All hail Homer!
Swinging for the fences, not quite a homer for Homer? I’m absolutely flabbergasted that SO many people are rating this off season a failure already! Yes, we had some candy dangled and taken away, but I think there’s in that disappointment, of not gaining that piece to become a potential Stanley Cup dynasty team, many folks are missing the many positives of the off season.
Let’s start with the most recent disappointment. As Holmgren said, you pursue Shea Weber because he’s Shea Weber…not because you NEED Shea Weber. The important take away from this is 2-fold: Nobody in the Eastern Conference, let alone the Atlantic Division, was able to acquire Shea Weber. So while we didn’t get that instant upgrade, we also didn’t suffer anyone else getting it. And let’s not mince words here, NYR did NOT get an instant upgrade with the acquisition of Rick Nash. I don’t believe he will do any more than what their departing talent in the trade was able to accomplish. I’m reminded of habits of old for the Rangers that involved signing a lot of individual talent and not seeing any kind of relevant return on the investment. Dare we recall Scott Gomez? How about Olli Jokinen? While the Rangers are still scary, I don’t see them as any more scary than before. They are one Flyers-esque injury away from complete season implosion.
Unfortunately for Nashville, I see a very long road ahead of them. I do not envision them returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2012-2013. They were forced to make a significant investment in their future, but I don’t think they are at present able to compete at the same level they did last season. They’ll certainly cause some stress for a lot of teams in the west, but I see them being a lot like what the Oilers were this past season. A team that could steal points from you, and hurt your chances for the playoffs, but not necessarily heading there themselves.
Another team that hasn’t improved, and perhaps even regressed a bit, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their trade of Staal to the Hurricanes created a big swap of advantage. While the Hurricanes will still not reach the playoffs this year, they are certainly going to rise in the standings, and the Penguins will undoubtedly fall. If there was anyone that Penguins should have kept long-term, it was Staal. I’ll be the first to admit both that I hate Crosby but that he has tremendous skill. However, I don’t believe he’s going to be a difference maker for that team anymore. His showing in the playoffs this past year really showed some of his character and I think the Pens are insane for keeping him as captain. He’s simply not the leader they need. The heart shown by Staal was their only saving grace in the playoffs. Huge win for Canes and huge loss for Pens. I just don’t see them filling that void, and will even go as far as to predict that they won’t make the playoffs this coming season either. Bold, I know. Try to resist refuting until April…feel free to gloat if I’m wrong at that time, it’s OK, I don’t mind.
The Capitals are the real team to fear this year in the east. HUGE upgrade in goal by finally giving Holtby a chance at the starting role. He was ready 2 years ago, but the commitment to other goaltenders and the odd seeming-advantage of picking up a low-cost Vokoun stunted his entrance. He will be an incredible force to be reckoned with. I’m so confident, that I’m going to make him my number one goalie selection in this year’s fantasy league. (Bryz being my number 2, but I’ll get to that later). With the coaching changes and the unloading of locker room discord, I see Washington really shining this year.
As for the Flyers, there are no and there were no major holes to fill. Let’s not forget that this was the team who eliminated the Stanley Cup favorites with a goaltender still suffering a chip fracture, 2 newly acquired broken D-men, and a disappearing winger. Unfortunate to say, last year’s loss in round 2 was more due to the war of attrition combined with a system that wasn’t quite right for certain opponents. The glaringly obvious deficiency was the overabundance of left-handed shots. While I don’t fully buy into that, I do understand that for certain systems, it is a detriment that can be exacerbated during the high pressure playoffs. Grossman is healthier this year, more familiar with the Flyers system, and a very large man. Luke Schenn is essentially a 1 for 1 replacement of Matt Carle, but more physical, still developing (and thus improving), and a right-handed shot. In all honestly, I view him as an upgrade.
Speaking of Schenn, Brayden Schenn was essentially lost for half of last season due to injury. It’ll be nice to see what he can accomplish with a whole season. JVR I don’t see as much of a loss for us as much as a gain for Toronto. He was essentially invisible for the Flyers last season so he won’t be missed. Fedotenko has always been a Flyers killer so it’ll be nice to not have to go up against him. His two Stanley cup tattoos should be a nice presence in the locker room too. Jagr was exactly what this team needed last year, but for his new price, his need has been overstayed. His influence will affect our young stars for years to come. Now it’s up to Scotty, Danny, and Max to set the examples, and I have every confidence that they are more than up to the task.
So much has been said of Bryz. I can’t help but be so very excited about what he’ll bring this year. As I stated earlier, he’s going to be my number 2 selection in my fantasy draft. I think he’s going to be up some unbelievable numbers this year. I actually like Leighton behind him. He can come in for a few games and be solid as a starter during short stints, if injury is to occur. And the guys we have in our system really excite me should there ever be a long-term need. Speaking of the system, how are people not paying more attention to Blake Kessel and Oliver Lauridsen? These guys are some hulking, mobile, physical, and talented D-men! While I know that Gus and MAB will be the first to get the nod towards the 6th and 7th d-man roles this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some call ups for Kessel and Lauridsen, as well as some pleasantly surprising production. I think these guys are very underrated and are the reason why we have no immediate holes on defense. The depth on this team is just incredible.
Let’s not forget the reacquisition of Terry Murray for the development of our younger talent. I see that as a huge win! Without the circumstances of injury, dependence on unproven youth, and constant changes and distractions, I see this team as being an improvement over last year. Of course if options present themselves, you always want to be on the lookout, but we are by no means over a barrel. If holes do present themselves, for the first time, we have some cap space to play with! It’s a very odd position to be in. And I’m still holding out some hope that Pronger can return at some point. If he were to improve, who honestly thinks we aren’t again hands-down favorites for the cup? Even without him I think Flyers are a strong contender. What I’d really like to see is Lappy and Pronger working with our younger guys to teach them how to fill the roles that were so incredibly important when they were our go-to guys!
Sometimes, standing pat is not a failure. I especially think that’s true for this year. Major props to Homer for not getting antsy and giving away our up and coming star-power for a “quick fix” solution. I sense that this team could be developing into a dynasty team as we realize the potential that we have in our system. Another year older, another year wiser, and now we know what we can expect at least. At most? The sky is the limit!