The foregone conclusion when Bill Guerin signed with the Philadelphia Flyers on a tryout basis was that he was going to be rewarded with a contract once general manager Paul Holmgren could evaluate the roster, and find a solution to fit him into the books without going over the salary cap.
So, when the news broke on Tuesday that fourth-line warrior Ian Laperriere is out indefinitely with post-concussion syndrome lingering from taking a puck to the face in the playoff series with New Jersey, one could only assume that a roster spot opened up for Guerin.
However, let's remember that the Flyers guaranteed nothing to Guerin when he accepted the tryout offer. With that said, it's hard to imagine that Guerin will not be in the lineup come opening night in Pittsburgh.
What the 39-year-old winger brings to the team is size, scoring ability, and most importantly, leadership. The Flyers know what they're going to get in Guerin, and one of his biggest assets is his 6'2", 220-pound frame.
One of the biggest areas the Flyers struggled with last season was a big body in front of the net after he departure of Mike Knuble, who was a key cog to the Orange 'n' Black's power-play unit. In 2009-10, Guerin netted 11 power-play tallies for the Penguins.
Guerin has been a consistent scorer in the NHL, even in the twilight of his career. He has scored at least 20 goals in 14 of his 18 seasons. In each of his last four years, Guerin has registered at least 20 goals with four different teams (St. Louis, San Jose, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh).
Taking into account that Laperriere has likely played his last game in the NHL, the Flyers have lost some veteran leadership amongst the forwards. A well-respected individual around the hockey world, Guerin was a huge factor in Pittsburgh's Stanley Cup run in 2008-09.
Another positive pointing to Guerin making the team is what he can pass along to the younger players on the Flyers roster. He's won two Stanley Cups: one with New Jersey in 1995, and one with the Pens in '09.
Holmgren knows what he will get from Guerin if he decides to reward him with a contract, however the battle for a roster spot is a lot closer than expected as 23-year-old undrafted collegian Ben Holmstrom has been turning heads during preseason.
Holmstrom, who is participating in his first training camp, signed an entry-level contract with Philadelphia in March allowing him to score three goals in the Phantoms' last 13 games.
In an interview with The Hockey Guys' Dustin Leed, Holmstrom said:
I feel like I am a guy that is going to do anything that helps the team win. I finish hits, play responsible in the defensive end, and try to get to the front of net offensively. I try to play with a lot of energy and passion every night and hopefully that will help translate into the team's success.
Playing as the checking line center, Holmstrom has impressed with his tenacity and hockey sense. He's not going to contribute much on the score sheet, but he gives the Flyers another body to use on the penalty kill.
The PK unit also took a hit with the news that Laperriere will be out indefinitely. Lappy was one of the best killers on the squad with the willingness to block shots, and clear the zone. With him out, and the loss of Simon Gagne to a trade during the offseason, the Flyers could use some help on the PK.
That's where Holmstrom factors into the equation.
A captain since his sophomore year at college, Holmstrom has demonstrated all the qualities in a good penalty killer: hustle, good positioning, and the smarts to clear the zone. He's a leader who wants to win, and will sacrifice in order for team success.
In 144 games at UMASS-Lowell, Holmstrom recorded only 26 goals and 84 points, but he was known for his defense. In the 2009-10 season, he was awarded the NCAA (Hockey East) Best Defensive Forward, an award won by the New York Rangers' Chris Drury.
While you can argue that the Flyers already have checking liners in Blair Betts and Darroll Powe, it's important to remember that they're very underrated on winning teams. In other words, you can never have enough grinders.
At the same time, it's hard to say no to what Billy Guerin brings to the table for a team that's coming off a loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, even though he has played just "OK" according to Holmgren.
The Flyers have to decide whether to go with Guerin, who will undoubtedly add another offensive weapon with the "been there, done that" attitude, or with a youngster trying to make a name for himself.
We'll find out the answer in the coming days, that's for sure.
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