I'M, LIKE, FREAKIN OUT, MAN!!!
But seriously, this offseason has seemed like the longest of my short life (I'm 19), although subjectively it has been the shortest. There is so much about the end of last season that left me craving more, and even more in the offseason to pile onto the maddening anticipation for this upcoming regular season. Although I am a firm believer that the regular season for the most part means nothing once the playoffs roll around (see: Philadelphia Flyers, '09-'10), it still provides me with a great deal to enjoy, and therefore, a great deal to be excited about. The things I am about to present to you have surely been covered here before, but with training camp and the preseason looming I thought it would be a good exercise to summarize what this season has in store for us. I've put it in list form to make it easier to digest.
1. Hartnell - Briere - Leino
It has been well documented how this line tore shit up in the playoffs and been well questioned whether or not they can sustain that performance. I am of the opinion that they can, as chemistry is one of those finicky things that is very difficult to teach, and conversely, hard to unteach. This line should be an absolute joy to behold, and barring any major injuries, should put up solid numbers. The operative word being "should."
2. The other lines.
It has been debated endlessly this offseason, how the hell do the other lines shape up? I'll tell you right now, nobody knows. It is the great mystery surrounding this team, and that is why I'm excited about it. Who's going to get demoted from center to wing? Who's going set up camp in the press box? Will JVR and Giroux have their breakout seasons? Will Jody Shelly prove to be a complete bust? Can Blair Betts stop getting injured in bizarre ways? Will this Zherdev joker get his head on strait? This is riveting stuff, people. And again, barring major injuries, the solution to these problems should be delightful to behold.
2a. Claude Giroux.
We all know this Grilled Cheese guy absolutely oozes talent. Unfortunately it has not translated into him oozing points just yet. You get that feeling he is on the cusp of superstardom, it is just a matter of time. This season could be that time.
3. Full season of Pete.
Laviolette will be bossing the bench this upcoming year, and from the looks of it he's got a good thing going with these guys. Every player sacrifices, hustles, and most importantly, plays as a team. Plus the guy is a mastermind with his timeouts. It will be interesting to see if he can manage to have this Flyers team continue to play full 60 minute games night in and night out.
4. Richards and Prongs.
Kind of along the same line as Pete, the Flyers will have a full year with the leadership role(s) filled and working properly. It hasn't been made public exactly what happened between the Captain and the Assistant Captain Elbows last year, but it looks like they got their shit straitened out and are poised to drag their team back to the promised land this year. Together.
It goes without mentioning that once again we've got a goalie controversy on our hands. Now this one is what worries me the most (and also excites me the most). Will Leighton return to mean performance and become an overwhelmingly underwhelming goalie? Or with the help of his newly retooled D can he prove to be serviceable if not exceptional? And if he does falter, can BOOOOOOSH play as well as the BOOOOOOOSH of old? Or could this Backlund guy actually make a run a the starting job? The suspense is killing me!
6. The PK.
I may be alone here, but a good penalty kill really bobs my apples. And is there any better penalty killing squad than Betts, Lappy, Timonen and Pronger? The answer, my friends, is no. What's that you say? You want yourself some shorthanded goals? Simple, swap in Richards and Giroux and you have a defensively inclined but offensively threatening PK unit. Hold on a sec, Prongs and Timmo are getting worn out? Play two of either Coburn, Carle O'Donnell, Walker or Mezaros and you should be OK. And that segues nicely into my next point....
7. Defensive Versatility.
As hinted at previously, the Flyers have remarkable defensive depth. A few injuries, hell, a SHITLOAD of injuries to the blue line can be rather easily managed with the copious amount of NHL ready defensemen Homer decided to acquire. For better of for worse (Gagne:( ), it is pretty undeniable that the defense has been solidified to proportions bordering on excessiveness. This in and of itself is a good thing.
8. The Peco Power Play
From the looks of it, the PPP should be equally as dominant as it has been in years previous. And again, it seems the Flyers are going to have a log jam of talented players who can produce on the PPP that they need to squeeze into two units. This falls squarely into the "good problem to have" category, and it should be fun to see who can light it up. The one guy I am looking forward to seeing on the man advantage is Ville Leino, as he strikes me as one of the more creative players on this squad. Given some ice to work with, he can make things happen. Oh, and not to mention Grilled Cheese.
9........ The catch.
Next offseason is going to rival that of the '09-'10 Chicago Blackhawks. Kind of not so exciting, but I feel it needed to be mentioned.