The lockout is over, and that means its time to get back to hockey. We've already reviewed the entire 2012 offseason, but let's look ahead a bit now. What does the Philadelphia Flyers roster look like now, anyway?
Time to run through that depth chart, player by player. These are not necessarily actual lines.
Voracek will replace Jaromir Jagr on the top line this year, and after his pay day late last summer, the Flyers clearly expect him to flourish in the role. Hartnell also got that huge new contract and we'll expect him to live up to it.
Fedotenko very well could be a third line guy -- in fact, he slots in as a third line, checking winger quite well. But in terms of depth on the left side of the ice, we'll list him as second. He played 34 games in the KHL with Donbass during the lockout and scored eight goals and 10 assists.
He played about 18 minutes a night over there, so even with a short NHL season, it's going to feel long for Fedotenko come the summer. At least he's ready to go, though, and he should be a nice addition. A defensive checking winger who might pot some points here and there.
Briere could probably use a guy like Fedotenko on his line, what with his lack of defense and all. But Danny's coming off of a relatively weak season. He only scored 49 points in the 70 games he played last year, down quite a bit from the 68 points he scored in 77 the year before. His hand injury doesn't seem too serious, but he could miss a few games to start the season.
Like Feds, he has a ton of Euro minutes under his belt too, which will be good considering he's conditioned, but will be interesting to see the impact in a few months. 10 goals and 24 assists in 21 Eisbären Berlin games, by the way.
Simmonds had an interesting lockout, playing in the 2nd Bundesliga over in Germany before having an awful experience over in the Czech Republic. Racist shit. Awful. All things told, Wayne Train only played 15 total games in Europe during the lockout.
But now that he'll be back in the NHL, Simmer is another guy the Flyers expect to perform. We'd expect him to regress a little bit from the near-30 goals he scored last year, but we won't mind if we're proven
Wellwood hasn't really gotten along with Terry Murray in Adirondack this year, and he's seen his ice time cut considerably. But I'm not sure we should read into that too much from an NHL perspective. I'd expect Wellwood to take this spot, but I suppose that Harry Z and Tom Sestito could fight for it in whatever form of training camp we see.
Schenn enters Year 2 in Philadelphia, and like seemingly half this roster, there are expectations. Schenn was "just okay" last season and he dealt with injury and all that, but we all know what he means to this organization considering what the Flyers gave up to get him. Schenn needs to show improvement. 33 points in 33 AHL games seemed sort of effortless for him, so let's hope it carries over.
Read played over in Sweden during the lockout for SSK in the second-tier HockeyAllsvenskan. In 20 games, Reader scored six goals and 18 assists. It's not the Swedish Elite League, but Allsvenskan is a good league and Read was a top player in the league while he was there.
I might be more interested to see Read play this year than any other Flyer. He had an unreal rookie season last year -- unprecedented, really, for a guy his age coming out of college and all that -- and it'll be fascinating to see how he's able to replicate that rookie year success. If he's able to replicate it...
Rinaldo was Rinaldo during the lockout -- 92 PIM in 31 games with the Phantoms. Five points, got to play like eight shifts on the top line with Schenn and Couturier and company before Murray decided to cancel the experiment. We're at the point where we know what we're getting with Rinaldo, and there's nothing wrong with that. He's a solid defensive guy who hits people really hard.
Couturier wasn't a point-per-game player with the Phantoms, scoring just 28 points in 31 games, so he's clearly a bust. /jokes
Max Talbot was a surprisingly important defensive cog for the Flyers last year and he'll take a ton of tough minutes again this year. He's the best.
Shelley is Shelley. He has one more year on his contract (or, like, half a year I guess) and likely will not play much.
Holmstrom, the Phantoms captain and an expected injury callup this season, is out for the year. So that sucks. But Harry Z looks to be that guy now, unless he somehow beats out Wellwood for an everyday spot. Seems unlikely. Sestito could also factor in a bit, but I see him staying in the AHL.
Let's do this one at a time. We're not going to try and guess the pairings right now. That'll have to wait until camp.
He's not coming back, guys. He'll be LTIR'ed for the rest of his contract.
