Philadelphia Flyers Forwards Have to Prove Themselves in 2011-2012
After a revolutionary 2011 offseason at the hands of General Manager Paul Holmgren, the Philadelphia Flyers enter the upcoming season with many questions.
Uncertainty surrounds what exactly a sensible prediction for the team is.
Will the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov make the Flyers a team that shuts down the opposition and wins defensively? Are the acquisitions of Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds too little to make up for the loss of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Ville Leino? Will this team be able to score?
As a team, the Philadelphia Flyers will have to prove their status as a Stanley Cup contender remains intact.
Individually, each player has his own merits to ascertain. Here are the areas in which top forwards on the depth chart will be looking to excel.
He can still produce points at age 34.
Danny Briere is halfway through an eight-year contract signed after a 95-point season with the Buffalo Sabres in 2006-07. Briere has not come close to that production in the regular season with Philadelphia, having a high of 72 points in his first year with the Flyers.
However, Briere has been a terrific playoff performer with Philadelphia, scoring 59 points in 57 games.
His 30 points was the most among all players in the 2010 playoffs.
Briere is a clutch performer, but as he enters the latter stages of his career that production should be expected to drop off.
He can be productive without Ville Leino as a linemate.
Hartnell's career high of 60 points came in 2008-2009, when Ville Leino was nowhere to be found. However, the production of the Briere-Hartnell-Leino line was impeccable as a unit.
Though Leino has only scored 30 career goals and may not be worth the huge contract he found in Buffalo, there will be a loss of chemistry for Hartnell to deal with during this season.
He's a superstar.
Claude Giroux was a 47-point player in his first full season with the Flyers. He ended that year by contributing 21 points in 23 playoff games.
During that playoff run, Giroux made his name known with clutch goals such as scoring the shootout winner against the New York Rangers to put the Flyers in the playoffs in addition to an overtime winner in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
The next step for the 23-year-old is to make the jump into the upper echelon of the NHL's elite.
He can still be an impact player in the NHL.
Jagr spent the past three seasons in the KHL. Brought in with a one-year, $3.3 million contract, the 39-year-old is meant to fill two areas of weakness for the Flyers.
Jagr should help the lack of size the Flyers had last season, and the two-time NHL captain should contribute as a locker room leader.
Though the outlook on Jagr's addition is positive, his time away from the NHL makes his potential questionable.
James van Riemsdyk
His playoff performance was no fluke.
The prize of the 2007 last-place Flyers team, "JVR" was drafted second overall in the 2007 entry draft. The 22-year-old left winger totaled 40 points in his second season in 2010-11.
James van Riemsdyk showed signs of emerging as the power forward he was expected during the playoffs this past season.
JVR went on a five-game scoring streak, including a dominating two-goal performance in Game 2 of the second round series against the Boston Bruins. Totaling eight shots in the game and leading all forwards with more than 28 minutes of ice time, van Riemsdyk was skating through every Boston defender.
His seven playoff goals tied with Danny Briere for the team lead. His 101 MPH slapshot is the hardest on the Flyers' roster.
Philadelphia hopes that what the youngster showed was his potential, not simply a hot streak.
He was worth trading Jeff Carter for.
When Paul Holmgren unloaded the team's leading goal scorer, he received a player five years younger that is already a top-line forward.
Voracek has averaged 48 points over the past two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will find himself on a line with either Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere, or James van Riemsdyk and Claude Giroux.
Either way, he will be surrounded with immense talent and should be able to set a new career high in point production. Expect at least 55 points from Voracek this season.
That alone will make the Carter trade well worth Holmgren's troubles, regardless of how good Sean Couturier turns out to be. Couturier was drafted with Columbus' eighth overall draft pick, also involved in the trade.
He is ready to play in the NHL.
The other blockbuster trade the Flyers made involved sending Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
Simmonds is a two-way player much like Richards himself.
Touted as the best player outside of the NHL, Schenn dominated the World Junior tournament this year, with eight goals and 10 assists in seven games. The next-highest scorer totaled 11 points.
