet passes.
Adding a strong slap shot from the point could boost Schenn's numbers as well as net him some power-play time, which would further help his point total.
Strong slap shots create rebounds, deflection goals or goals through traffic. A point is a point, and as this past season's awards show proved, you need points to contend for a Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman.
2. Wayne Simmonds: Another Way to Score
Wayne Simmonds enjoyed a breakout year for the Flyers last season, posting career highs in goals, power-play goals and points.
Simmonds is the type of player you love when he's on your team, but hate when he's not.
He has no problem getting involved in physical play and antagonizing his opponents—that's his specialty. Most of his goals last season came from his willingness to do just that.
Simmonds was willing to crash the net last season and get in front of opposing goalies, resulting in a lot of deflection and rebound goals for him.
His 28 goals last year were impressive, and if he continues to get power-play minutes with playmaking talents like Brayden Schenn and Danny Briere, there is no reason Simmonds can't consistently top 30 goals and 50 points a year.
Those numbers, while an above average contribution to a team, won't make Simmonds a superstar player.
But if Simmonds could become a more dangerous offensive weapon—for example, if he added some go-to dekes or developed a deadlier wrist shot—he could develop into one of the elite goal scorers in the NHL.
A player willing to crash the net that is capable of finding and scoring on his own shot is hard to come by, but they are also the ones who are capable of multiple 50-goal seasons.
1. Ilya Bryzgalov: Confidence
Ilya Bryzgalov is far from the most popular member of the Flyers.
The eccentric goalie inked a huge contract to play goalie in Philadelphia without really knowing what that was going to entail.
Being the starting goalie in Philadelphia means volunteering for all the pressure and scrutiny that comes with playing the most important position in front of one of the less forgiving fanbases in hockey.
Bryzgalov often compounded that problem by playing poorly and then saying something stupid in an interview, which will never go over well in any city.
But when he's on his game, Bryz is among the best.
His ridiculous numbers in March proved that, as did his occasional flashes of talent even when he was having an off game.
The problem is, aside from last March, Bryzgalov never seemed to be on his game.
A lot of that can probably be attributed to lack of confidence, as goalie is a very mentally intense position and Bryzgalov did not respond well to critique.
If he can bounce back this year and play confidently, there's no reason he can't lead the Flyers to a Stanley Cup victory while also picking up some personal hardware in the form of the Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophies.