The link to a recent interview with John Stevens was posted on the BSH a couple of days ago and instead of adding a very long comment I decided to open a new fanpost and discuss the two most important statements the Coach made.
Giroux is going to "start" camp at center this leaves me with 3 questions that are going need answers by the end of camp.
1) Who is the other top six foward?
With the current roster this leaves a opening for a significant ice time with the top two lines. Who is going to be playing with the top six if not Giroux. I envision Briere with Carter and Hartnell so who is going to be playing along Richards and Gagne on the number 1 line. That is a lot of ice time to fill against very tough competition. I am not sure we have someone around to make sure a jump on the RW to fill that position vacated by Knuble. This also ends the idea of running a 3rd line checking line so forget the possibility of signing Malhotra. I guess in an ideal world JVR would absolutely dazzle in training camp and start the season on the top line, something I don't see happening but he was drafted to replace Knuble. I just don't think Homer expected he would need to replace Mike in this offseason, one more year would have made things a lot easier.
2) Who is going to play with Giroux?
Giroux's great playmakers abilities are an unbelievable asset to have on your 3rd line. Now you need to find two wingers to play with him who have the ability to get open and the hands to bury the chances. I guess Carcillo will be one of those players so that is a question mark right there. I will refer back to the previous statement and okay so maybe JVR won't show enough to make the top line but can he show enough to play on an NHL 3rd line, that is a more likely scenario. I know the Flyers have been saying they don't expect him to make the big club this year and he is not ready and all that. Last year the said the opposite about Claude and I think that pressure got to him and we all know how he started out. Maybe the Flyers are taking the opposite approach with James and trying to make him prove them wrong. I don't know either way but I will like to remain positive and a Carcillo-Giroux-JVR line wouldn't be that bad. Other options are some of the Europeans we added which I know little about so I can't comment or Powe. I don't think he is anything more than a 4th liner player so I rather see a raw JVR get that ice time.
3) Who is going to be centering the 4th line?
This is pretty good spot to have open at the start of camp I like a Powe and Lappy on the wings but that leaves open the center spot. Hopefully we got someone who can win some faceoffs another major flaw in our current lineup. I think Mika Pyörälä would be a good fit there or maybe Ryan Dingle. Lappy can easily move over to center with Nodl on the wing. 4th line center is something that can easily be filled from the AHL so I am not overly concerned about this opening.
Now the good news John Stevens stated the following
"I also think last year we relied too much on our top lines and I think with Laperriere, Carcillo, Giroux and Powe we have more depth up front and we need to even out the minutes."
The complete lack of ice time chewed up by the 4th line really hurt us come the end of the year and in the playoffs. Powe, Lappy 4th line can eat up some 5 on 5 time and help lessen the penalty killing load for Richards, Gagne and Carter keeping our top guys fresher allowing them to play the "more aggressive forecheck" we have been promised to see this season. This is even more important in a Olympic year where I am sure a good amount of top players will be playing.
So the debate over whether this team was going to go a top heavy with 2 all-star scoring lines or try to stay with a balanced 3 line attack is over. Despite the loss of two 25 goal scoring wingers it looks like we can expect to see a scoring 3rd line to start the season. Now we just need to hope that there is a FA out there who is willing to sign cheap that can fill those afore mentions holes. Or If not someone from the Phantoms needs steps up big at camp and earns the opportunity of a lifetime to play wing alongside the talented RIchards or Claude "G" Giroux.