Analysis of the New-Look Philadelphia Flyers Following Their Overhaul
Now that the first round of the 2011 NHL Draft has come and gone; we can now assess the compensation that the Philadelphia Flyers received in yesterday's monumental deals.
The Flyers sent a drastic message to the their players, and the NHL as a whole for that matter, that stretches far beyond simply clearing cap space to sign a No. 1 goaltender.
The Flyers put their team, just one year removed from a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, on notice that at no point will a lackadaisical or seemingly apathetic mentality towards the game be accepted by any player on the franchise.
We all know what the Flyers gave up when they elected to trade captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles, and leading goal-scorer Jeff Carter to Columbus. Now let's take a look at what the team will look like with its new faces, as well as how things will change among the current players.
First up, let's look at how a couple of current players with fill the void left by Richards and Carter.
New Captain: Chris Pronger
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Trading a 26-year-old captain seems unheard of in the NHL. Although, there are many who would argue that Mike Richards always seemed to be a little lacking in the leadership department.
With Richards now gone, the first order of business will be to elect a new team captain. Chris Pronger is clearly the No. 1 choice, as he has filled the role quite well on two previous teams.
Whereas Richards was bashed for his seemingly laid-back, soft-spoken demeanor, not to mention a tenuous relationship with the Philadelphia media, Pronger is an outspoken and opinionated player.
He has been the first person that the media goes to after a game, win or lose. He calls out the players on the team should he feel they are not giving maximum effort (ex. Claude Giroux last season, after a win no less).
But perhaps his best attribute for the Flyers as Captain next season is the fact that being as loud and outspoken as he is, he brings all the attention and hatred of opposing teams and their fans on himself.
This could be greatly beneficial to protecting such a suddenly young core that the Flyers now boast.
New Face of the Franchise: Claude Giroux
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For the last few years, Richards and Carter were considered the core of the Flyers; now in their absence, someone will be expected to step up.
That someone will be Claude Giroux, probably the most talented player on the roster. Giroux will ascend to the line one Center this year, and will now have the expectations of the team's success thrust onto him.
Whenever anything goes wrong next season, people will go to Giroux looking for answers as to why.
Richards and Carter had a lot of responsibilities in Philadelphia, and now those responsibilities will fall to Giroux. Let's hope he handles these new responsibilities better than his predecessors.
New Leading Scorer: James van Riemsdyk
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Jeff Carter has been the Flyers' leading scorer for the past three seasons, posting 46, 33 and 36 goals respectively. That scoring punch will have to come from somewhere, and the Flyers are banking on the continued growth of James van Riemsdyk.
Van Riemsdyk has posted 15 and 21 goals in his first two seasons with the Flyers, but it was his dominating play and team-leading 7 goals in 11 playoff games last year that gave an indication of what the Flyers saw when they used the second overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft on him.
If van Riemsdyk can carry his playoff performance into the season, combined with a full year on the wing of playmaker Claude Giroux, he could become a 35-40 goal scorer on the Flyers as soon as this season.
Now we'll take a look at the players that the Flyers got because of the deals and the cap relief.
Ville Leino, LW
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Before the trades on Thursday, there was absolutely no way the Flyers could afford to bring Ville Leino back. Now their newfound cap space allows them to bring him back, much to the delight of Danny Briere.
Leino has proven himself to be a solid playmaker, though it would be nice if he felt the need to shoot a little bit more. But more importantly, Leino has found that rare natural chemistry with line-mates Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell.
The tandem combined for 170 points last season, including a career-high 34 goals for Briere, a career-high 53 points for Leino, and 49 points from Hartnell, which is the second-highest single season total for him.
Ilya Bryzgalov, G
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Ilya Bryzgalov is the reason all these trade discussions even began. For years the Flyers have been content with cheap alternatives and career backups in the net, and it almost worked with Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher.
But after the embarrassing carousel in the postseason this past season, the front office finally realized it was time to spend real money on a No. 1 goaltender.
Enter Bryzgalov, one of the best goalies in the league, evidenced by the fact that he carried a very mediocre Phoenix Coyotes team to the postseason almost single-handedly, and his brand new nine-year, $51 million deal.
Bryzgalov has posted 78 wins and a league-leading 15 shutouts in the last two seasons. And as we all know, the Flyers didn't register a single shutout this past season.
Jakub Voracek, RW
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Jakub Voracek, a 21-year-old right-winger, was acquired from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade. He was originally selected by Columbus with the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft.
At 6'2", 214 pounds, Voracek helps the Flyers with their serious lack of size on the wings.
Voracek posted 46 points (14 goals, 32 assists) last season, and has never scored more than 50 points in any of his three seasons in Columbus. Needless to say, he has not lived up to his immense potential or the position in which he was drafted.
Reports are that Columbus, while believing in his talent, had soured on Voracek, citing concerns about his work ethic. Clearly, the Flyers are banking on the fact that a change of scenery, and perhaps playing with more talented players, will reignite a fire in Voracek.
Barring any more moves from the Flyers, I see Voracek as playing the right wing on the first line with Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.
Wayne Simmonds, RW
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Wayne Simmonds, a 22-year-old right-winger, was acquired from Los Angeles in the Mike Richards trade. He was originally selected by Los Angeles with the 61st overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft.
Simmonds is 6'2", 183 pounds, so like Voracek, he helps the Flyers get more size on the wings.
Simmonds has posted 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in his three-year career with the Kings.
Simmonds in a solid two-way player who could probably chip in 20 goals a season on a third/shutdown line, which is where I suspect the Flyers will put him this upcoming season.
Brayden Schenn, C
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Brayden Schenn, a 19-year-old center, was the prize acquisition of the deal that sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles. He was originally selected by Los Angeles with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft.
Schenn is 6'1", 190 pounds, so he'll probably add a little weight as he gets older and end up around 200 pounds.
Schenn has done very little in the NHL to this point, posting just 2 assists in 9 career games to this point. In spite of that, he is widely considered the No. 1 prospect in all of hockey. In 27 games with the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, he compiled 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists).
He also posted 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) in seven games for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship, which is a tournament record.
Schenn seems determined to make the Flyers roster out of training camp this season. If he makes the team he'll likely be the third-line center.
Sean Couturier, C
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Sean Couturier, an 18-year-old center, whom the Flyers drafted with the eighth overall selection in Friday's NHL Draft. It was a pick acquired from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade.
Couturier is a monster of a center at 6'4", 193 pounds; he possesses rare size, though experts agree he needs to add 10-15 pounds onto that huge frame.
Couturier has spent the last three seasons playing for the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. In his time with Drummondville (184 games) he has scored 223 points (86 goals, 137 assists), with consecutive 96 point seasons. He became the first 17-year-old to lead the QMJHL in scoring since Sidney Crosby.
Before the start of last season, Couturier was widely considered the favorite to be the 1st overall selection in this year NHL Draft. But early on in the season he was diagnosed with mono and that slowed him down considerably.
He appeared to be fully recovered after the World Junior Championship this year, as on his return to Drummondville, he scored 20 goals in his last 21 games.
He fell to sixth in the final draft prospect rankings this year, so even though the Flyers were probably looking to draft a defenseman with the eighth overall selection, Couturier was simply too good of a value not to take.
The only questions with Couturier are:
1. Can he add enough muscle this summer to challenge for a roster spot with the Flyers this season, or will he need one more season with Drummondville?
2. If he can make the Flyers, what do they do with their log-jam at center?
With Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, they have one too many centers. They could always move one of them to the wing, but which one? Both Giroux and Briere have played outside, but they are better suited as centers.