Last season we were excited. We had been cut off for half a season and we were all itching for NHL action. When the lockout ended we had high hopes for the Flyers and on paper we were Cup contenders. Besides a few seemingly fixable issues on D and the not so consistent goalkeeping we were excited. Then our hopes were crushed and slowly; game after game we lost hope. The 2013 season was absolutely terrible.
This offseason, however may have brought some Stanley Cup hopes back to the city. In probably the most out of character offseason ever, the Flyers organization actually made some impressive moves that should greatly benefit the team. A press conference was held on Tuesday to formally introduce the Flyers new additions: Center Vincent Lecavalier, Defenseman Mark Streit and Goalie Ray Emery.
”I think with the three guys that are sitting here at this table, I’m as excited as I’ve been in many, many years, that we kept our nucleus intact- we kept all of our young players, we kept all our draft picks…I’m really, really excited about this season coming up, and I expect big things, quite frankly.” Said Ed Snider about the new members.
Some of those aspects were major concerns earlier in the offseason with constant rumors of Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read being traded. Getting rid of the younger core to pick up temporary fixes would cause trouble in later years. The organization is known for being one run with a “win now” attitude, with the team going through minor adjustments every season almost always at the cost of potential talent. There’s a reputation around here to expect the worst and that every player that leaves here will thrive…because they were good and we were too stupid to keep them around long enough to develop. This year that doesn’t seem to be an issue as we’ve kept all of our young core together while adding some more useful pieces.
The “Best Available” pays off:
The Flyers strategy for the free agency has always been to go after the best available player on the market and that didn’t change this season. Fans may be wary of the best available strategy after it yielded massive blunder Ilya Bryzgalov, who was not only inconsistent and obnoxious, but turned out to be an unprofessional media nightmare as well. Add to that his absolute hatred for this city and the best available seems like less than a polished turd.
Good riddance to that. This season the Flyers have taken that strategy and drafted the best forward, defenseman and goalie available while keeping their younger core of players intact. Not only have they kept the core together they’ve added players that can bring guidance to younger players and bolster the ranks in our current weak spots.
With the lack of offensive presence last season, Vincent Lecavalier is probably the Flyers best acquisition. Despite a mostly negative initial reaction to the news Vinny has become a favorite of the offseason. Lecavelier was bought out by Tampa bay and was immediately swarmed with offers from teams, but after a meeting with Flyers office and Peter Laviolette, Lecavalier knew he wanted to be here.
“I went through a lot being bought out, but like any other player I made a list and when I met with this organization they went straight to the top of the list. From the style of play, Lavy’s style of play, just the organization, the team, the players, the roster, who I was gonna come and play with, I was just really excited about it. I left that meeting and I was like, woah this is a great meeting. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be part of the Flyers.”
The initial reaction from fans was a bit of dismay. It was thought that with Lecavalier, a sure 2nd line center, the younger Couturier would be pushed back yet again and become less used. Because of this it was believed that he was more likely to be traded. That mentality changed over a short amount of time as it became obvious what an asset Lecavalier could be to the team. In fact Lecavalier is completely willing to take a mentoring role and had this to say about Couturier:
“Playing against him, he’s a big boy, and he’s learning. He’s still a very young player. Not just from me, but I think he needs to learn what Claude Giroux does on the ice, from Scott Hartnell, how hard he works on the ice. At that age you have to look everywhere and find the good things, and try and bring that to your game. But I just think he has great potential, and I’d be happy to help him out in any way I can.”
Our defensive needs were met too with Mark Streit. Streit received some negative reviews when fans first heard news he would be coming to the Flyers because of his age and the amount of money in his contract. But Streit isn’t worried about his age or how much he’s got left in him.
”The wear and tear is big in hockey, in the NHL. I feel great, I’m healthy. I had one unfortunate season with the Islanders when I was hurt the whole year, but other than that I’ve played almost all the games every year, so I’m in good shape and I want to play for a long time and I really think I can help this team.”
Streit brings an offensive aspect to defense and will be a big contributor on the power play where he feels strongest. After this season Kimmo Timonen will be retiring and with the veteran leaving the Flyers Defense will need leadership, which would easily come from ex Islanders captain Streit. It wasn’t long before he too was welcomed and accepted as a key point to the Flyers game.
The Flyers like familiarity, they showed that last season by reacquiring Ruslan Fedotenko, Simon Gagne and Mike Knuble. This offseason they added a familiar face that could be a solution to Philadelphia goalie issues. With the buyout of Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers needed a new starting goaltender. Starting the relatively untested Steve Mason wasn’t a favored idea, so they took part in goalie biding battles all offseason. Fortunately Ray Emery decided that he wanted a shot at a starting role again and didn’t see that happening for him in Chicago.
The decision to come back to Philly was an easy one for Emery, after all the work they put into getting him the best medical care possible. The organization sent him all over to keep the goalie from losing his hip to avascular necrosis. Emery will be in a shared starting position with Steve Mason. The two will be playing for a starting position, but Emery has a good team attitude. “I think a great season from a team is better. If you lose in the playoffs but your goalie is great, it’s whatever. ”
These additions along with keeping the young core intact could mean an amazing season for the Flyers making them real Cup contenders.