The NHL season is slowly approaching with training camp beginning Sept. 12 for the new & improved Philadelphia Flyers. Big news has followed the Flyers everywhere this offseason. From the signing of superstar defensemen Chris Pronger to the announcement that they will represent the NHL in their 2010 Winter Classic on New Years Day at Fenway Park in Boston.
They have also had bad news creep up, such as: did they give up too much to get Pronger? How are they going to replace Lupul and Knuble’s goal production? Did they mortgage too much of the future for Pronger? Will Ray Emery be the goalie that he was in 2007 for the Ottawa Senators?
All these questions and more will head into Voorhees, NJ this September when the Flyers take the ice for the first time since being ousted in the first-round by the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
This will be part one of my preview of the upcoming Flyers' season. This series will begin with the offensive outlook of this team as it stands.
Star-Light or Star-Bright: High expectations will be the story this season once again for the orange and black. Daniel Briere is prepared for a big comeback season. Claude Giroux will have a full-season to show how spectacular he really can be. The Flyers lost 52 goals with the departures of both Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul. They didn't gain any offensive power during the offseason, so far.
Is that really true?
I believe the opposite. I think the Flyers have possibly gained on the offensive side more than they have lost. Let’s look at it this way--Danny Briere is a career point-per-game player during his span in the NHL. If Briere is 100 percent healthy, which he states he is, there is no doubt that this guy can contribute over 80 points for Flyers this season.
“It was a very testing year (last year). Testing the patience, especially,” Briere said. “Obviously, it didn’t go the way I expected it to go, but it’s in the past now. You try to learn from that."
"I’m actually very, very excited about our team going into this season. That’s what has been pushing me to work out even harder now,” Briere said at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ.
“I’m starting to feel strong again. I’m trying to find that explosion that I used to have two years ago. Health-wise I feel great, and I’m ready for a big year,” he said.
If thats the case with Danny, then all arrows point to the positive for the star forward. I truly think this could be the equivalent to a big free-agent signing if Briere can stay healthy.
Next up on the add list for the team is the late-season superstar, Claude Giroux. The kid dazzled the team and the city with his Peter Forsberg-esque play and shy attitude. Giroux, 21, posted 27 points in 42 games last season, but everyone who watched and covered the team knew he was just scratching the surface on what he can do offensively.
Can we expect 75-85 points out of this kid? I'm not sure. What I am sure of, this young spark plug will bring you more than Joffrey Lupul right out of the gate. Giroux has the grit, toughness, energy, and the talent to compliment all of that, he is going to be an exciting attraction come this October.
The Flyers had an offense last year that produced 260 goals, which put them tied for fourth in the NHL. They were the only team with more than four 20-plus goal producers, with six. The Flyers lost two of them via trade and free agency in Lupul and Knuble.
Coach John Stevens gave his opinion on that situation, losing two consistent 20-plus goal producers.
“Well, time will tell, if you look at the year we were without Simon Gagne where he had 40 goals a year, we still had six guys over 20. Last year we missed Danny and we had seven guys over 20,” Stevens said.
“I think we have guys who, with more ice time and opportunity to produce, they're capable to keep on producing goals, especially with the appearance now of Chris Pronger, will help the defense produce more goals also,” he said.
The Flyers are also expecting another goal explosion out of Jeff Carter. Carter busted onto the scene last season, netting 46 goals. The Flyers believe he can match that number or even exceed it.
Captain Mike Richards—who achieved new career highs last year in points (80), goals (30) and assists (50)—is expected to raise all those number this season. Richards, who played hurt for most of last season, has the potential to propel his game to reach the century-point mark.
Guys like Scott Hartnell and Simon Gagne should see their numbers either raise or stay the same with how the Flyers offensive style of play. If Gagne gets paired with Briere, Gagne could be looking at another 35-goal season. The same goes for Briere.
Stevens believes guys like Jared Ross, James van Riemsdyk, and other hopefuls could produce if they play quality minutes on the ice with the big guys, especially JVR.
“Im really anxious to see what JVR can do, we know how skilled he is, and we all want to see what kind of competitive level he can get to, and how fast,” Stevens told me.
So the Flyers lost Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul. I’ll take a healthy Danny Briere and a full seasons worth of Claude Giroux over their departures any day of the week.
Expectations are high, but new questions will begin on Sept. 12 when they lace up their skates. The answers will be made with their performance come Oct. 2 in Carolina.
Part 2 of this Flyers preview series will feature defense.