Philadelphia Flyers: 5 Things They Need to Do to Return to Glory
The Philadelphia Flyers were coming off of a loss to in the Stanley Cup Final. They boasted their defense with the acquisitions of Andrej Meszaros and Sean O'Donnell.
They took a gamble on Nikolay Zherdev that he would put up his typical offensive numbers, while also learning a thing or two about defense.
Things were just peachy during the first half of the year as the Flyers were neck and neck with the Stanley Cup contending Vancouver Canucks for the President's Trophy. But the Flyers season seemed to fall apart faster than the New York Mets in September.
How did things go so wrong? What needs to be fixed and can they be fixed with the current roster?
Here are five things the Philadelphia Flyers need to do to win the Stanley Cup next season.
1- Get Pronger Healthy
The Flyers are a completely different team when Chris Pronger is on the ice. Opposing players simply do not take as many liberties when Pronger is skating around.
He is still a top five defensemen in the league and he has an unmatched ability to bring a sense of calmness to the ice. Pronger's powerful shot from the point and pin-point passing ability were missed when he was out of the lineup, and that had a direct impact on the Flyer's power-play struggles this season.
Mike Richards may have the "C" on his sweater, but Chris Pronger is the Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers for as long as he wears the Orange and Black.
A healthy Chris Pronger next season will be just as important as any free-agent signing the Flyers could make. The Flyers Stanley Cup hopes rest on the broad shoulders of Chris Pronger.
If he is not healthy in 2011, Flyers fans will have to wait another year to have their third Flyer parade down Broad Street.
2- Find a Number One
Ed Snider wants to win another Stanley Cup, there is no question about that. He also realizes that the Flyers will not be winning anything with the carousel that has been their goaltending.
He has stated in the Philadelphia Inquirer this offseason, "We are never going to go through the goalie issues we've gone through in the last couple years." That is as close to a guarantee as possible that Philly will finally pay for a number one goalie.
Many pundits and "experts" are throwing the name of Ilya Bryzgalov from the Coyotes out there, but don't expect the Russian to be wearing a Flyers sweater any time soon. He has changed agents (kind of a Jayson Werth/Scott Boras thing going on) and is looking for a big pay-day.
The Flyers are always up against the cap and overspending for Bryzgalov is not the answer. Don't expect him to come cheap either, as he has already said that he would be willing to play in Russia if the money was right.
So who do the Flyers go after? How do they make it work?
Thomas Vokoun is the answer to the Flyers goaltending woes. They won't have to give up anything in a trade and he could be had for a decent price to play for a contender.
He could be brought in on a two-three year deal while Sergei Bobrovsky learns under him.
Vokoun is simply one of the best goaltenders in the world. Playing for the Florida Panthers makes it hard to put up solid numbers, but that is exactly what Vokoun has done his entire career.
Last season for example, Vokoun posted a .922 SV% and a 2.55 GAA. If this defense can get to the Stanley Cup Finals with Michael Leighton, there is no reason to believe they will not be dominant with Thomas Vokoun.
Paul Holmgren and Peter Luuko will need to get a bit creative with fitting Vokoun under the cap, but resigning Ville Leino would not be an option. Andrej Meszaros and/or Matt Carle most likely would have to move as well.
The Flyers are built to win now, but only if they fix their goalie situation. Thomas Vokoun is that answer to the fly guys goaltending questions.
3- Get Bigger at the Wings
Chris Pronger's absence certainly had a huge reason to do with the Flyers inability to score on the power play. The lack of traffic and deflections in front of the goalie was a problem as well.
Wouldn't Mike Knuble have looked nice in a Flyers uniform the past two seasons? The Flyers have always been known as one of the toughest teams in all of sports.
Obviously you need speed and skill in the "new" NHL, but this current Flyers team was manhandled in the playoffs. They were pushed around and bullied off the puck far too often for a Philadelphia Flyers team.
The Flyers need to bring in a big winger that can play alongside Mike Richards and will be a factor on the power-play.
They need a winger that isn't afraid to get to the dirty areas and will bring that Broad Street Bully swagger back to Philadelphia.
4- Keep Jeff Carter
There has been a lot of talk and speculation this offseason that Jeff Carter and his over five million a year cap hit needs to be traded to bring in a number one goaltender. The Flyers need Jeff Carter if they want to remain amongst the NHL's elite.
How productive is Jeff Carter? In the last three years, Carter has posted goal totals of 46,33,36 for an average of over 38 goals per season. Only Stephen Stamkos and Patrick Marleau have averaged more goals over that span than Carter.
Everyone knows that Carter can score, but do we realize that he is also one of the best shutdown centers in the NHL? Carter is consistently lined up against the opposition's number one center, and he certainly has held his own.
Carter was a +27 in 2010. In fact, Carter is a +52 over a three year span, which ranks him second in the entire NHL behind Daniel Sedin.
That statistic alone proves how valuable Carter is to this franchise. Carter may not be the guy to throw huge checks at people, but he is consistently in the right position and is as good defensively as he is on offense.
The Flyers must keep Jeff Carter if they wish to return to glory next season.
5- in Peter We Trust
The legendary time-outs, passion, dedication and love for the game and interactions with the fans and media are all things have forever endowed Peter Laviolette to Flyers Nation. Laviolette was brought in here for the under-performing John Stevens and was a key reason this team made the Stanley Cup Final.
At some point this season, Laviolette's words didn't seem to resonate with the team as much as they had the year before. Is it true that coaches like Peter Laviolette and Ken Hitchcock are only effective for two-three years before their ranting becomes old?
Speculation has been circling like sharks in bloody water since the season has ended that Laviolette and Mike Richards have a "strained" relationship. Such talk is dangerous and could run a coach out of town.
This can not happen to the Philadelphia Flyers if they want to return to glory in 2011. Peter Laviolette knows what it takes to be a champion because he has already hoisted the Stanley Cup.
Laviolette is the perfect storm of passion and intelligence that the city of Philadelphia loves in their head coaches. Peter Laviolette emboldens everything that is and once was great about Flyers hockey, and he is the right coach to lead the Flyers (and their fans) back to the promised land.