If there was one question mark heading into the offseason for the Philadelphia Flyers, it had to be their goaltending.
How rare is it that a franchise, who is on the breaking point of winning their first Stanley Cup since 1975, would enter this season with two brand new goaltenders?
Both Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki were not expected to be back this season, and that, of course, came to fruition. Biron, signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders and Niittymaki with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But, notwithstanding, nobody was prepared for the curveball the Flyers were about to hang to their passionate fan base.
Yes, that Ray Emery. The same goaltender who in 2006-07 with the Ottawa Senators went 33-16-6 with five shutouts and a 2.47 goals-against average, then had three shutouts and a 2.06 GAA in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
The same Ray Emery who had a 71-40-14 record with a 2.71 goals-against average in his five seasons with the Senators.
From there, everything became a downward spiral in the life of sir Ray Emery.
Emery had offseason wrist surgery which delayed the start to his 2007-08 season, however, and a number of on-and off-ice disruptions gave the Senators no choice but to buy out the final two years of the three-year deal he signed after the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals.
The issues continued when Emery was exiled from the NHL to the Kontinental Hockey League. The struggling netminder was caught on video punching out his trainer while on the bench, things just couldn't get worse for the former prodigy.
They got better.
Emery, 26, signed with Atlant Mytischi last summer and went 22-8-0 with a 2.12 GAA. Not bad, considering that nobody even knew the NHL was still looking at him.
Except for Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren. He started talking to Emery's agent in February, and feels comfortable on his team's contending status on Emery returning to his previous form.
"He realizes what led to his banishment, being put in a situation where he didn't have any options other than go to Russia," Holmgren said. "Now he's back in the NHL, in a good organization, and he realizes what's at stake. I think he's going to be a highly motivated individual.
"I don't view it as a risk. I don't even think about it anymore."
Flyers coach John Stevens is excited for the opportunity to see what Emery can do with a second chance.
"We expect Ray to come right in and perform. He's still young, and he's really motivated to come in and win games for us and take us to the next level," Stevens said.
"Ray is determined to show everyone, including us that he's a new man and that he's the same goaltender he was when he went to the Finals in 06-07 with Ottawa."
The Flyers are risking their high hopes this season with the signing of Ray Emery. But, putting all past issues aside, Emery is a quality number one if his head is on straight. There's going to be a lot of excitement built around 'Razor' as he is called.
BOOOOSSHHH is BACK
Brian Boucher is returning to his roots here in Philadelphia. A crowd favorite who had outstanding playoff run back in 1999-2000 with the Flyers, will return this season presumably in the back-up role. Boucher signed a two-year deal in July.
Boucher will serve Emery very well as a mentor, which could be one of the reasons why he was brought back to the club. Boucher who was exiled himself from the Flyers back in 2002 after publicly stating negative comments towards then head coach Bill Barber, returns as an older, more established NHL goaltender.
Boucher has had trouble making a name for himself since being shipped out of Philadelphia in 2002, playing for five different teams. Since 2002, Boucher is 47-65-18 with the Coyotes, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Flames, and the last two with the San Jose Sharks.
The 32-year-old had a decent season last year for the Sharks while filling in for the injured Evgeni Nabokov going 12-6-3 with two shutouts.
I think he's another highly motivated individual that wants to be part of a good team and recognizes the role he's in. He's going to get the opportunity to play more games than he has the last couple years," said GM Paul Holmgren.
Although, there will be competition per coach John Stevens, the starting job belongs to Ray Emery and Boucher is happy with that, knowing his role. A championship is what matters for Boucher.
Was the acquisition of two new goaltenders a move that was made to be cap friendly?
I doubt it, the Flyers are a class organization who wouldn't mortgage their chance of winning the Cup, just to save some dollars and cents. The club is much smarter than that, and they know hands down that the fan base are more intelligent than the sports world thinks.
The Philadelphia Flyers have no gaping holes at this point in time. But, if bad luck persists, then goaltending might be the obvious boiling point. In my opinion, I think Ray emery is a perfect fit for this squad, but I don't play the games, or stop the shots.
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