Philadelphia Flyers: 3 Ways Flyers Can Become Atlantic Division Favorites

Zachary Arthur@Zach_ArthurSLCCorrespondent IISeptember 3, 2012

Philadelphia Flyers: 3 Ways Flyers Can Become Atlantic Division Favorites

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    The Atlantic Division must be considered among the best in the NHL, and for good reason.

    The division housed four of the East's 2012 playoff teams, including the No. 1 seed New York Rangers and losing Stanley Cup finalists the New Jersey Devils.

    In case you didn't notice, neither of those teams have black and orange uniforms.

    Ultimately, that's what it's all about.

    The Flyers aren't a favorite in the division after finishing in third last year. Therefore, the question is, how can Philadelphia become the favorite in the Atlantic Division in 2012?

    Here are three ways the Flyers need to improve in order to be viewed as the favorite coming out of the toughest division in the NHL.

Philadelphia Must Address Goaltending

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    A Philadelphia fan in the photo is holding a sign that says, "We Believe."

    The question is, do we really?

    Ilya Bryzgalov was brought in last year as the answer to the team's long-standing weakness at goalie. However, instead of answering anything, Bryzgalov has only reminded fans of how much the team has struggled in that area.

    It feels like he's been with the team for some time, but it's only been one season.

    While every year feels like it's the year for fans, we also have to look at this from a developmental perspective.

    As good as Bryzgalov was expected to be, it's difficult to expect a player to produce immediately after entering the Philadelphia market from Phoenix.

    I mean no offense to Phoenix fans, but the two cities couldn't be more different. There had to be some kind of psychological adjustment to Philadelphia. From being booed after allowing a goal, to being cheered after a save—there is just a different feel in Philadelphia.

    It would be difficult for the Flyers to move him with his ridiculous contract. Therefore, the team has to be proactive in either finding a replacement or in making sure that Bryzgalov improves.

    Allowing fewer goals is an obvious but equally important step toward becoming a favorite in the Atlantic Division.

Philadelphia Must Solidify the Defense

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    After breaking down the crease, let's move up the ice a bit and discuss Philadelphia's defensemen.

    It doesn't seem like long ago that the Flyers had two strong defensive lines. Their defensemen were experienced, skilled and brought a level of physicality to the game that any fan in any city would love to see.

    Things have certainly changed.

    Post-concussion symptoms have potentially ended Chris Pronger's career, while Andrej Meszaros will likely miss the season with a torn Achilles tendon and Matt Carle left via free agency.

    As bad as that sounds, all hope is not lost.

    Luke Schenn's arrival should make an immediate impact in Philadelphia. He is a physical defender who will get an opportunity to see significant minutes because of the team's lack of depth.

    Pair him with young Marc-Andre Bourdon, and we could see Philadelphia's defense grow as the year goes on.

    Acquiring a big-name player in a trade is always a possibility as well. However, the Flyers will need to make sure they don't give up too much for that player if this is the route that they choose to take.

    Either way, solidifying the defense is a crucial step for Philadelphia's performance in the Atlantic Division.

Philadelphia Must Play with More Consistency

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    Fans tend to have a love-hate relationship with the Philadelphia Flyers.

    You have to love them because of how exciting they are.

    Can you think of any team that can suddenly put in three goals faster than Philly?

    Can you think of any team that feeds off its home crowd more than the Flyers?

    Can you think of any team that has consistently had a "potential" Stanley Cup-caliber team before every season more than Philadelphia?

    Okay—it's time to take a break from thinking.

    These guys play such a fun style of hockey that it's difficult not to root for them.

    That is, until you've invested your hockey soul in them.

    They seem to always find a way to leave you wanting more.

    This ongoing sense of hope that is generally followed by disappointment can be attributed to a couple different factors, one of which is Philadelphia's inconsistency.

    A quick look at this past season's playoffs provides a perfect example.

    After completely dismantling the Pittsburgh Penguins defense in the first round, the Flyers fell apart against the New Jersey Devils.

    All of the sudden, scoring seemed like a foreign language.

    Hockey is a game of momentum (take a look at the Los Angeles Kings) and Philly couldn't have put themselves in a better position after the Penguins series.

    At the same time, this team couldn't have taken themselves out of that great position any faster.

    This year's Atlantic Division could come down to which team is the most consistent throughout the regular season.

    Playing at a high level on a game-to-game basis will be one of the most important factors for Philadelphia if the Flyers are to be in the discussion as division favorites.