Sure the Flyers are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, but that doesn't mean it's time to sit around and wait for success to fall into our lap.
The Flyers realize—especially with how their season started—that success comes with hard work and the willingness to get better every day.
The Flyers as of today have four players on pace to score over 30 goals—Mike Richards, Mike Knuble, Simon Gagne, and of course Jeff Carter, who can score 45 or 50 if he stays hot.
Simon Gagne said it best after practice today, “It was a big issue coming into the season, that we’re not working hard enough—but sometimes thats the way it goes, it's hockey."
Gagne made a great point, and apparently he was right. Since the players meeting in Colorado, this Flyers team looks like a group of possessed men trying to get their 401K plans back in session.
Furthermore, the Flyers are the best team in hockey right now on the special teams, in my opinion. I believe teams are now preparing for the Flyers on both the power play and penalty kill. The Flyers scored four power-play goals in Saturday's romp of Pittsburgh. That's amazing in the NHL today.
"We’re winning a lot of hockey games because of special teams right now. Special teams are part of the hockey game, and if you don’t have them, you’re not going to win a lot of the time,” Simon Gagne added about their special-teams success.
Captain Mike Richards is the guy who making this engine continue. People can say Jeff Carter is the carrying the team right now, but if anybody out there who really watches the Flyers and really analyzes, the captain is the catalyst out there who does everything.
The Flyers got off to a slow start—however, the Flyers have registered points in 15 of 16 games and counting. That slow start seems ages ago, but it was only about month and a half back.
By the end of the week, the Flyers could be in first place in the division. They could extend this run to 18 of 19 games. They could continue to send a message to the rest of the NHL that they are the most mentally tough team in the league.
I believe this team is top five in the NHL. I'm saying this now, and I said a little while back because I know this team, and I believe in the leadership to direct this core.
A lot can change in the next couple weeks‚for sure, the lineup will. Randy Jones, who was cleared to play today, should play tomorrow against the Avalanche at the Wachovia center.
Then, if that isn't enough defense for you, Ryan Parent should be back days after Christmas. GM Paul Holmgren has a lot of choices to make, and one of those might involve 18 year-old Luca Sbisa going back down to juniors.
"Is it something we’ve talked about? We’ve talked about it, but it’s not something we want to do," Holmgren said. "Would it be detrimental? No. I think he’s played well enough to stay in the lineup, and we’ll just leave it at that.”
With Danny Briere out for a couple more weeks, the Flyers have some time to decide what their going to do for the long run. If it was up to me, at this point I think Sbisa has earned his spot and I would send Ryan Parent down for a little bit so he can get his game back.
By the end of the week, we will all know if this team is a true Eastern Conference contender. This week could benefit the Flyers come April and May, but remember, it is only December, anything can happen. We are in Philadelphia.