It's hockey time!
Flyers camp opened today, and I'm pumped.
So how does this years team look?
Well, after a loss in the conference finals last year, things are looking good for this young team. They lost just one crucial piece in R.J. Umberger, but they do have Claude Giroux coming up to take his spot. They also brought in Glen Metropolit and Arron Asham to help stabilize the back of the lines for the Flyers. And the progression of Steve Downie should also help this team out.
That's the offensive off-season, but what about the defense?
Well, the only acquisitions for the Flyers on defense were Steve Eminger and Ossi Vaananen. The two of them shouldn't have a huge impact on the Flyers this year, unless the Steve Eminger trades turns out to be another steal like the Braydon Coburn trade.
And then we have goaltending, which was quiet until this past week. We found out Antero Nittymaki will be out for 4-6 weeks, which caused the Flyers to acquire goalie Jean-Sebastion Aubin.
With all that said, let's get on to my projected lines:
Offensive Line One
C-Mike Richards RW-Joffrey Lupul LW-Scott Hartnell
As much as you might not like this line, I love it. No, I adore it. I'm a huge Hartnell fan. I love the way he plays, and I think he will end up being an all-star very soon. Lupul is an explosive player who has a killer shot. Mix that with Richards' all around ability, and Hartnell's hard nosed style of play, and you have a great first line.
Offensive Line Two
C-Daniel Briere RW-Mike Knuble LW-Simon Gagne
This line had high expectations going into last season, but an injury to Gagne halted those expectations. To me, those expectations should be high once again. I still believe Gagne is an explosive player who will take advantage of Briere's passing ability. And it always helps to have a big guy like Knuble in front of the net.
Offensive Line Three
C-Jeff Carter RW-Scottie Upshall LW-Claude Giroux (I know Giroux isn't a LW, but he'll be able to play the spot)
Just call this the play making line. Jeff Carter is a future superstar in my opinion, and may be on the second line by seasons end, but for now, he's stuck with Upshall and Downie. But that isn't a bad thing per say. Upshall's speed and aggressiveness will open up the ice for Carter, and let him get to the net. And Giroux is a highly touted rookie who is looking for his spot on the pro roster. So this line should have a strong year.
Offensive Line Four
C-Glen Metropolit RW-Arron Asham/Steve Downie LW-Riley Cote
This is where the Flyers go downhill (most teams do at the fourth line, so it isn't a big deal). Metropolit and Asham aren't consistent and reliable players, and Cote is only good for some fighting. Downie is an explosive young player, but he still has a lot of learning to do before he earns a full time spot. This line shouldn't see much time this year, so I wouldn't make a big deal over this weak spot.
Overall, this offense is outstanding. They have the potential for eight 20-goal scorer's, and have plenty of different pieces that make a great team. They have play makers, snipers, passers, overall goal scorers, and guys who can clear room in front of the net. If you thought they were good last year, then you will love this offensive squad even more this year, as they have another year under their belt.
Defensive Line One
D-Kimmo Timonen D-Braydon Coburn
I love this line. Timonen is not slowing down at all, and should have another great year. And Coburn is another year wiser, and should be in for a fantastic season. Both of these players will be all-stars, and this line will be considered one of the best by seasons end.
Defensive Line Two
D-Randy Jones D-Steve Eminger
Here is where we go down. After the first line, the defense is just "meh". Randy Jones looks like he could have a bright future, but Eminger is a question mark. We don't know if he will be like Braydon Coburn or not. I don't think he will, so the Flyers will need to do something to fix this part of the defense, especially with Hatcher starting on the IR.
Defensive Line Three
D-Ryan Parent/Ossi Vaananen/Lasse Kukkonen
All three of these guys will split time on the third line, with Parent and Kukkonen getting most of the nods. This line doesn't look to promising, but it all depends if Parent can live up to his hype. If he can, this line shouldn't be too bad, especially with Kukkonen's shot blocking ability.
Looking at the defense, we see a great first line, and a less than average second and third line. The second and third lines are filled with question marks and inconsistent players. The Flyers will need to do something to improve on this defensive squad.
Starter-Martin Biron Back-up-Jean-Sebastian Aubin
Before Nittymaki went out, there was some thought that Nitty could take over as the starter if Biron played poorly. Well, that has been put to rest for the next two months, as Nitty is out 4-6 weeks, and it will take him a few weeks to become adjusted. With that said, I have faith in Biron to perform. His playoff play hinted at what he can really do in my opinion, and I expect to see more of that play this season.
Overall, this team shapes up to be a great team. They are very very young, and have most of the pieces needed to create a Stanley Cup team. In fact, I would say they were a Cup team if it wasn't for the questionable defense.
I think they will end up with the third best record in the conference, and will finish second in the Atlantic behind Pittsburgh. That equals the fourth seed in the playoffs (three division winners get top three seeds for those who don't know).
I do think they will win two series, but I don't see them getting past the conference finals yet. This team isn't ready yet, but give them one more year. In one more year, I do think they will have what it takes to win the Cup.
All in all, the Flyers have a bright future ahead of them, but that future will not come into affect until next season in my opinion. Their offense is stellar, their defense is not.
So I have just one question for you.
Are you ready for some hockey?