The Flyers off season was a busy and productive one, a continuing example of the on-going battle between salary-cap and team managment. The question is how did the Flyers fare?
The Orange and Black were forced to say goodbye to Mike Knuble, the giant who made his home in front of the crease as well as in the hearts of Flyers fans. It has been argued by NHL pundits that his contribution to the team will be missed. I would have to disagree.
Yes, the Flyers did lose the likes of Knuble and Lupul but the team has scores of potential in young talents like Claude Giroux and James VanReimsdyk. These two young stars showed an insane amount of talent, and chemistry, during the pre-season.
The recent injury to JVR, althoug a set-back, should not greatly affect the already prolific offense which has been established in Philadelphia. Which speaks volumes to the type of talent present on this team if an injury to a second-overall draft pick is a "setback".
Maybe I am understating the injury to JVR, or maybe I am overstating the talent on this team, but the combined 60 goals of Knuble and Lupul (who was sent to Anaheim) will more than be made up for.
Draft day got extremely interesting for Flyers fans as the club acquired yet another high profile player by the name of Chris Pronger. Yes, Pronger does bring attitude to an already gritty team, but his presence on the blue line is the obvious added advantage.
This year Pronger has been teamed with the young Matt Carle, brought to Philadelphia during the season last year for his puck carrying skills and offensive awarness. Carle has made an impact already this season, tallying 4 points in a single game against Washington. Has Matt Carle's recently found confidence due to the pairing with Pronger, or has he just become more comfortable in Philadelphia? I would argue both.
Pronger has not only affected his defensive partner Matt Carle, but also the effectivness of the entire defense. Pronger and Carle being the first defensive pairing, allows Coburn and Timonen to be more affective against teams' second scoring lines. It will also prove useful in a very long and grinding season.
Timonen led all Flyer's defensmen in ice-time last season. Some would argue the extensive playing time caught up with him later in the season, wearing him down. Now with Pronger in the mix, ice time can be effectivly split between two top defensive pairings, keeping fresh legs on the ice throughout the entire season.
It will be interesting to watch how Pronger truly impacts this team as the season progresses.
The Flyers jetisoned goaltenders Marty Biron and Antero Nittymakki in the off-season with the help of free agency. Neither of the goaltenders found a lucrative payday. In my opinion, rightfully so.
Goaltending has long been the achillies heel of the Flyers organization since the untimely death of Pelle Lindburg. A top number one goaltender to anchor the team has been a dream of Flyers fans for years? Did we get one on-the-cheap.
Ray Emery, if one was to youtube this guy you would find him fighting more than stopping pucks, but the highlight reels can't show everything. Emery got himself into a bit of trouble while playing in the NHL, more off the ice than on. Which led him to find work in Russia.
While playing overseas the controversial Emery never slowed down. Backstopping a team, and punching a coach. Even through the probability of adding drama to a seemly sound lockeroom was present-the Flyers took a fly on Ray Emery.
It is early in the season, but the athletic Emery has look good in net. Opening the season with a shutout and allowing two against the rival Devils. His last two starts proved to be more shakey: allowing 5 against Washington and 5 against the hated Pittsburg Penguins.
Granted, Washington and Pittsburg have arguably the top 3 offensive players in the league on their clubs: Ovechkin, Malkin and Crosby. But these teams will be the perverbial mesuring stick for Emery, and the team, all season long.
Emery has the athleticism and vision of a top goaltender, but his preformance can dictate otherwise. If Emery plays like Biron, then we got the same goaltending for a cheaper price. If Emery plays like Biron did during the '08 playoff run. Then Holmgren should be hearlded as a genius.
The engima that is Flyers goaltending will unravel itself during the season. If Emery gets hurt or gets in more off ice trouble the Flyers have a very capable and familiar back-up in Brian Boucher. Personally I think with this team, Emery can get to the 40 win mark.
The Flyers seem to have combined gritt with players like Ian Laperrier, Chris Pronger, Dan Carcillo and Blair Bett with talents like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. The result of this mutation will remain to be seen until the season comes to a close. One way or the other, they will prove to be entertaining.
The Broad Street Bullies are a thing of the past but the Flyers seem to have come as close to the legend as possible with this year's club. Gritt and talent is a dangerous combination. Here's hoping it brings a championship.