The 2007—2008 season was a statement year for the Flyers. They were coming off the worst season in franchise history, winning only 22 games and recording only 56 points.
Paul Holmgren made some very nice additions at the trade deadline in 2008. He stole young defenseman Braydon Coburn from the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for the aging Alexei Zhitnik. He also picked up Marty Biron for a second round draft pick and moved the often injured Peter Forsberg for Ryan Parent and Scottie Upshall.
Holmgren continued his overhaul of the team during the following off-season starting with the signing of Danny Briere. He traded a first-round draft pick for the rights to Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell and then quickly signed them both to long-term contracts. He finished by moving the slow to develop Joni Pitkanen to Edmonton for veteran defenseman Jason Smith and winger Joffrey Lupul.
The addition of these players to the existing core of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne made an almost immediate impact. The Flyers recorded a much improved record of 42—29—11 in 2008—2009. The 95 point total was enough to propel them back into the playoffs after missing out the previous year.
The team then had a better than expected playoff run. They beat the Capitals in seven games and the Canadiens in five before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins in five.The season was considered to be a great success. Especially, given the poor performance just one season earlier.
This leads us to the present. The Flyers are once again, poised to lockup a playoff spot, hopefully the fourth seed.
The question is then does the team have what it takes to go all the way this year?
Let's break down the team by position.
There are not too many teams with as much depth up front as the Flyers have. With four, potentially five, thirty goal scorers on the roster they can rack up the goals. They are very healthy right now and Danny Briere seems to get better with each passing game.
Defensively, they have been steady most of the season. The return of Parent and Randy Jones has bolstered the blue line group. Jones is not completely healthy so we will have to see what happens there. Timonen will continue to help both defensively and on special teams.
With the power play and penalty kill units both currently ranked in the top ten we should be able to run with the big dogs.
This brings us to goaltending and the root of my worries. It seems fairly obvious that Biron will be John Stevens' choice to carry the load through the playoffs. Biron did get hot in the playoffs last year and single-handedly won several games. I'm just not confident that Biron will be able to repeat the performance this year.
If this team wants to get serious about challenging for Lord Stanley's Cup they need to find a legitimate number one goaltender. Great goalies are hard to find and the Flyers have not had one since Ron Hextall.
Flyers fans, once again, will be hanging all of their hopes on the play of Biron. If he gets hot and can stay that way the team has a chance of improving upon last year's playoff run. Let's hope Biron uses the last four games to get warm because he'll need to be sizzling in less than two weeks.