Strengths and Weaknesses of the Philadelphia Flyers' Top Stars
Philadelphia Flyers' training camp begins next week, with preseason games set to commence only days after the team's first official gathering.
And once again, expectations are high in the City of Brotherly Love for a Flyers team looking to return to prominence after faltering in last year's lockout-shortened campaign.
And why not? Philadelphia bolstered a solid core with several key signings this offseason and appears poised to make a run in the newly formed Metropolitan Division.
But exuberance must always be tempered in September and so with that, here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Flyer's top stars.
Claude Giroux, F
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STRENGTHS: There are stars, and then there are players like Claude Giroux. Philadelphia's captain is the complete package.
He's a dynamic playmaker with a nose for the net. He can set up a teammate in transition one shift and then bury a wrist shot from the top of the circles his next time out. Giroux has led the Flyers in scoring each of the last three seasons and appears poised to do so once again this year.
But the Hearst, Ontario native isn't strictly an offensive threat. He's a responsible, two-way center who plays the full 200 feet and is often part of Philly's first unit over the boards when the team is shorthanded.
Finally, Giroux isn't at all afraid to add a physical component to his game. Just ask Sidney Crosby.
WEAKNESSES: If there's a knock to be made against Giroux's game it's that, at times, he almost plays the game too hard.
The Flyers expect their captain to be the face of their franchise for the next 10 years, but that won't happen if Giroux is on the shelf. He's usually crafty enough to avoid the major collisions, but when you engage in as much contact as Giroux, the odds aren't exactly in your favor.
Philadelphia wouldn't have its stars any other way though, so don't expect Giroux to start backing down any time soon.
Vincent Lecavalier, F
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STRENGTHS: The biggest offseason acquisition for the Orange and Black, Vincent Lecavalier brings a number of attributes the Flyers desperately needed.
First, he's a proven, veteran goal scorer. Lecavalier has produced double-digit goal totals in each of his 14 NHL campaigns and has registered 20 or more goals in 12 of those seasons. Even though he hasn't reached the 30-goal plateau since the 2007-08 season, Lecavalier still boasts 383 career goals on his NHL resume and will bring a proven goal-scoring presence to a Philadelphia squad that lacked snipers a year ago.
Second, and maybe even more valuable, the Quebec native is a winner. Lecavalier was a key contributor to Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup championship back in 2004 and knows just how hard a team has to work to secure those 16 postseason victories.
WEAKNESSES: Lecavalier may be a proven goal scorer, but his dynamic goal-producing days appear to be behind him. He hasn't surpassed 25 goals in any of the last four campaigns and has seen his goal production drop in each of the last three seasons.
At 33 years old, Lecavalier isn't getting any younger, and the physical game he's implemented for much of his NHL career is beginning to take its toll on his 6'4", 208-pound frame.
Finally, the defensive aspect of his game could certainly use improving. Lecavalier has produced a plus rating in just two of his 14 NHL seasons and closed out his tenure with the Lightning with six straight minus campaigns.
Scott Hartnell, F
STRENGTHS: Like Lecavalier, Scott Hartnell is a big-bodied power forward with a proven track record for scoring goals. The Regina, Saskatchewan native has recorded double digit goals in 10 of his 12 NHL seasons and managed a career-high 37 goals just two years ago.
Hartnell's sturdy 6'2", 200-pound frame allows him to get to the front of the net and win battles for loose pucks in and around the goal crease. He possesses the sort of cannonating blast to score from farther out, but it's that tenacious pursuit of the puck around the net front that has transformed Hartnell into one of the more reliable goal scorers on Philly's roster.
Finally, Hartnell has been a model of durability since joining the Flyers. In six seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, the winger has missed just 19 of 458 games from 2007 to 2013.
WEAKNESSES: While he's been readily available and productive during much of his time in Philadelphia, Hartnell will have to prove that last season (16 missed games, just 8 goals in 32 contests) was simply an aberration.
What's more, his foot speed and skating ability are constant question marks. Often lined up with Giroux and Jakub Voracek, Hartnell simply doesn't possess the quick-footed skating to keep up with two of Philly's more fleet-footed skaters.
Finally, one of the team's more emotional leaders, Hartnell sometimes allows his emotions to get the better of him leading to unnecessary penalties. He's posted more than 100 penalty minutes in five of his six seasons in Philadelphia, and while the team (and the fans) enjoy the physical edge with which he plays, Hartnell needs to ensure that physicality is controlled.
Jakub Voracek, F
STRENGTHS: Jakub Voracek has quickly emerged as one of the most purely skilled players on the Flyers' roster.
He paced the Orange and Black with a career-high 22 goals last season despite the abbreviated 48-game schedule. Moreover, his per-game point production has risen from just 0.58 points-per-game in his final year in Columbus in 2011 to 0.96 points-per-contest with Philly last season.
Much of Voracek's enhanced scoring last season can be attributed to extended playing time with Giroux, but the two developed an instant chemistry, and Voracek possesses the skating ability and offensive awareness to play at Giroux's pace.
What's more, Voracek's goal totals have increased from 14 to 18 to 22 over the last three campaigns and all signs point to a new career high in conversions this year.
WEAKNESSES: As is the case with so many young players, it remains to be seen if Voracek can continue the upward progress he's seen in recent years. He'll be given every opportunity to parlay last season's success but will need to contribute early and often to preserve his first line spot.
His defensive game also needs fine tuning.
Voracek has started to develop a 200-foot game but still has a long way to go before he's considered a two-way forward. He has the foot speed to be dangerous while shorthanded but needs to hone his defensive acumen.
Kimmo Timonen, D
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STRENGTHS: Kimmo Timonen has been Philadelphia's most reliable defenseman since he arrived in the City of Brotherly Love back in 2007.
In six seasons with the Flyers, the Finnish native has registered 32 goals, 203 assists and 235 points while dressing in 442 of the club's 458 games over that stretch. What's more, his offensive contributions have been consistent during that time, with a points-per-game mark between 0.45 and 0.64 in his six seasons in Philly.
Timonen has complied a plus-39 rating during his time in a Flyers sweater and has recorded only one minus campaign (minus-2 in 2009-10) in Philadelphia. He plays in all situations and has been ready and willing to log additional minutes on the back end with his fellow defenders on the shelf.
WEAKNESSES: As is the case with Giroux, it's difficult to find weaknesses in a complete player like Timonen.
That said, his 5'10", 195-pound frame is relatively undersized for an NHL blueliner, and as such, Timonen doesn't physically intimidate the opposition looking to enter Flyers' territory. He isn't overly physical either and has to rely on his above-average skating and a good stick to slow opposing team's scoring opportunities.
At age 38, he isn't getting any younger either. Timonen inked a one-year extension with the Flyers back in February that will keep him on the team's blue line for this season, but beyond that is anyone's guess.