The 2011-12 Flyers look to be a much different team than the recent ones led by Mike Richards and featuring the likes of Jeff Carter, Sergei Bobrovsky, Ville Leino and Brian Boucher. As the team transitions to more stable veteran leadership and hands the scoring responsibilities over to rising stars Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, here is a look at six bold predictions for the Flyers along with one layup.
What was once almost a given has recently come into doubt with fears that Pronger's season may be shortened due to injury and offseason surgery. But Pronger has stated that his goal is to be dressed for game one and when Pronger sets his mind to something it usually happens. When he is in the lineup opening night, the C will be on his jersey.
Having played with three of the Flyers' fiercest rivals—the Penguins, the Capitals and the Rangers—Jaromir Jagr is not exactly a fan favorite in Philadelphia and reception to Paul Holmgren's signing of the 39-year-old former NHL superstar was tepid at best.
However, Jagr's play making ability, knowledge of the game and tutelage of younger, budding stars like Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk will make him a valuable part of the 2011-12 team and this will translate into acceptance and even love from the Flyers' fans. Scoring a few key goals against his former teams in big games this year won't hurt his cause either.
At $1.75 million Bobrovsky is very expensive bench warmer. Coupled with the fact that Ilya Bryzgalov is making over $5.6 million and the Flyers are sinking over $7.35 million of valuable cap space in one position. With a solid No. 1 goalie finally on the roster, paying a backup close to $2 million dollars to play 20-25 games does not make much sense, especially when a veteran backup can be found for much less. Bobrovsky will be moved either before training camp or before Christmas.
Giroux's goal total has increased each year since he arrived in the NHL. With Jeff Carter and Mike Richards gone, there will be more responsibility for him to step up his production. There will also be more opportunity and ice time, especially with the man advantage. The addition of the legendary Jaromir Jagr and a healthy Chris Pronger quarterbacking the power play will result in more goals for Giroux as he continues his ascension towards NHL stardom.
Having recorded 15 combined shutouts over the last two seasons with the lowly Phoenix Coyotes, Ilya Bryzgalov is poised to make a big splash in Philly behind a squad that has been known for their team defense. Having failed to record a single shutout in 2010-11 with career backup Brian Boucher and the inexperienced rookie Sergei Bobrovsky, the Flyers will greatly benefit from Bryzgalov being between the pipes, and he will benefit as well from having a veteran shut-down defense in front of him.
For the past few years, it seems the Flyers have followed a pattern: play decently in October, start getting into a groove come November, start dominating in December and January and then come February start playing listless, uninspired hockey and limp into the playoffs.
This year with new core leadership, a top-tier goaltender, and the departure of certain players whose work ethic and dedication to the team had been questioned, look for more consistent play from the Flyers from wire to wire. A house divided cannot stand and neither can a locker room. Look for a more unified and dedicated squad this season.
When GM Paul Holmgren traded fan favorite and team spark plug Scottie Upshall, he said that Flyers fans would love Dan Carcillo.
Unfortunately, it never happened. Committing stupid penalties, losing key momentum-turning fights—that he started—in big playoff games, crying in the hallways between periods, cursing out officials and earning suspensions, doing stupid, bush league, WWE-like throat slash motions towards the opposition, maintaining one of the most insipid Twitter accounts of any athlete and generally making an ass of oneself does not exactly endear you to a proud fanbase no matter what your tee-shirt-ready nickname is or how awful your mustache looks.
Carbomb's legacy as a mere footnote—if that—in Flyers' history is secure with his trade to Chicago.