Hello Flyer fans and BSH lovers alike, I'd like to introduce myself before I make my case to write for what I consider to be the elite blog for Flyers hockey. My name is Gregory Hall and I am a 2011 graduate of La Salle University where I majored in Mass Communication (television and radio) with a double track (another term for minor) in Journalism. I was the Sports Editor for my multiple award-winning high school newspaper The Ryan Review (Archbishop Ryan) as well as my first college paper, the Centurion. I have been a die-hard Flyers fan since I was three years old, now twenty-four, and have been a hockey goaltender since I learned how to skate at five and still play goalie for two men's leagues to this day. Simply put, hockey is my life.
During my four years at La Salle, I interned at 950 ESPN Radio (now 97.5 the Fanatic) for Mike Missanelli, worked as the Marketing Manager and personal assistant of Marc Zumoff, Emmy-Award winning voice of the Philadelphia 76ers, and was a newsroom/production intern for Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia where I spent many nights in the Flyers locker room for post game interviews. I also hosted La Salle's number one-rated sports talk show "The Sin Bin" on WEXP La Salle Radio and was the Executive Producer and host of "Sports Talk Philadelphia" on La Salle TV (channel 56 in the city limits of Philadelphia). This is my highlight reel from my time on the show.
As for what I have done since graduation, I would say I've kept myself busy. I am a former writer for the Philadelphia blog "Crossing Broad" and my posts can be found here, here, here and here. I co-founded and produce/host a Philadelphia sports talk show on the internet called The War Room, which can be found on Facebook, or watched live every week. I also held a part time position with the Camden Riversharks baseball team in the marketing department for the 2012 season.
I want nothing more than to be a part of the Broad Street Hockey team and know that my writing and communication skills can be a valuable asset to the site. I often use humor in my writing and unlike Brian Burke, who couldn't lead a bachelor party to a strip club, I want to help propel Broad Street Hockey to even greater heights than the site has already reached. I will do whatever it takes to help make this blog all it can be. I know the teams in the NHL inside, outside and upside down and will bring that knowledge to BHS, obviously spotlighting the Flyers. If the entire world was orange and black, the world would be a better place; except Pittsburgh, they can stay irrelevant.
The 2013 Philadelphia Flyers are an interesting case in what I believe to be one of, if not the toughest division in the NHL. The Atlantic Division is a power division where realistically four of the five teams will challenge for a playoff spot, and in a shortened season, the Islanders aren't that far away from being a surprise eighth seed. Even though the majority of the 2011-2012 Flyers are returning to the club this season, anchored by the 19th captain in club history, Claude Giroux, the Flyers are not as strong a team as they were at the end of last season. That does not mean they are not a top five team in the Eastern Conference. Let's take a look.
The losses of Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Bobrovsky, Chris Pronger (sad face), Matt Carle and James van Riemsdyk have not been made up for in the additions of Luke Schenn, Michael Leighton, Scott Laughton, Kurtis Foster, Bruno Gervais and Rusty Fedotenko. That being said, the offense will still be there as more will be expected, and rightfully so, of Jake Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier in their second seasons in orange and black. It's fair to think Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read could have drop offs in the goals department, but Danny Briere can't possibly struggle as much as he did last season. Offensively, I believe this team will still be an upper echelon club.
With the way Couturier stuck to Evgeni Malkin in the playoffs last season, it's completely acceptable to expect bigger things from "the kids" and I will throw Laughton into the mix. He has potential to be a decent two-way forward, but much like Couturier, was drafted more for what he brings on the defensive side of the puck. With Laughton making the club for at least the five-game tryout, he has a chance to probe himself as a viable NHLer, even as an 18-year-old who may be overmatched. Hey, Coots did it.
The defense potentially scares me, but when broken down line-by-line and assuming health isn't a concern, I think the Flyers are built to make a serious run at the Cup. Laugh if you so choose, but Kimmo Timonen is the only active defenseman on the roster I am worried about as far as breaking down (which is why Dallas can take Jagr, regardless of relentless conditioning routines). To have Luke Schenn paired with Timonen is a brilliant move in my opinion as there is nobody better for Schenn to learn from on this current defensive corps (Chris Pronger excluded) than Timonen. Maybe Kimmo can help open Schenn's offensive game up. When healthy, Braydon Coburn and Nicklas Grossmann has the potential to be the best shutdown pair on this team, and possibly in the Atlantic Division. While Foster may not be a top four defenseman in the league anymore, he can absolutely be considered a high-end fifth or sixth defenseman and his addition takes a lot of pressure off Erik Gustafsson, Gervais and Andrej Meszaros, who can now make sure he is 100% healthy before making a comeback.
Now we get to everyone's favorite Cosmonaut, Ilya Bryzgalov and his counterpart, whom I still don't forgive for the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, the aforementioned Leighton. This is going the be the biggest question mark heading into tomorrow's season opener against the Penguins. Can Bryzgalov be any worse than he was last season? Well, he was not as terrible as everybody thought, but when you're a goalie in Philadelphia making north of $5.6 million per season, anything less than a Stanley Cup is considered a failure. His 2.48 goals against average and .909 save percentage could not crack the top twenty of NHL goaltenders; couple that with a tendency to give up an untimely soft goal and your recipe is for anything but success. I'll give Bryzgalov a pass for his first season here because even Ron Hextall's first season in Philadelphia was not pretty (3.00 GAA and .902 SV%). With a year under his belt, I believe Bryzgalov can bounce back and with this offense, I'd be elated with a .920 save percentage and 2.25 goals against average. Bryz may have been a product of the system in Pheonix as coach Dave Tippet plays a suffocating defensive system (look what it did for Mike Smith last season), while Peter Laviolette plays an aggressive forechecking, relentless offensive system that has potential to leave a goaltender out to dry.
I'd rather not waste any time writing about Leighton because, well, he does not deserve any accolades from me, but hey, he's cheap and a half-way decent backup. At least we traded for Boosh; a $50,000 cap hit well spent Mr. Holmgren. The Flyers will be a playoff team this season yet, again, and from there on, a hot goalie and a little luck is all you need... and 16 wins.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen for reading my post and taking the time to consider me for a writing position with Broad Street Hockey. I can write goaltender previews with my knowledge of the position, but I am honestly open to bringing in new ideas to the site OR if you give me a specfic beat, regardless of topic, I would be honored and happy to do so!
I can be reached at GJHall35@gmail.com and hope to hear form you soon. I will not disappoint, this I promise! Bleeding Orange & Black, Gregory Hall.