In previous years, there has been a lot of hype surrounding the Flyers and their potential to end their thirty-eight year old Stanley Cup drought. This year, it seems to be different. Many sources, including Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report predict the Flyers to finish third in the Atlantic Division, behind the Rangers and Penguins. Their playoff predictions, like many others, have the Flyers losing in the first round.
Why is this? The critics claim the Flyers lost two major offensive players, have a lack of depth on the blueline, and no goaltender (haven’t heard this before, have we?). The Flyers still have that same core that was projected by many to end the drought as well as the same core that took down the mighty Penguins in front of the entire country. Departing is Jaromir Jagr, who hampered by injuries, was never the playmaker the Flyers brought him in to be. Traded is James Van Riemsdyk, who except for the 2011 playoffs never lived up to his potential. When the Flyers needed production from him the most in last year’s series with the Devils he was a minus-2, with one goal and one assist. Gone also is Matt Carle, who was also a minus-3 in that same second round series. Arriving is Luke Schenn. Many people are pointing out that Schenn could not see the ice on a pitiful Maple Leafs team last year. However, Schenn is a raw talent, who is 23 years old. As a 21-year-old 2 years ago, he averaged almost 22 and a half minutes of ice time. With Kimmo Timonen’s age being a concern in a compressed schedule and the departure of Carle (the both averaged well over 20 minutes per game last year), Schenn seems poised to fill that void.
Now comes the debate everyone wants to listen to: Can our favorite cosmonaut Ilya Bryzgalov lead the Flyers to the promise land? Many people, including “diehard” Flyers fans will say no. However, “In Ilya We Believe”. We all know what he did in Phoenix, compiling a 42-20-6 record in 2009-2010 for an overachieving Coyotes team. He is capable of doing this again; just look at what he did in last March. Bryzgalov went 10-2-1, with a 1.43 GAA, .947 save percentage and 4 shutouts to win NHL Player of the Month Honors. No longer does he have to worry about Sergei Bobrovksy, as he was shipped off to Columbus for draft picks (and no longer will we have to hear another “I have good news and better news” speech). Plus, the new buyout situation where a team can buy out a player to release him will surely light a fire under Bryz.
The lockout also means the Flyers will play only intra-conference games. Even though the Flyers lose the potential to beat up on the Western Conference again, (they were 11-5-2 last year) they were a solid 25-10-5 against the Northeast and Southeast Divisions. However, the Flyers were only 500 in their division last year, including an awful 0-6 against the Rangers. This trend should not continue, as the Flyers will be extra amped up for each and every game against the Rangers. They even get them at home three times compared to playing in New York twice. Given the Flyers success playing in Pittsburgh, the Penguins should not pose a great problem to the Flyers regular season record. These signs point to a successful season for the Flyers and maybe, just maybe, we will see the cup come home to Broad Street.
What do you guys think?