After the cleaning of house that has transpired this offseason, I'd like to take a moment to allow for a little reflection on the trades but also for my own take on the point and line projections for the upcoming season.
First, let's take a look at the possible Flyers' lines:
I'm certain that these lines will change several times throughout the course of the season, due to injuries, lack of production, etc. However, this is what makes the most sense to me on paper. I'm actually going to start off with the second line to make it easier to explain my thought process. Hartnell-Briere-Jagr. I think that Jagr will blend very well with Briere as he can dominate the puck and thus allow for Briere to roam freely on the offensive end. I like the idea of Jagr starting the cycle with Briere fitting in where he finds space. I can definitely see Jagr actually being an upgrade in terms of points over Ville Leino.
Backtracking to the first line, I would have JVR-Giroux-Voracek. I think Voracek's youth allows him to be a part of the up-and-down style of play of Giroux and van Riemsdyk whereas Jagr would most likely slow them down in the long run. And at the end of his career it would be best to keep him as fresh as possible. I expect a monster season from Giroux and a breakout season from JVR as well. I also believe Voracek will benefit from playing with two very talented skaters. I think this line would feature a nice blend of a passing playmaker in Giroux, a power forward in JVR and a Jeff Carter-esque sniper in Voracek.
My third line consists of Nodl-Schenn-Simmonds. This and the fourth line are really a toss up as I wouldn't be surprised if I saw Nodl or Schenn on the fourth line (I am a believer that Simmonds is a lock to stay on the 3rd line) and the fourth line guys (more specifically Max Talbot) appearing as regulars on the 3rd line. Therefore, my fourth line would feature Shelley-Talbot-Betts.
My defensive pairings are no surprise: Carle-Pronger/Timonen-Coburn/Meszaros-Lilja. Obviously Bryzgalov will be the starter in goal with Bob as the backup playing around 20(ish) games (ideally).
Giroux: 85-90 JVR: 70 Voracek: 60
Briere: 65 Jagr: 65 Hartnell: 50
Schenn: 40 Simmonds: 35 Nodl: 25
Talbot: 15 Shelley: 5 Betts: 10
Carle: 30 Pronger: 40
Timonen: 35 Coburn: 30
Meszaros: 30 Lilja: 5
Bryzgalov: 2.25 GAA Bobrovsky: 2.50 GAA
6th place in Eastern Conference.
*I also expect Couturier, Gustafsson, and Bartulis to all make appearances this season.
First and foremost, I believe Bryzgalov will benefit from a better defense playing in front of him, especially if Pronger can remain healthy for at least the majority of the year. Although the defensemen in Phoenix weren't terrible, I'd be so bold as to make the claim that the Flyers' defensive group is top 5 in the NHL when healthy despite two of their top guys at the ends of their careers. Also, if the team plays well enough to assure themselves a playoff spot I think it would be prudent of Laviolette to not overwork Bryz and allow for Bob to make 20-25 starts this season. I know 57-62 starts may not seem worthy of the gargantuan contract he signed, but if it means he will be fresh heading in the playoffs it would be well worth it as evidenced by his postseason performance when he had been asked to carry the Coyotes for the entire season.
The next cause of concern is health. Pronger has recently been quoted as saying he hasn't even been able to train other than riding a bike. It is my sentiment that he will miss the start of the season but hopefully he can remain both healthy and productive when he returns. His health is the deciding factor on the success of this team. If he were healthy headed into the playoffs last year a different outcome would have certainly been produced. The Sabres would have been easily dealt with and I would think the Bruins series would have at least gone to 6 games, maybe even 7. I really think that had a lot to do with the goalie carousel and eventualy blow up of the team's core.
I feel the power play will improve significantly with the addition of Jagr. I expect the majority of his points to come from the power play.
Personally, I loved Richards as a Flyer and was one of the few it seems to like Jeff Carter as I always felt his criticism was unwarranted and undeserved. I can live with getting rid of Carter, but I find it hard to believe Mike Richards can be replaced. Injuries played a factor into his somewhat disappointing season last year, and most notably in the playoffs. Management and some fans are quick to forget how enamored the city was with his determined play in the run to the finals. There are only a few players Philadelphia teams have had the pleasure of having that fit the bill for the perfect Philly athlete: Allen Iverson, Chase Utley, Brian Dawkins, and Mike Richards. With the Answer and Weapon X now long gone, and Chase Utley annually attempting to overcome injury, Richards was the only Philly guy to be counted on night after night. I will surely miss him, as I am sure many of you will be too.
In terms of the trade I feel.... well I don't know to be honest. I am a big fan of Schenn and Couturier. I just don't know how long they will take to develop. I also believe Voracek can be a good scorer, equivalent to Jeff Carter. My only concern is that once all these young forwards have entered their prime and are the peak of their play, Pronger and Timonen will be gone and Bryz may be on the downside of his career. Ultimately though, if Holmgren can somehow manage the cap correctly and keep all the young guys in place, I feel the Flyers will be better off in the long run.
***This is my first post so please let me know what you think!