First off, I would like to welcome Dustin Leed, he is the Flyers correspondent for thehockeyguys.net and thefourthperiod.com.
Q: You were at the Flyers development camp, who stood out the most in your eyes?
A: There were a handful of players who stood out to me at Camp, for different reasons. I would say (G) Sergei Bobrovsky, (D) Erik Gustafsson and (F) Eric Wellwood stood out to me the most as far as being impressive players. Bobrovsky has NHL-caliber skill, but needs to mature and get accustomed to the North American game. Gustafsson is a kid who led the CCHA in scoring by defensemen last year and played five games with the Phantoms and recorded two goals and five assists. He can skate exceptionally well and has a lot of Kimmo Timonen in his game. And Eric Wellwood is the total opposite of his older brother, Kyle. He has great speed, plays a very complete two-way game and has some slick moves around the net. Zac Rinaldo stood out to me at Camp because he is a crazy person. The kid tried to destroy everything in his way and I saw a lot of Steve Downie in his game. I think one of the guys I wasn't very impressed with was Marc-Andre Bourdon. He seemed to have a slow first step, and fumbled the puck around a bit in his defensive zone, along the all and things. All of those guys stood out to me, and like I said, all for different reasons.
Q: Who was the toughest guy at the camp?
A: Like I mentioned earlier, I have to go with Rinaldo. He is the new-school tough guy that can skate really well but plays quite an in-your-face style. I think hands down he stood out as the toughest kid at camp, and I think some of his opposition in the Ontario Hockey League can agree with me.
Q: What are your thoughts on the Flyers off-season moves so far?
A: My thoughts on the Flyers moves... unexpected, but necessary. I really am a fan of the Andrej Mezsaros acquisition, because of the player he can be on the right team with the correct defensive partners around him. Paul Holmgren's plan was to get bigger and tougher defensively and the Flyers did that. Let's face it, if they had a third defensive pairing that could play, they would have fared a lot better in the final. I'm also a fan of Nik Zherdev, the player - not so much for his immaturity. On the ice, he brings something the Flyers have lacked for a very long time, and that is flat-out offensive skill and game-break ability. He will help Philadelphia in the shootout (third worst shootout record, all-time) and I think on a defensive oriented team like Philadelphia and possibly playing next to one of the best defensive forwards in Mike Richards will help his game. We all know about his off-ice issues and lack of defensive effort, but these Flyers are not the Columbus Blue Jackets or New York Rangers squads he was a part of. As a whole a lot of fans have a problem with seeing a player like Simon Gagne leave, and lots of questions about specific signings but bottom-line is, I think the Flyers are better than the team that lost the Stanley Cup Final to Chicago in six games.
Q: What is the Flyers biggest remaining need?
A: I think the Flyers are a bit better offensively, there defense is much improved, so one may argue that they need goaltending help. I am not sold on Michael Leighton, yet. But I am not as down on Leighton as some other people are. With the remaining free agent goaltenders, I think the Flyers would be smart to make some demotions (Riley Cote, Matt Walker/Oskars Bartulis), maybe find a team in need of a back-up (Brian Boucher) and then with the remaining money sign one of Marty Turco or Jose Theodore.
Q: What can we expect from the Flyers this season?
A: I think you can expect a hungry team that has learned a lot about themselves from the run they went on last season. Peter Laviolette's intense offensive system is now in place and all of the team now knows what to expect from Laviolette, and Laviolette knows what to expect from his team. Like always, there will be high expectations in Philadelphia, but I think you can expect a physical, hungry intense hockey club.
Q: Can the Flyers win the Stanley Cup this year?
A: Of course, I think the Flyers can win the Cup. Even with Leighton in net, I think they have the pieces to make it happen. Will they win the Cup is a different story. The Penguins are much improved, and have been a thorn in the side of the Flyers for a long time, the Devils are always solid, lots of teams in the Eastern Conference are set to surprise. Flyers have the pieces to win - but it seems like they always have the pieces.