After months of hardship...terrible negotiating....and our two favorite people, Fehr and Bettman, THE NHL LOCKOUT IS FINALLY OVER! and we rejoice to finally see our beloved Flyers take the ice once again! So now this begs the question, how will the Flyers look this upcoming season? I'll take each part of the team and break down how the team looks at each of the 3 zones, and I will also discuss some possibilities for the two compliance buyouts, or amnesty for the upcoming offseason and if any other buyouts could be coming the Flyers way.
Forward position: Projected Lines (what I think they should be)
Line 1: Hartnell-Giroux-Voracek
Line 2: B. Schenn-Briere-Simmonds
Line 3: Fedotenko-Couturier-Read
Line 4: Wellwood-Talbot-Sestito
this is set for when Briere is healthy, which he may not be, I don't see many huge problems with the top line just with the talent of Giroux, hopefully he brings out the best in Voracek, despite that big year I expect some level of decline from Hartnell, who probably won't have as many PPGs as he did last season. Personally, I see Matt Read as a better player than Wayne Simmonds, but the reason I have the two oriented like that is what I saw last season, which was Simmonds being pretty bad on Defense, so I could see Read on the 3rd line, which looks like a very good defensive squad. If Briere isn't good enough to start the season then we may very well see Read playing the 2nd line wing, either way I see Couturier playing Center and Schenn being somewhere on the 2nd line, this could be his year, hes quite a player and is prime for an explosion, and so is Couturier, but he's being held back slightly by Danny Briere and his high salary being there. Overall I don't see the offense as being a concern, especially if Briere is healthy for the playoffs, where he signs, if Voracek doesn't do well on the top line, Briere or Schenn could always move to top line wing and Jake can drop down, this team will score.
Defense: Projected Lines
Pair 2: Meszaros-L.Schenn
Pair 3: Grossmann-Gervais
The Flyers defense actually doesn't look too bad when healthy...too bad that's the problem, they're not healthy, at all. Kimmo Timonen is old and clearly breaking down, he may not miss games but every blocked shot kills him and bumps and bruises are slowing him down a ton, but right now he's our top guy unless someone like Schenn or Coburn can step up, so he will play a ton of minutes. When he finally recovers from his achillies injury, Andrej Meszaros and Luke Schenn I feel can be our top pair, a hockey version of the bash brothers, brutal hitters but also have some offensive potential, Meszaros being our top offensive defenseman. Nicklas Grossmann is a very impressive player, but his knees are killing him and syphoning all of his talent away as now he's struggling to move and get in position, here's to hoping he holds up. In the end, the biggest problem is going to be offensive production from the blue line, Timonen is a good passer but struggles with shooting, Coburn has a big shot but it basically has no chance of hitting the net. Eventually, with how crippled this corps is...I see the defense relying heavily on youngsters yet again, and I like that, I feel that Bourdon and Gustafsson are solid young defensemen who are ready to play and frankly I'd like to see them in the lineup instead of older, slower, mediocre D like Gervais, Lilja, and Walker, but our problem of course being I hear the new CBA doesn't allow for some salaries to be buried in the AHL. This is by far the area of the Flyers with the most questions, though some may argue for...
Starter: Ilya Bryzgalov
Backup: Michael Leighton
here we are again huh Flyers fans? goalie questions once again, a talented headcase in net and a questionable backup. No doubt Bryzgalov has the talent to be at least a top 10 goaltender, his problem is his inconsistancies were masked for a long time with a very protective Coyotes defensive system, sad to say our defense and system here aren't quite as good, and therefore Bryz has struggled in orange and we can only hope he pulls it together. Leighton on the other hand... we all know what he is, if we have to turn to him as the starter if Bryzgalov struggles, we may be in trouble...which leads us to the next section.
Buyouts: Who has a target on their back?
For my money, there are a few Flyers that have to be in consideration for the 2 compliance buyouts that we need to use before the start of the 13-14 season, as the Flyers could really use some salaries off the books.
1. Chris Pronger: this one is at the top of my list out of pure respect for the man, he is one of the greatest to play the game, but he is not coming back, at this point we can only hope that he's able to live his life normally again, let alone play hockey, there's no use in threatening further injury to his head by coming back. The way I see it the team owes it to him to let him retire in peace and if he recovers, maybe he can take a coaching or scouting job with the team, since the Flyers are very good about taking care of their own.
2. Ilya Bryzgalov: and here we have the obvious one, Bryzgalov and his monster salary for many years makes him the most obvious target for a buyout, this is very much dependent on what Bryz is able to do this season, if he plays well, maybe we keep around his contract, if not, he's likely done in orange, there's no way the team pays him almost 6 mil in cap hit with a shrinking cap for a goaltender that's mediocre to bad.
3. Danny Briere: Briere is a very good player...in the playoffs, but unfortunately Briere is being paid to play 82 games (in most seasons) and then the playoffs, he just for the most part except for an exceptional season, has struggled to be consistent and healthy in the regular season and hardly has earned that 6.5 million cap hit he has, on the other hand he only has 2 more seasons, but that money could possibly be put to better use, more on that later...
4. Braydon Coburn: We just signed him to this contract, but since when has that ever stopped the Flyers? once again with a lowering cap the team has to sit down and think about whether he's worth that money, especially when there are teams with lower cap hit players that out perform Coburn, not quite likely if you look at the top 2, but the possibility is there.
Potential buyouts/Free agents that could come to Philadelphia after leaving their former team
Free Agents: Potential signing targets (big ones after shedding a good bit of salary)
Corey Perry: don't the Flyers always take a run at the top guy?
Jerome Iginla: always seems to be a target of the Flyers, would be good to see both the team and iggy win a cup
Alex Edler: very good offensive D, if he gets away from the Nucks look for the Flyers to take a shot
Niklas Backstrom: The top flight goaltender we could use after cutting Bryzgalov (if he struggles)
and finally, here are some players with the potential of being bought out of their teams that the Flyers might go after.
Shea Weber: Flyers want Weber badly, Weber obviously wanted to be a Flyer, and the Predators obviously can't afford him...sounds like a match made in heaven, this is the one I can almost guarantee will happen at this point...
Roberto Luongo: Bobby Lou is another player most definitely going to be bought out no matter what team he plays for, his cap hit is just way too high for way too long, I feel like any team that has him is just going to cut him loose then rework the contract to be shorter and a little more cap friendly, and really, we do have a history of talented headcases don't we?
It's not all doom and gloom, the Flyers are always an exciting team, and will always score plenty of goals and make the playoffs, looking forward to watching the orange and black this season. Go Flyers!