A complete overhaul was not needed, but the Philadelphia Flyers needed to make some adjustments that went beyond fine-tuning to their roster in the offseason.
The goal behind those moves is returning to the playoffs in 2013-14.
General manager Paul Holmgren has never been shy about making offseason moves, and this summer has been no different.
The Flyers were largely seen as a team that failed to qualify for the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs because of deficiencies in goal and on defense, and both of those areas have been addressed.
The biggest change came in net, as the disappointing Ilya Bryzgalov was bought out and the Flyers turned to Ray Emery to come in and battle Steve Mason for the No. 1 goalie position.
Mason was brought in late in the 2013 regular season from Columbus and looked quite sharp (1.90 goals-against average and .944 save percentage) in his end-of-season seven-game run with the Flyers.
Nobody expects Mason to become a dominant goalie, but he's at least in the competition with Emery for the starting position.
Emery was one of the Chicago Blackhawks' most underrated performers during their championship season. He rolled to a 17-1-0 record while basically sharing netminding duties with Corey Crawford and was a big reason the Blackhawks went 24 games without a regulation loss at the start of the season.
Once the playoffs started, Emery was the forgotten man. He had a lower-body injury at the start of the postseason, and by the time he was healthy, head coach Joel Quenneville was not going to take Crawford out of the lineup.
Emery has excellent reflexes and a superior glove hand. If he can come close to the way he played last year—1.94 GAA and .922 save percentage—the Flyers will be much better in goal.
The Flyers were never in the kind of shape on the blue line that Holmgren and head coach Peter Laviolette wanted in 2013. They suffered a slew of injuries before the season began and Chris Pronger was sidelined all year with concussion-related issues.
Pronger is not expected to resume his career, but the Flyers are much more prepared on defense.
Streit is a well-rounded defenseman who can play on the back end, carry the puck up the ice and jump into the play on offense.
He was a key performer last year, as the Islanders earned a playoff spot and Streit scored six goals and 21 assists during the regular season. He continued to make a contribution in the playoffs, scoring two goals and three assists in the Islanders' six-game playoff series loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Flyers should also be stronger on defense because they appear to be healthier.
They lost Andrej Meszaros (missed 37 games) and Nicklas Grossman (missed 18 games) for large portions of the schedule. Both appear to be at full strength prior to the start of training camp.
On the offensive end, the Flyers were one of the strongest teams in the league. They chose not to bring back Danny Briere (signed with Montreal), but they jumped on Vincent Lecavalier when the Tampa Bay Lightning bought him out.
Lecavalier fits in with the Flyers as a second-line center, possibly between hard-hitting right wing Wayne Simmonds and left wing Matt Read.
Lecavalier was somewhat of a disappointment during his run in Tampa, largely because he was supposed to be a modern-day version of Jean Beliveau when the Lightning drafted him in 1998.
However, Lecavalier has been a solid all-around player who can contribute on the power play, kill penalties and take a regular shift. He has scored 874 career points in 1,037 games. He scored a career-high 52 goals in 2006-07 and has scored 30 or more goals five times.
|Season||Division Finish||Record||Playoff Results|
|2013||Fourth||23-22-3||Failed to Make Playoffs|
|2011-12||Third||47-26-9||Lost Conference Semifinal|
|2010-11||First||47-23-12||Lost Conference Semifinal|
|2009-10||Third||41-35-6||Lost Stanley Cup Final|
|2008-09||Third||44-27-11||Lost Conference Quarterfinal|
|2007-08||Fourth||42-29-11||Lost Conference Final|
Holmgren is happy with his team's makeup as the team prepares for training camp.
“I thought we were a team good enough to be in the playoffs, but we just had a lot of bad things happen to us,” Holmgren told the Associated Press (h/t the Delaware County Daily Times).
“It’s easy to say now. Our aim is to rectify that and get ourselves into playoff position,” he said.
While the Flyers have to worry about Claude Giroux's healthy after he had an accident with a golf club that resulted in damaged tendons to his right index finger, the rest of the team appears to be stronger than it was last year.
Whether that will be good enough to make a long run in the Eastern Conference playoffs is up for debate, but Philadelphia should be more than good enough to return to the postseason after a one-season absence.