A Philadelphia Flyers Fan's Dilemma: Whose Jersey Should I Buy?
Every Flyers fan has been hearing about and discussing the changes made this past offseason. We all know the names who left and the new players brought in to take their place.
Flyers fans are an especially dedicated bunch and value the logo over any individual player, no matter how beloved said player once was.
I've been watching my Flyers for as far back as I can remember. My father has told me of taking me to the Spectrum to get our first look at Eric Lindros when No. 88 was a rookie.
It was at one of these games in the early 1990s when my father bought an authentic home white No. 88 jersey, which eventually became my first jersey. I held on to it for a while, and still break it out from time to time, mostly for a laugh.
In 1997, the Flyers debuted their now classic black third jersey. In love with the cool, new update, I was given the jersey for Christmas and had it customized with the new, exciting free agent Chris Gratton's name and number—55. This jersey was tragic for a number of reasons, as Gratton was not only a bust in orange and black, but he changed his number to 77 the following season, once Paul Coffey departed.
Some time went by before I made my next hockey jersey purchase, getting by on t-shirts and hats to demonstrate the hockey team I supported. I finally settled on a home white Charlestown Chiefs jersey, personalized with my own name and high school playing number.
Then, I fell in love again.
A young first-round draft pick, tabbed as the next great captain, the next Bobby Clarke. I went out and bought a Mike Richards jersey and put the "C" on it a year before he was awarded captaincy.
Now Richards is gone, with only a trail of beer bottles and disappointment in his wake. Meanwhile, I am left without a Flyers jersey.
But now, with so many new options, it is almost impossible to decide which player on this revamped roster is worthy of having his name festooned upon my back.
With your help, I hope to come to a definite conclusion, as the Winter Classic jerseys will be on sale before you know it, and the only way I know how to get over the heartbreak of the Phillies and Eagles is an impulse buy that will also get me totally geared for hockey season.
So, without any further delay, which Flyers player's name should be my next attempt to break my jersey losing streak?
Chris Pronger is not technically a "new" Flyer, but the C on his chest makes his jersey a solid buy.
The 2011-12 season is all about chemistry and leadership, and handing Pronger the captaincy after trading Richards and Carter put the team in Pronger's hands.
I've been a Pronger fan since before he was a Flyer; as a lanky defenseman in high school I tried to emulate Pronger's controlled mean streak, defensive awareness and leadership.
Pronger is everything I have always loved in a hockey player, and I could not have been more excited the day he was acquired.
There is the question of Pronger's health, as his BEST hockey is certainly behind him. But, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Pronger productively captains the Flyguys into his 40s, similar to Nicklas Lidstrom.
I don't think I need to make an argument beyond this picture.
But, the fisticuffs are only a part of what makes Simmonds such a cool jersey possibility.
Simmonds' style of play is everything we want from a Philadelphia Flyer. He's tough, gritty, fast and willing to put himself on the line for his teammates. He scores goals, plays in every facet of the game and will knock out a chirper.
As a bonus, Simmonds is part of the reason Sean Avery is standing outside the National Hockey League looking in. What's not to like about this guy?
Furthermore, the number 17 is a special one in Philly.
The GM, Paul Holmgren, wore No. 17. The one who got away and is still more revered than most players in the team's history, Rod Brind'Amour, wore No. 17. The castoff housewife of Sea Isle City, Jeff Carter, wore No. 17.
Simmonds is only 23 years old and will conceivably get better, as Peter Laviolette's system was made for an aggressive skill player like Simmonds.
And, his willingness to get the dirty work done will pay off with a larger role in the offense as the season progresses.
A goalie jersey, something that has never occurred to me. And, why would it?
But now, for the first time in my life, the Flyers have a goaltender whose name deserves emblazoning on a customized jersey—rather than on a list of Philadelphians deserving to be run out of town.
If the Flyers are going to make an entire city's dream into a reality, it will begin and end with Ilya in net.
