Philadelphia Flyers: 12 Offbeat Predictions for the 2012-13 Season
The NHL and NHLPA may be preparing for the impending lockout, but good hockey fans are still preparing for the 2012-13 season. After all, it is up to us; it seems we are the only ones who actually want the season to happen.
Part of that preparation is predicting how the season will unfold for your favorite team (always ending with a Stanley Cup victory, of course). This involves speculation about who will lead the team in points, who will emerge as a surprise sensation and what the team's final record will be.
But as long as we're on the subject of pure speculation, why not make things a little more fun?
The season is about so much more than scoring goals and racking up points in the standings, and we as fans have every reason to imagine every tiny aspect of the season.
Here are 12 "offbeat" predictions about the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012-13.
Kimmo Timonen Wears the “C” in His Final Year as a Flyer
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This particular prediction is twofold.
First, Kimmo Timonen will be named captain sometime between now and the beginning of the regular season, whenever that may be.
Current captain Chris Pronger has made no progress in making a return to hockey, according to a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi published on ProHockeyTalk. It would appear that the captaincy is virtually vacant, and while Claude Giroux is working his way toward wearing the "C," he is still young and reckless.
The true leader of the blue line is undoubtedly Kimmo Timonen, and while his contract expires this year, he has earned a front-office endorsement as captain.
Unfortunately, Timonen's age will begin to show and the Flyers will look to young defensemen— like Luke Schenn and Erik Gustafsson—to replace him.
Claude Giroux Gets a Shootout Move Named After Him
We've already seen him stutter-step on Henrik Lundqvist and pull the right-handed Datsyuk against the Leafs, so there is no denying Claude Giroux's creativity and capability when he goes one-on-one with the opposing goaltender.
He's got some of the quickest hands in the business and a knack for keeping some tricks up his sleeve—so who knows what he'll be working on in practice?
Would anyone truly be surprised if Giroux pulled off something so spectacular, so unfathomable that it would turn "Girouvian" into a legitimate hockey adjective?
Luke Schenn Leads the Flyers in Hits
This one should be a no-brainer if Schenn plays a full season.
Brayden's big brother led the Maple Leafs in hits last season with 270. That's nearly 100 more than the Flyers' leading wrecking ball last year (Scott Hartnell had 188).
Further motivated by the desire to bounce back from an off year in 2011-12 and the rabid fans at the Wells Fargo Center, Schenn's physical style is bound to attract attention in a Flyers uniform.
He will prove to be a force in the defensive zone and a huge difference maker for a team struggling to keep the clamps on in front of Ilya Bryzgalov.
And you'd better believe that Schenn will be making some highlight reel hits when he goes to throw the body around.
Jason Akeson Is a Roster Regular by Season’s End
Akeson is not a big guy, but he plays a big game and will be on the short list of call-ups for the Flyers.
Akeson proved to be a capable setup man with the Adirondack Phantoms in 2011-12, notching 41 assists and 55 points while playing right wing in Glens Falls. In the OHL, he totaled 84 assists as a member of the Kitchener Rangers in the 2010-11 season.
Inevitably, the Flyers will find themselves faced with injuries, and if Akeson gets to prove himself at the NHL level, he'll be too valuable to send back to the minors.
Look for Akeson to be a roster regular, particularly if Eric Wellwood doesn't continue to develop, or Zac Rinaldo becomes a liability on the ice.
The Flyers Win Two Regular Season Games Against the Rangers
Sadly, this would be a vast improvement for the Flyers, but considering how the Rangers buffed up their roster with the inexpensive addition of Rick Nash, it would be an accomplishment for the Broad Street Bullies.
The Flyers have lost eight games in a row to the Rangers, including all six in 2011. The last game at Madison Square Garden prompted painfully truthful chants of "You can't beat us!"
Slowly, but surely, that will change for the Flyers in 2012-13.
This head-to-head matchup will become more even in the new season, even if a lockout does cut into the schedule. Look for the Flyers to get a little revenge on the MSG crowd.
