I think the Flyers have the talent to go far this year. I really do. I can't wait for October 2nd, when all the kinks have (hopefully) been worked out and the boys hit the ice for real. With Mike Richards and Danny Briere healthy, with the one-two punch of Kimmo Timonen and Chris Pronger on the blue line, with the fiery and talented Ray Emery in the nets, with solid role-players like Ian Laperriere and (possibly) Blair Betts in the mix, and with long-time guys like Simon Gagne wanting to bring home the Cup, this season could be special.
With that said, it could be a special year but maybe it won't. I will admit that I am losing faith in John Stevens as the coach of this team.
Think of it this way: Give a classically-trained pianist a grand piano and she will make it sing. Give the same pianist a synthesizer and you will notice a difference. The pianist will be fine with actually playing the keys because she knows how to play a keyboard. But she won't know how to program the synth and make it sound interesting or good. This is because she is trained to play a piano expressively, and pianos generate sound much differently than synthesizers do.
Right now I feel like John Stevens is the pianist, and the Flyers are the synthesizer. Stevens knows how to coach a team in a very straightforward way, but I do not have the sense that he really understands what makes his players tick yet. He has not figured out how to get the most from them on a consistent basis, and quite frankly I think that is the largest problem the team is facing now.
I base this on the fact that, despite the fact that the Flyers had a good number of new players in the lineup last night, the team played the same way in the 3rd period that they did down the stretch last season: Too much running around, too much letting the other team dictate the flow of play, too many penalties, too many missed defensive assignments, etc. Next thing you know, the lead is gone and the game is lost - and this was a game which they very much tried to win by playing a bulk of their regulars. As far as the other two games, the Flyers also displayed some old problems: Penalties and inconsistent, lackluster play.
To me, this doesn't mean that the team is bad. It just means that they don't have the right guy steering the ship. I don't care if you're the late-2000s Flyers or the mid-1980s Oilers - if you do not have the right coach, you are not going to succeed. Perhaps the team is just shaking off the rust and regaining its chemistry after the offseason. Perhaps Stevens has not fully implemented his new system yet. Perhaps both he and the Flyers have something brewing after all. Only time will tell, but I feel like Stevens is the biggest question mark.