From an investment standpoint, Bryzgalov just signed a nine-year contract, meaning I should get the better part of a decade out of the Russian's sweater.
My drawback here is Bob.
Bobrovsky was the rookie sensation last year and dazzled in the preseason. If Bob is the next big thing and the organization makes the move to stick with Bryzgalov, the jersey will be a constant reminder of how the Flyers and I chose the wrong Russian.
Jaromir Jagr is a Philadelphia Flyer. It still sounds cool. Sure, it's still early, but Jagr does not seem to have lost much after a three-year hiatus.
Jagr-Giroux-JvR is shaping up to be an all-time great line, and the chemistry they have already flashed makes every Flyers fan's imagination run wild thinking of the possibilities.
Jagr is pushing 40 years old and most likely will not be in town beyond this season. But, if this his only year and the Cup is delivered to the City of Brotherly Love, that jersey will be a symbol of said championship.
Even if Jagr is gone after this year, his pairing with Giroux and van Riemsdyk will pay off for years. Rather than learn the ropes from two irresponsible disappointments, the youngsters will be under the tutelage of one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
Jagr will teach his linemates, as well as Sean Couturier and (hopefully) Brayden Schenn what it means to be a SUPERSTAR in this league.
Giroux appears to be on his way to reaching elite status, and his three goals through three games (on pace for 82 this season) are an indication that he is already more focused under the new leadership regime.
Jagr in the orange and black still seems foreign, like it is part of the NHL12 video game commercials, advertising the legends of hockey playing for any team you want. Jagr's presence turns a solid, young team into Philadelphia's real dream team, an eclectic mix of offense and defense, youth and experience in front of a Vezina-caliber goaltender hell bent on proving Peter Laviolette and Paul Holmgren know what they're doing.
Jagr is the catalyst for this year's change.
His No. 68 set against the orange and black is like a metaphor for the alteration made to the hockey culture in this city. Like everything we always held true was false, and only now can the truth, and hopefully a championship, be delivered.
Jagr was never a player I could envision fitting in on Broad Street. But maybe, a lot like the end to Rocky IV, we all must change if anything meaningful is going to be accomplished.
I always like to get in on the ground floor with jerseys, and it doesn't get much more grounded than an 18-year-old rookie.
But, it's not just Couturier's age and contractual status that make his jersey appealing.
Couturier has already made a major contribution after three games, playing some big minutes in big spots. Couturier has lead an effective penalty kill for Philadelphia, and led all forwards but Danny Briere in total ice-time in Wednesday's home opener against Vancouver (Briere beat Couturier by 12 seconds).
Couturier also flashed his offensive potential Wednesday, tallying his first NHL point with a nice assist on Jake Voracek's second-period goal, and logged several scoring chances himself.
Couturier was the eight overall pick in this year's entry draft, and was at one point considered the top prospect before a bout with mononucleosis set him back in his final year in juniors. As far as potential, Couturier has more upside than anybody on the roster, besides, of course, Claude Giroux, who is the league's next GREAT player.
I don't think I like the number 14. I feel nothing for that number. But, Couturier could own it, giving meaning to a number where there was none before, at least for me.
By this logic, Brayden Schenn would be an interesting pick up, as well. For a lot of the same reasons, Schenn's No. 10 is a jersey worth coveting. Like Couturier, Schenn was a highly-touted prospect who came to the Flyers as part of their summer blockbusters.
Schenn will be one of the leaders of the next generation of Flyers hockey, like a successful version of what JvR and Giroux were to Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
Clearly, I have a lot of options.
My two favorite current players, Timonen and Giroux, were not even listed. As a rule, I try to stay away from the MOST popular players on the team, as I feel a man's jersey says a lot about him, much like his favorite Beatle. Nobody wants to say Paul McCartney; it's too easy and cliche.
What jersey should I purchase?
I'm leaving it up to the commenters to decide for me, as I'm too emotionally involved to make a reasonable decision. I'll take any suggestions not listed in this article, I just may need some further convincing.
As always, thanks for reading!
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