Summer Fill - A Conversation with The Copper & Blue - Part I

Let me tell you a secret: not a whole lot of hockey gets played in August.

But SBNation never sleeps.  The hockey blogs on this grand network of ours got together and paired off across conferences.  Broad Street Hockey drew The Copper & Blue, SBN's Edmonton Oilers community.  The Flyers and Oilers have made more finals than any other teams since expansion, so this is a real powerhouse match-up

You remember the Oilers as the Flyers' opponent in the 1987 Stanley Cup finals, where the Flyers won an epic Game 6 at The Spectrum before returning to Edmonton for Game 7.  I never heard how that Game 7 turned out--please don't tell me.

There are two parts of the conversation, the first in which Geoff and I answered their questions, and the second in which they answer ours.

Here comes the first part, after the jump.

Since the days shortly after Ron Hextall, it seems that the Flyers have always had a nagging goaltending issue.  Given that Ray Emery wasn't even the best goaltender on his KHL team, do you foresee him as the answer or a cheap stopgap?

One of the things that's great (yet torturous) about the Flyers as a fan is that they are always in "win now" mode, seemingly.  No rebuilding long term, no stockpiling draft picks, just getting the players they think are the best available to win the Cup this season.  And it leads to the Flyers fielding (icing?) a lot of competitive teams, but ones that often fall just short of glory.  I believe that since expansion, the Flyers have made it to more conference finals than any other team, 15.  But they only have two Stanley Cups to show for that, and none in the last 30+ years (thanks so much for '85 and '87, by the way...).   You may have seen Bob Clarke express some frustration at how this philosophy hasn't worked for the Flyers as well as he would have liked, while our in-state neighbors now have a cup thanks to a boatload of top draft picks that they got from being so bad that they faced bankruptcy. 

So to get off of the soapbox and back to your question, no.  I don't think Emery is a stopgap in the sense that he's filling in during a planned interregnum while the Flyers shop for a bigger fish.

With that in mind, it's also important to point out that the Flyers "win now, buy the best" philosophy has rarely if ever extended to goaltending.  I think Ray Emery may have actually been the best goaltender on the market this summer, but he's also not exactly a stable commodity.  It's a risk in what has otherwise been a very solid summer in my mind.

I'm also personally a huge Brian Boucher fan, and I remember that he took us within a win of the finals in 2000.  If push comes to shove, I'm confident in his abilities to step up.

Will the expectations be too much?

As far as Emery goes, I think expectations are fairly under control.  I don't think anybody expects a Vezina performance, nor do I think anyone would be too shocked if he gets out of control and mows down a teammate in the parking lot.  He's a wild card, and so the expectations are wild. 

As for the rest of the team, expectations are always high for the Flyers, and are again this year as always.  Losing to the Penguins two years in a row has stung, but this year's series was so close (within a three-goal lead of Game 7) that I think the organization believes it is close.

Will the addition of Pronger and the strength of Mike Richards as captain help with expectations?

The addition of Chris Pronger is huge.  Not only does he make our defense better, he adds size, experience, leadership, and respect.  Last year, we finished the season with Kimmo Timonen as the captain of the D, with promising young defensemen Braydon Coburn, Ryan Parent, and Matt Carle rounding out the top 4.  While those three look to be strong going forward, Chris Pronger makes the team much better.  Not only on the ice, but our defense now has two of the best in the game to learn from and to set the tone of the team.   

The expectation game is different.  After the run to the Conference Finals in 2008, the expectations were high going into 2008-2009.  Now, the expectations are even higher with the addition of Pronger.  Mike Richards has taken some criticism for his leadership last year, but he was labeled Captain material since the day he was drafted.  There were definitely moments last season that did not go as smoothly as they should have, as even Richards has admitted.  Learning from Jason Smith and Derian Hatcher helped, but now he has Pronger to lead alongside him, as well as respected veterans Timonen and Gagne as the alternates.  With four strong veterans leading the team (plus the addition of Ian Laperriere), the leadership issues from last year should be handled much better this year, making the high expectations a little easier to cope with. 

Given the cap issues the team has, where do the Flyers turn if Emery goes south?

Ben already dealt with how the salary cap issues affect the team in goal, but the problem extends throughout the roster, and even started last year.  Scottie Upshall was traded at the deadline because they couldn't afford to have both Danny Briere and Claude Giroux on the roster.  This year, the team couldn't afford to re-sign Mike Knuble and had to shop in the clearance aisle during free agency.  In addition to Knuble, Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki were the main salaries allowed to walk this off-season and Joffrey Lupul was traded in order to bring in Pronger. 

Going forward, if the team needs to lose even more salary, Matt Carle and Randy Jones appear the likely options.  As it stands now, CapGeek.com estimates only $372,085 in cap space available.  That total, however, includes Andreas Nodl, Lukas Kaspar, and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, none of whom are guaranteed to make the team.  In addition, the numbers include bonuses that could be paid to Nodl and Ryan Parent.  Alternatively, nhlnumbers.com estimates $2.157 million available, but that only includes 19 players. 

So, it is definitely possible that the team uses their AHL players to fill the holes, including Nodl, Kaspar, Jonathan Matsumoto, Jared Ross (when/if the RFA re-signs), Patrick Maroon, and less likely James vanRiemsdyk.  As evidenced by the injuries last year, the team would like to keep some cap money free; so would your free-wheeling owner with a track record of poor management decisions be interested in a Briere and Jones for Andrew Cogliano and Ladislav Smid deal?

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