After watching the first few pre-season games these past couple of weeks, I came to a few conclusions about the Flyers this season.
First off, Jimmy Van Riemsdyk (JVR) is looking stellar. After a sub-par 2009-2010 season, JVR is looking to revitalize himself in the Flyers' offense. In the off-season, he has gained more muscle while maintaining seven-percent body fat! It certainly showed in the past few games. JVR looked quicker, more physical, and smarter.
I'm not sure what the record is exactly, but the Flyers have had a ton of injuries to their goaltending squad. After last season, things finally seemed to be settling down in net. Playoff hero Michael Leighton received a new contract which will keep him here for two more years. Johan Backlund also received a new contract and Brian Boucher is, well, Brian Boucher. Then, without notice, we starting hearing more and more about a young goaltender named Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobs, as he is so affectionately called, started with the Adirondack Phantoms when he signed an entry-level NHL contract in May of 2010. Before coming to the NHL, Bobs played for Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the KHL (say that ten times fast). Bobrovsky possesses cat-like reflexes and intense hand-eye coordination which will make him a player that the Flyers will certainly take a look at when considering who will replace Leighton for this month.
Since acquiring Nikolai Zherdev in July from free agency, he has looked extremely promising for this upcoming season. Zherdev, a former Columbus Blue Jacket and New York Ranger, has 99 goals and 140 assists in 365 NHL games. Although he was known as a distraction in New York, the general feeling is that Zherdev is ready to get serious and contribute. Last season, the Flyers ranked 8th in goals per game. Zherdev will likely help the Orange and Black to improve in that category.
The Flyers had an issue with defense as they got further and further into the playoffs. Chris Pronger was on the ice for most of the game and for a thirty-five year old guy, that's not something the Flyers can keep doing. Sent to the Flyers in the Gagne trade was defenseman Matt Walker. Walker is known as a physical, stay-at-home player who likes to throw his 6'3" frame at people. Sean O'Donnell is another new addition. O'Donnell is a thirty-nine year old who brings experience and leadership to the ice. He teaches by example and has been brought in to preach the younger defensemen. He played for the Anaheim Ducks and won a Stanley Cup alongside Chris Pronger back in 2007. O'Donnell is currently competing against Oskars Bartulis for the sixth defensive slot.
I am genuinely excited for this upcoming season. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards look like they haven't missed a game since the Stanley Cup finals and we still have the best coach around - Peter Laviolette. One thing is for sure: if this season is as exciting as last, we are in for a good one. Here's to great 2010-2011 season! Cheers.