PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Jaromir Jagr #68 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates the game winning goal against the New York Rangers during an NHL preseason game at Wells Fargo Center on September 26, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Rangers 5-3. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
We've been pretty negative around here all summer, and honestly, we still feel that's with good reason. We don't like the addition (and the contract) of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. We felt Sergei Bobrovsky did an admirable job last year as a rookie, and that shedding two elite players in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to bring Bryzgalov to town was a reactionary move that changed the team dramatically without actually making them better.
And as I sit here five hours before the puck drops on the 2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers season, I still believe that the team that will step onto the ice in Boston tonight is not as good as the team that left that same building in defeat 153 days ago. The defense is older, there's a lot less defense from the forwards, scoring will almost certainly be down over the course of the season and the improvement in goal is likely not enough to make up the difference.
But you know what? I don't care. None of that matters. I'm still ridiculously excited for the season that begins tonight.
Last year, the Flyers were one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup, from the moment training camp opened to the moment the playoffs began. They were absolutely loaded at every position... and then, they completely fell apart down the stretch and into the playoffs.
The Bruins were a pretty solid team all year, but they had plenty of questions throughout the regular season. Their defense wasn't all that good, their power play was atrocious and they didn't have much scoring outside of their top line or so. But by the time the playoffs came around, the Bruins still had questions but they were able to figure it all out on the fly before winning the Stanley Cup.
Despite all of the question marks surrounding this Flyers team -- and from Jaromir Jagr to the amount of youth on the team to the aging defense to the constant insistence on being right up against the salary cap, there are plenty of questions that we'll keep asking as this season progresses -- they're still good enough to make the postseason. Hell, they could repeat as Atlantic Division champions again if the cards fall correctly.
Despite all the questions, there's no reason not to believe that this team has a chance to go on a run once the calendar turns to April. We learned last year that the playoffs can be an absolute crap shoot most of the time. This even carries over to other sports, as we learned with the only-made-the-playoffs-because-the-Giants-blew-it Green Bay Packers last year or as we learned with the only-made-the-playoffs-because-the-Padres-blew-it San Francisco Giants last year or as we're hopefully not learning with the Phillies right now.
And as the season begins right now, there's still a lot of hockey to played between now and June when one team hoists the Stanley Cup. We have a lot of questions with our team and we don't know exactly how it's all going to play out. It's probably going to be a roller coaster ride all year long, and that ride could end with a big, nasty crash.
Or, it could end with a parade down Broad Street.
We're not going to know until we get there, and that's half the fun.