Ilya Bryzgalov Blows 5 Games for the Flyers
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
It's hard to tell if this is an improvement or not, but the Philadelphia media will surely pounce on it when it happens.
Five Flyers losses will be directly attributable to Bryzgalov, either for a bad turnover, poor rebound control, a momentum-changing goal or a soft OT winner.
That said, Bryz will be better in 2012-13. He won't be looking over his shoulder at Sergei Bobrovsky and he will start 75% of games in the season.
He'll lose some games thanks to his defense and offense, and he might not catch hell for those losses. But when a loss is his fault? You'll know.
Flyers Fans Forgive Michael Leighton
Michael Leighton was a hero for the Flyers in 2009-10, until he let in the Cup-clinching goal to Chicago's Patrick Kane.
Since then, the name Leighton has made the city of Philadelphia collectively cringe.
He is serving as backup to Ilya Bryzgalov in 2012-13, and he will have a chance to redeem himself in small, but important ways.
Look for Leighton to start a modest 16 games this year, but expect him to perform well. He had a great season with the Adirondack Phantoms and will return to his comfortable role as an NHL backup.
When Bryzgalov finds himself the scapegoat of losses, Leighton will be praised by the fan base in comparison.
Danny Briere Eclipses 75 Points
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Briere had a poor regular season in 2011-12, and it is high time he bounced back.
Playing on the second line with a fast-developing Brayden Schenn and crease-crowder Wayne Simmonds, Briere will have plenty of opportunities to find open ice, open linemates and an open net.
The second line will prove remarkably effective in 2012-13, and Briere will surpass the 75-point plateau for the first time since 2006-07.
Finally, the Flyers will see Playoff Danny Briere make an appearance for all 82 games of the regular season.
Scott Hartnell Averages 3 #Hartnelldowns Per Game
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
I'd be lying if I said I knew what his current average was.
But as Hartnell's Twitter trend becomes more and more recognizable, someone will start keeping track of the stat. And I'm betting we see a #Hartnelldown Per Game (or #HDPG) rate of 3.0 or higher.
Brayden Schenn Records His First Career Gordie Howe Hat Trick
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After a shaky start to 2011-12, Brayden Schenn really burst onto the scene after the Winter Classic.
He scored his first goal in the outdoor game, began to drop the gloves at a more noticeable rate, and became an all-around physical and offensive force for the Flyers.
Coming into 2012-13 a year older, wiser and tougher, look for Schenn to use his aggression to gain better body position around the net, and if things get too dicey, he won't hesitate to drop the gloves.
Given that he lost a fight to Ilya Kovalchuk, let's hope Schenn's practiced a little more on the punching bag at home.
But win or lose, it counts toward the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Bobby Ryan Finishes 2012-13 as a Flyer
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The Bobby Ryan trade talk is still very much alive—even though it seems clear that Ryan will begin 2012-13 with the Anaheim Ducks.
Ryan also created a major stir when he suggested that he'd enjoy playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, the hometown team in which he grew up rooting for and has reportedly tried to put together a package for the four-time 30-goal scorer.
The Flyers will likely remain interested in Ryan throughout the season, as the Ducks need to re-sign their captain (Ryan Getzlaf) and ex-Hart Trophy winner (Corey Perry). Ryan could become an expendable part of that puzzle.
Ryan would fit well alongside natural setup man Claude Giroux. So if the Flyers can muster up some expendable forwards and defenseman, a trade-deadline deal is not out of the realm of possibility.
Giroux and Crosby Have a War of Words in the Media
It's already been established that Sidney Crosby doesn't like the Flyers.
Based on this tone-setting hit from Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Giroux doesn't seem to like Crosby either.
All signs point to the media hyper-focusing on the Flyers-Pens rivalry in the 2012-13 season, and that can only mean plenty of sound bites and highlight videos of these two warriors going at each other.
Crosby is the face of the game and one of its top players; Giroux may be its most prominent rising star. They play in the same state for rival cities—on teams whose bad blood is so potent, that sometimes the score means less than who gets in the last punch.
Both players are highly emotional team leaders, and that is a recipe for a personal rivalry that will steal the national spotlight.