The 2013-14 NHL regular season is upon us.
Thirty NHL squads have used the summer months to reload and recharge with the hope of making the upcoming campaign a season to remember.
In Philadelphia, the Flyers will be looking to rebound after the lockout-shortened campaign of a year ago saw the club fail to make the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons.
The Orange and Black haven't failed to qualify for postseason play in back-to-back years in 20 years and the club has taken steps this offseason to ensure that doesn't happen again.
Here's a complete 2013-14 season preview for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Vincent Lecavalier, F
The biggest prize of this summer’s free agent class, Lecavalier landed in Philadelphia after the Flyers offered the 33-year-old center a five-year, $22.5 million pact. The four-time All-Star has managed double-digit goals in each of his 14 NHL campaigns and will center Philly’s second line while receiving significant time on the power play.
Mark Streit, D
The Flyers so desperately needed to bolster their defense this summer they were willing to trade for Streit’s rights a week before he hit free agency in order to secure exclusive negotiating rights. Philadelphia was able to come to an agreement with the former New York Islanders captain who will add leadership, durability and an offensive upside to Philly’s back end.
Ray Emery, G
Emery returns for his second stint in the City of Brotherly Love on an economical one-year, $1.65 deal looking to re-establish himself as a viable number one netminder. After posting a 17-1 record behind Corey Crawford in Chicago last year, the 29-year-old Emery will battle for crease minutes all year with returning goaltender Steve Mason.
Danny Briere, F
Philadelphia's free agency haul from 2007 was jettisoned this summer via one of the team's compliance buyouts. In six seasons with the Orange and Black Briere produced 124 goals and 283 points, but his productivity had dwindled in recent years which pushed the Flyers to buy out the final two years of his contract.
Ilya Bryzgalov, G
Bryzgalov wasn't terrible during his time in Philadelphia (52 wins in two seasons). He just wasn't providing the kinds of returns the Flyers envisioned when they inked the Russian netminder to a nine-year, $51 million pact back in 2011. Philly had a chance to rectify the mistake and took full advantage this summer.
|Scott Hartnell||Claude Giroux||Jake Voracek|
|Wayne Simmonds||Vincent Lecavalier||Brayden Schenn|
|Maxime Talbot||Sean Couturier||Matt Read|
|Jay Rosehill||Scott Laughton||Zac Rinaldo|
|Kimmo Timonen||Luke Schenn|
|Braydon Coburn||Mark Streit|
|Andrej Meszaro||Nicklas Grossman|
The Flyers know what they're going to get from players like Giroux, Voracek and Lecavalier. But what about former uber prospect Brayden Schenn?
Schenn came into the 2009 NHL Draft with a ton of hype after producing 60 goals and 159 points in two seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Los Angeles Kings made Schenn the fifth overall selection that year and the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native continued to excite after recording 34 goals and 99 points in another 59 games in Brandon.
But Schenn's reputation as a point-producing machine hasn't yet translated at the NHL level.
In 110 career NHL outings, Schenn has produced a modest 20 goals and 46 points. He's about to enter this third season of regular action at the NHL level and will either begin to assert himself as a rising offensive threat or will begin to draw questions as to whether he can produce regularly at the game's highest level.
Opposing teams will be focused on stopping Philadelphia's top line so scoring opportunities should be there for Schenn and the Flyers' second unit. The questions remains as to whether they'll take advantage of those chances.
The Lecavalier, Streit and Emery acquisitions make the Flyers better but they're still not among the Eastern Conference's elite.
Still, Philadelphia has had lots of success in recent years against the rival Pittsburgh Penguins and boasts more offensive threats than the New York Rangers. The Boston Bruins are the most complete team in the Eastern Conference, but with a healthy defense corps and an MVP-caliber season from Giroux the Flyers could compete for one of the top spots in the conference.
Philly probably doesn't have the depth and goaltending to capture 16 postseason wins and the Stanley Cup but this is absolutely a group that could find its way into the Eastern Conference Finals.
If the Flyers have to endure another injury-riddled campaign as they did a year ago, it could be a long season.
Philadelphia doesn't have a true stud defender and therefore must rely on its team defense approach. That can't happen if those bodies are on the shelf.
What's more, the Flyers have questions in goal. They have options with Emery and Mason but both have battled consistency issues throughout their careers and could each prove to be little more than average.
If that's the case, Philly could find itself outside the playoff picture in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 20 years.
The stark reality is the Flyers are, at best, the fourth strongest team in the newly formed Metropolitan Division behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capital and New York Rangers.
The task of qualifying for the postseason in the 16-team East will be more difficult than the 14-team West but the Flyers will work their way back into the playoff picture. Look for the Orange and Black to finish third in the Metropolitan Division (behind Pittsburgh and Washington) and sixth in the East (behind Pittsburgh, Washington, Boston, Toronto and Detroit).
Philly will claim 45 wins and 95 standings points during the regular year and then another six in the postseason en route to a playoff exit in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.