Schenn scored a hat trick at the Flyers' rookie camp scrimmage this summer, and he will likely find himself centering the third line in Philadelphia this season.
Time will tell if the 20-year-old is as great as he is made out to be, but for this season he'll be examined for his ability to play at hockey's highest level.
A 30-point season to enter the NHL would be sufficient.
He is a better scorer than his stats show.
Wayne Simmonds' career high of 40 points was recorded in the 2009-10 season. Last year, his production dropped to 30.
The 23-year-old claims to have had a down year and believes he is capable of more than what he's done so far.
The power forward should find himself as the third line's right winger and will become a fan favorite in Philadelphia due to his gritty style of physical play.
His defensive skills and locker room presence is really worth a $1.75 million cap hit.
Signed for the same salary cap hit as Wayne Simmonds is Max Talbot. However, Talbot has never scored 30 points in any of his six NHL seasons.
He is regarded to be an excellent penalty killer and teammate. With Talbot's acquisition, the Flyers found penalty killer Darroll Powe to be expendable and shipped him to the Minnesota Wild in a trade.
Powe's cap hit is just $1.07 million.
Will Talbot prove that he's worth nearly 80 percent more money?
He can still do his job.
Most NHL enforcers do not last very long in the NHL.
It usually takes several years of fighting through the minor leagues in order for a player to establish himself as useful in that department.
Some of the NHL's best enforcers today are examples. Trevor Gillies played just one NHL game before the age of 31. Eric Godard was 25 the first season he played more that half his team's games. The NHL's best fighter, Steve MacIntyre, didn't make the NHL until age 28.
Even once these heavyweights finally find their way to the NHL, the difficulty of their job takes an incredible toll that leads to short careers. If the players aren't worn out of their job, they're fought out of it.
Riley Cote retired at age 27. Brian McGrattan has played a total of 39 NHL games since the end of the 2007-08 season. D.J. King has played just 29 games since then.
So, for Jody Shelley to be approaching nearly 600 career games solely as an enforcer, is quite astonishing.
He is still one of the league's top fighters, knows how to do his job, and will attempt to continue during the 2010-11.
Hopefully, at age 35, Shelley will be able to.
He's still necessary.
With the acquisition of a two-way player like Talbot, the Flyers may not need a one-dimensional penalty killer such as Blair Betts.
If the Flyers were to lose Betts, they could find a player that can contribute somewhat offensively.
Betts has just 78 total points in 477 career games. Comparatively, Talbot is also an excellent penalty killer, but has notched 108 points in 388 games.
He deserves the last roster spot.
Andreas Nodl does not excel at any area of hockey. He is a competent, but below-average, two-way player that does not offer anything unique to the Flyers.
With 22 points in 67 games last season, Nodl is no offensive force.
If Nodl is dressed, he is not going to displace anyone off the third line of Talbot, Schenn and Simmonds.
Nodl would find himself on the fourth line along with Jody Shelley and Blair Betts.
Unfortunately, that fourth line is what coach Peter Laviolette uses as a checking line, and nothing more. No matter how talented Nodl is, he's not going to produce points with an enforcer and penalty killing specialist as linemates.
The spot would be much better utilized by a player similar to Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo, who filled the spot last year.
Basically, the fourth line's right winger needs to be a speedy forechecker who can wear down the opposition. Nodl is not that at all.
He can make the Philadelphia Flyers' roster.
To continue the lament of Nodl's futility as a checking line member, here is a look at the next player on the Flyers' depth chart.
When the Flyers needed more toughness in this past playoff season, Rinaldo is who was called upon, for no lack of reason.
Rinaldo is an absolute wrecking ball. If there was a perfect fourth-line forechecker, Rinaldo is that player. Finding someone who can hit harder than Rinaldo does on the forecheck is a difficult task.
In addition to these useful hockey skills, Rinaldo was third in AHL fighting majors last season, an amenity sure to be embraced on Broad Street.