The Next Leader of the Philadelphia Flyers
The power struggle in the Flyers locker room last year blew up and saw former captain Mike Richards and his buddy as well as team alternate captain Jeff Carter shipped to the Western Conference.
The power struggle changed into a power vacuum in the offseason as a new captain still has not been named. With no clear successor, Philly's management must decide if it wants to go the Richards route once more and hand the captaincy to a young player who exemplifies and embodies what it means to be a Flyer.
The flip side would be management deciding that the Richards experiment was a failure and that the team must be guided by an older veteran who has already earned the respect of the locker room—a player who none will question, and all will follow.
The most expensive Flyers player has the postseason resume to handle the captaincy of this franchise. Formerly a co-captain with Chris Drury during their time in Buffalo, Danny Briere makes a good case to become the next leader of these Flyers.
Briere is a good producer during the regular season and will be relied on more in 2011-12, possibly as the team’s first-line center and top pivot on both special teams units with the departure of centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
Not only does Briere produce during the 82-game season, he steps up his game better than almost anyone else during the postseason. When crunch time comes along, Briere is there to deliver. Around for at least another four years due to the no-movement clause in his contract, Briere is a prime candidate to don the C.
Loyalty knows no name like Kimmo Timonen. Timonen has played for only two teams in his NHL career despite being 36 years young and it seems that the Flyers have no intention of shipping off the veteran defenseman.
Timonen, like Briere, also sports a no-movement clause. Despite the fact that Kimmo is only signed for two more years, this might be exactly what the Flyers are looking for; a proven veteran who signed for the short term to allow younger players to continue their development and leadership skills. Players such as…
James van Riemsdyk
The youngest player on this list and one of the youngest on the Flyers roster also has the highest ceiling for his potential.
JvR, as he is popularly known, is projected to become an elite power forward in the next few years. He is also quite good right now, having improved by leaps and bounds since the Flyers' Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2009-10.
One has to wonder if van Riemsdyk had developed as fast as Patrick Kane—who was taken one pick before him in the 2007 draft—would the outcome of that series been different?
With a team full of young players and several veterans to match, would it be wise to go the Crosby/Toews route and hand the captaincy off the such a young man?
The leading and obvious candidate to be the captain of the Flyers is undoubtedly Chris Pronger. One thing stands in the way of Pronger having the C stitched onto his jersey: Over the past few seasons, Pronger’s health has become a major issue.
After playing all 82 games and the entire postseason all the way up to and including the Cup finals, Pronger only played 50 regular season games last year while missing a significant amount of time in the postseason. Pronger will turn 37 in October and has just undergone arthroscopic knee surgery this summer.
Pronger is currently on a retirement contract with the Flyers, so it’s highly unlikely he will ever be traded as he is one more Flyer with a NMC. In fact, if Pronger was to honor his entire contract (which there is zero percent chance of) he would be with the team until he is 43 years old, earning $525,000 his last two years—basically the salary an AHL call-up makes.
Considered to be one of the best young playmakers in the league, Giroux is a fine candidate to lead the Flyers now and in the future. While Giroux doesn’t necessarily incorporate a tough-nosed, grind-it-out kind of Philadelphia Flyers hockey, he has the skill set and the ego.
Management loves what the 23-year-old brings to the table, and it was clearly evident as he was the one young “franchise” center to be spared from being sent off to the far corners of the NHL. Giroux recently signed a three-year contract extension and will remain a restricted free agent at the end of his current deal. Claude’s potential looks to be a near-100-point player later in his career, and playing alongside van Riemsdyk cannot hurt his chances of achieving those kind of numbers.
Giroux also performs in the postseason. During the Flyers' Cup run in 2009-10, Giroux posted 21 points in 23 games and last year put up 12 points in 11 playoff contests. First-line center is arguably the most important position in the NHL, so why not have your team’s representation front and center?
The former Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers captain returns to the Atlantic division for his curtain call. When Jagr spurned the Penguins this summer, he swore it wasn’t about money, perhaps one thing that affected Jagr’s decision making was the fact that the Penguins already had their captain (Crosby) and alternates (Malkin and Orpik) firmly in place and were extremely unlikely to and Jagr any kind of leadership role.
Jagr is the only multiple champion on this list, which counts for something. The Flyers are turning into a more youthful team so it will be hard to decide if management wants a traditionally “me first” player like Jagr being the voice of the club.