We talked about Kimmo the other day, and it's up for debate whether or not the shortened season will help him or hurt him. I guess we'll have to wait and see, but he's going to have to eat a lot of minutes this year regardless. He only played 13 minutes a night at even strength last year and that number will have to go up. He's healthy now, bet's hope and pray to Orange Jesus that he doesn't get hurt.
Coburn was just behind Matt Carle in even-strength ice time per game last year, and he's going to have to step up to help replace the Flyers' ice-time leader from a year ago. Unlike Kimmo, Braydon is a young dude and is pretty damn durable, so injury is not as much of a looming threat with him.
Again, Grossmann is going to have to step up like everybody else. He'll see more ice time and a larger role, and let's pray that his knees hold up. He only played a handful of games during the lockout, so he's one guy that won't be in game shape when camp starts in a week.
Mesz is still recovering from Achilles surgery, and man, that really sucks. The Flyers need him desperately.
Meszaros is NOT certain he will start season. Says having trouble start/stop and push off. Sees doc today. Hesitation there— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) January 7, 2013
The good news is that it seems like he won't out too long, but consider he's been injured all summer and it's likely going to take him longer to get into shape than others. Mesz's status is the biggest immediate concern the Flyers face out of camp.
If Luke Schenn suddenly became a top-four defenseman, nearly all of our problems on defense would be solved. Alas, he is not, even if the Flyers expect that of him down the line. The hope with Schenn is that the change of scenery from Toronto will do him well, and he'll finally be able to grow into the potential that he had when he was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Leafs. The reality, though, is that he was a healthy scratch at times a year ago .... on the Toronto Maple Leafs ... and best-case scenario, he's the Flyers fifth-best defenseman heading into the year.
These guys will both be on the roster. Lilja is recovered from offseason surgery and Gervais has been skating independently a bit during the lockout. They'll likely trade off as the sixth and seventh defensemen once the season starts, but both will obviously be in the mix if there are injuries.
The new CBA doesn't allow guys like Walker to be buried in the AHL anymore -- they're going to count against the cap regardless -- so it's expected that Walker will be in Philadelphia. Seems doubtful he'll see the ice much, though. At least he can bring his massive dog around again.
Guys like Gus, Bourdon and Syvret likely have little chance of making the big club this season thanks to the plethora of sixth and seventh defensemen that will already be in Philly. I'd rather have Gustafsson (and perhaps Bourdon) on the roster than Gervais, Lilja or Walker, but since all three of those guys are going to count against the cap regardless of whether they're in the NHL or AHL, it seems like it'll be tough to get others onto the roster unless injuries get out of hand.
Speaking of injuries, Gus is suffering from one of his own, according to the Saratogian, and might not even be ready to skate in time for Flyers camp.
Gustafsson had skated for half a practice last week, but the [ankle] injury flared up and Murray said the Swede is now back to walking with crutches. One of the leading candidates for a call-up to Philadelphia, he will head to Philadelphia to get a second opinion from Flyers doctors, Murray said.
Last night on Twitter, I asked what people thought was the biggest question heading into the new season. I was shocked at how many people asked "Who is our starting goalie?!" The answer is, unequivocally, Ilya Bryzgalov. We're going to delve into the compliance buyout debate in another post, but with his hefty contract, it's pretty clear that Bryz could be a buyout candidate this summer or next. He might be the front-runner.
This season, then, will be a big one for Bryz, and the media firestorm surrounding every little thing he does isn't going to be fun. Every single thing he does is going to be questioned -- even more than in the past. Hopefully he plays out of his mind so the questions don't get too loud, but with the defense a weak point this season, the spotlight will be large. He's arguably the most important piece of the puzzle.
He is an average NHL backup and he likes pie.
Michael Leighton says he's "happy as pie" to get back to playing #FlyersTalk— Sarah Baicker (@sbaickerCSN) January 6, 2013
Overall, the two biggest overall questions for me heading into the season:
1) Can the team stay healthy during a shortened season, especially on defense?
2) Offensively, will the team be able to keep up the level of offensive production from last year? There are a lot of guys who we could say played over the heads last season -- Hartnell, Read, Simmonds come to mind immediately -- and if they take steps back instead of steps forward, that won't be good.