After one of the more disappointing ends to a promising season in recent franchise history, the Philadelphia Flyers made unprecedented changes in an attempt to give the 2011-12 version of the team a fresh feel while still remaining top contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Flyers fans have responded mostly positively to the overhaul, and there is excitement among the hockey fandom of Philadelphia.
While a majority of the changes will need to play out for more than one season and if they are to be properly evaluated and compared to the team prior to GM Paul Holmgren and team President Ed Snider's franchise makeover, expectations are still high for this mixed team of young up-and-comers and veteran leaders.
I stated that I do not think this team will be as good at the beginning of the season as they could be at the end. Unlike last year's team that fell to pieces following the Christmas break, I expect this year's Flyers to be rounding into form by then as the new players get acquainted with the remaining core and the rookies learn the rigors of an 82-game season.
However, a fast start could propel the team to reach their potential earlier than any "expert" could predict and could set the stage for yet another Philadelphia team to be the "team to beat".
While every fan has seen the Flyers get out to winning starts and lock up a playoff spot early then fizzle out after the All-Star break, the culture change Peter Laviolette was hoping for when he suggested taking the captaincy off of Mike Richards has been brought to full effect.
Holdovers from the Clarke-era like Richards, Jeff Carter and Brian Boucher are gone, replaced by players better suited for Laviolette's system, such as Wayne Simmonds, Max Talbot and Ilya Bryzgalov.
Baseball's Phillies are great and seemingly on their way to another long postseason run, the Eagles are 1-3 and the 76ers probably will not play a game until 2012. The Flyers could capture the entire city's attention with a bunch of early victories.
The Flyers could re-energize a dedicated but frustrated fan base, while also building the confidence of such a young team if they are able to gel early.
Given this analysis, these are the keys to a quick start and prolonged success for the 2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers.