5 Bold Predictions for Philadelphia Flyers' 2013-14 Season
The start of the 2013-2014 regular season is just over a week away, and with that, final preparations are being made across 30 NHL markets in anticipation of the new year.
For the Philadelphia Flyers, every effort is being made to get this team back to the postseason after failing to qualify for the playoffs in last season's lockout-shortened campaign.
The talent certainly appears to be there for the Orange and Black, and as a result, optimism abounds in the City of Brotherly Love.
Picking Philadelphia to return to the postseason isn't exactly a drastic prediction considering more than half of the league qualifies for the playoffs. So here are five bold predictions for the Flyers in the upcoming season.
Claude Giroux Will Lead the NHL in Scoring
Philadelphia's captain has led his team in scoring in each of the past three seasons but this will be the year that Claude Giroux paces the entire NHL in points.
Over the past three years, the Hearst, Ontario native has managed 217 points in 207 games and finished third among all NHLers in scoring with 93 points just two seasons ago.
Giroux will center Philly's most potent line with Scott Hartnell (who produced a career-best 37 goals two years ago) on the left side and Jake Voracek (who managed a career-high 22 conversions in the shortened season last year) on the right wing. Hartnell's nose for the net coupled with Voracek's dynamic speed and scoring sense will generate plenty of point-producing opportunities for Giroux.
Look for Giroux to catapult himself this season among the NHL's truly elite by leading the league in scoring in the process.
Vincent Lecavalier Will Score 30 Goals
Vincent Lecavalier hasn't netted 30 goals since 2008 but look for the 14-year NHL veteran to eclipse the 30-goal plateau this year.
After seeing the final seven years and $45 million of his contract bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning earlier this summer, Lecavalier landed in Philadelphia where he will be looking to re-establish himself as one of the game's elite threats.
During the lockout-shortened 48-game calendar last season, the four-time All-Star managed just 10 goals, the lowest total of his NHL career. That marked the third straight campaign in which the Bizard, Quebec native saw his conversion totals decrease from the prior year.
But a change of scenery will get Lecavalier back on track.
The 6'4", 208-pound center will open the season between bruising power forward Wayne Simmonds and up-and-coming offensive dynamo Brayden Schenn. Simmonds notched a career-best 28 goals just two years ago and managed another 15 conversions in just 45 games last season. Meanwhile, Schenn appears poised for stardom after collecting 44 points in his first 101 games with the Orange and Black.
Lecavalier will be surrounded by playmakers all season long and should receive plenty of power-play opportunities as well. With that, look for Lecavalier to get back to 30 goals for the first time in six years.
Brayden Schenn Will Be an All-Star
Schenn took a modest step forward for the Flyers last season. Look for the former fifth overall selection back in 2009 to take a giant leap this year.
Schenn was the featured element in Philadelphia's trade with the Los Angeles Kings two years ago that sent Mike Richards to southern California. But in two seasons with the Flyers, the returns from Schenn have been a bit underwhelming.
In 101 outings in Philadelphia, Schenn has managed 20 goals and 44 points. He's produced just six power-play conversions and has averaged less than 15 minutes of ice time during that time.
Look for all of those figures to increase significantly in the season to come.
Schenn will begin the year on the Flyers' second line centered by four-time All-Star Lecavalier. That combination should produce plenty of scoring opportunities and subsequent offensive production for Schenn.
The native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan will also be heavily relied upon on the man advantage. His dynamic playmaking and inherent scoring touch are exactly what Philadelphia needs to take its power play to the next level.
With all of this, Schenn will finally live up to the hype that made him the fifth overall pick in 2009, and expect an All-Star appearance to be a part of his breakout campaign.
Both Steve Mason and Ray Emery Will Win 25 Games
The Flyers always seem to have goaltending questions. At least this year those questions surround two capable, economical netminders instead of one enigmatic, expensive one.
Steve Mason, 25, and Ray Emery, 30, will battle for minutes in the Philadelphia crease all season. Both have been inconsistent throughout their NHL careers, showcasing flashes of brilliance one season only to falter harshly back to reality the next.
Now they collide in the City of Brotherly Love with both operating under the uncertainty of one-year contracts.
Mason was impressive in seven appearances with the Flyers last season after coming over from Columbus at the trade deadline. The former Calder Trophy winner posted a 4-2 record while compiling a 1.90 goals-against average coupled with a .944 save percentage.
Meanwhile, Emery comes to Philly via free agency after notching an astounding 17-1 record last year with the Chicago Blackhawks while registering a 1.94 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
Both netminders will be given every opportunity to find success in the Philadelphia crease and neither will be discarded after one or two below-average outings.
The reality is the competition between the two will only elevate each other's games, giving the Flyers an embarrassment of riches in the game's key position. The Flyers will eventually have to identify a true No. 1 goaltender come playoff time, but for regular-season purposes, Philly can continue to rotate between the two.
As such, expect both Mason and Emery to earn more than their fair shares of victories this season.
The Flyers Will Win the Stanley Cup
It's been 38 years since the Philadelphia Flyers hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup. That drought ends this season.
With the likes of Giroux, Hartnell, Voracek, Lecavalier, Simmonds, Schenn, Sean Couturier and Matt Read, the Flyers have the offensive talent and depth to keep up with any of their fellow NHL competitors.
Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit, Luke Schenn and Braydon Coburn highlight a defense corps that could be one of the steadiest in the Eastern Conference when healthy.
And, as just noted, Mason and Emery provide the Flyers with an above-average 1-2 punch in goal.
This is a pivotal year for Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette and general manager Paul Holmgren, so expect both to do whatever it takes to find success.
After missing the playoffs last year for just the second time over the past 18 seasons, Philadelphia will not only find its way back into the postseason this year, the Flyers will claim the 16 victories necessary to claim hockey's ultimate prize.