The 12 Days of Hockey: A Flyers Fan's Wish List for 2011-12
In 12 days, the Philadelphia Flyers will face off against the Boston Bruins to open the 2011-12 season. Each new season brings a new set of wishes for hockey fans, and Flyers fans have a new, interesting wish list for the coming year.
From concerns on offense, to changes in goal, to the reception of new faces, these are the 12 wishes that this fan believes will make for a successful year of hockey in the City of Brotherly Love.
Twelve Solid Forwards
Goodbye Richards, Carter, Leino, Carcillo and Powe, hello unproven youngsters and aging veterans. The exit of so many pivotal parts of the offense leaves fans wondering how the new-look offense will perform.
None of the newcomers need to be absolute superstars just yet, but if the team can go all season without constantly rethinking the formula for success on offense, the roster moves will have paid off.
Eleven 40-Point Players
Last season, the Flyers had nine players contribute 40 points by the time the season was over. With some important additions on offense and Chris Pronger looking well enough to play much more than the 50 games he contributed last season, a good Flyers offense is capable of having up to eleven 40-point guys this season.
The top six forwards should all be expected to contribute 40, as well as Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. Matt Carle, Andrej Meszaros, and Kimmo Timonen should be able to join Pronger in contributing 40, and if even two of those three manage, the team will hit a total of 11.
Ten on Plenty of Jerseys
Brayden Schenn is the next big thing in Philadelphia, and 2011-12 could very well be his breakout year. The young Schenn-sation will be wearing No. 10 as a Flyer, and the more he makes his presence felt on the ice, the more he’ll see his jersey popping up in the stands.
If Schenn turns out to be the real deal, you will start seeing the old-school LeClair jerseys being outnumbered by brand-new threads with Brayden’s name on the back.
Nine Good Years in Net
Since the days of Ron Hextall, the Flyers’ goaltending situation has been questionable at best. This offseason, GM Paul Holmgren spent $51 million bringing a solid presence to the crease by signing Ilya Bryzgalov for nine years.
Philly’s recent experience with goaltenders ranges from disappointing to disastrous, making it incredibly important that this year proves to be the first of nine years of safety and security in net. Even if Bryzgalov does not play out his full contract, he represents a commitment to long-term reliability in net.
Eighth Seed or Better
With the revitalization of teams like Tampa Bay, Toronto and Florida, the Eastern Conference is difficult to predict, and the new look of the Flyers’ roster has caused some critics to predict that the team will not make the playoffs. Of course, the Flyers themselves have other plans.
An eighth seed is hardly a lofty goal, particularly for a team that finished second in the East only a year ago, but qualifying for the playoffs is the primary way that Paul Holmgren can avoid being questioned about his summer decisions.
As the 2009-10 team taught us, anything can happen in the playoffs, you just have to make it.
Seven Winning Months
Under former captain Mike Richards, the Flyers seemed to find themselves in a losing streak two or three times per year, and usually found themselves unable to find their rhythm. Last season, the team hit its cold streak right before the playoffs, and the results showed.
This season, it is important for the team’s mentality that they avoid losing streaks that exceed three or four games, and their needed consistency will be demonstrated if they finish each month with a winning record.
If the Flyers win the majority of games each month, they will learn to be resilient; if they have losing months, they will likely fall into old habits and lose valuable points in the standings.
Six 20-Goal Scorers
Balanced scoring has been a part of the Flyers’ offense for years, but scoring may be harder to come by this season.
Will Scott Hartnell be able to score twenty goals without Ville Leino on his line? Will James van Riemsdyk respond to the pressure of being expected to score more? Can Jaromir Jagr still contribute on offense?
The Flyers will have a hard time getting over 40 goals from any individual player, but having six players contribute 20 would give the team a threatening offense.
Five or More Shutouts
Though the team’s goaltending was good for most of 2010-11, the team found themselves in the frustrating position of being the only team in the league not to record a shutout all season.
With former starter Sergei Bobrovsky likely to mature and improve, and new starter Ilya Bryzgalov changing the team’s look in net, shutouts should not prove so unattainable this year.
Bryzgalov could be good for more than five goose eggs, and Bobrovsky might get one or two in a limited role, but five is a reasonable number to ask of a team that always managed to give up a goal a year ago.
The team will be more successful when they have a chance to win the low-scoring games as often as the high-scoring games.
Four New Fan Favorites
Richards, Carter and Carcillo are gone, but fans still have plenty of new players to get excited about. Players like Brayden Schenn are already being talked about before the season has even started, and fans are noticeably excited about the new faces on the team.
Flyers fans are notorious for getting attached to their players, and this new crop has tons of potential. Wayne Simmonds and Max Talbot are likely to win over fans with their grit and attitude, while Schenn and Jakub Voracek have the potential to dazzle spectators with their hands and scoring touch.
Ilya Bryzgalov has the toughest task in winning over Flyers fans, but this season should yield at least four new names that fans want on their jerseys.
Three Flyers All-Stars
Last season, the Flyers sent only two players to the All-Star Game, and one was an alternate pick. The team, which was on top of the East at the time, felt snubbed.
This year’s team might not find themselves on top of the conference in January, but they have a number of players with the potential to make an All-Star team.
Chris Pronger, Danny Briere, Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk, Kimmo Timonen and Ilya Bryzgalov could all find themselves making a case for the festivities.
Two Individual Trophies
Despite all their regular season success over the last 15 years, the Flyers have found themselves under-represented when awards are handed out at the end of the season.
The team may not have blatant front-runners in any categories, but some individuals could conceivably compete for awards over the course of 2011-12.
Brayden Schenn may make the strongest case, competing to become the first Flyer to win the Calder Trophy since Bobby Clarke. Ilya Bryzgalov will also look to attach his name to Vezina talks, and Claude Giroux’s skills in his own zone make him a viable candidate for the Selke.
And a Parade on Broad Street
Individual awards, 20-goal scorers and shutouts are all good, but at season’s end, each team has one goal, and only one team achieves it: win the Stanley Cup.
Having been vacant of a Stanley Cup parade since 1975, South Philly has been itching to hoist hockey’s Holy Grail for decades, and every season brings new visions of NHL glory.
The season begins in 12 days, and of this Flyers fan’s 12 wishes, the Stanley Cup is the only one that truly matters.