Philadelphia Flyers Season Preview: Baby Got Back?

EA Sports NHL 1 Cover Athlete Claude Giroux (Harry How/Getty Images)

A tough Atlantic Conference is going to make for a tough season for the Philadelphia Flyers. Thanks to an offensively charged offense, the team will be going goal-to-goal with the best of teams. However, a depth deprived defense and a shaky net-minder, the Flyers may not always end up on top.

Nearly all of last year’s offense returns to the lineup this season with the exceptions of Jaromir Jagr and James van Riemsdyk. Jagr’s veteran presence and late night workouts’ that the media boasted about will be missed, while van Riemdyk’s youthful development amidst a foot injury will be placed in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ hands. The two combined for 30 goals and 48 assists.

Hoping to fill the void, the Flyers have added free agent Ruslan Fedotenko. Fedotenko, in his 11 seasons in the NHL, has averaged 32 points a season. In his last three seasons however, perhaps because of his 33 years of age or his reduced ice-time, his average point total has gone down to twenty-five.

Not to worry though, as the Flyers’ core returns from last year and for many years to come. Both Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell have signed six-year contract extensions while Jakub Voracek has signed a four-year extension. Team point’s leader Claude Giroux (93 points) and playoff workhorse Danny Briere (8G, 5A in playoffs) look to continue their previous season’s performance. Optimism also surrounds last-year’s rookies Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn who both had a strong regular and post-season presence .

On the other end of the ice, however, this is where Flyers’ fans begin to worry. In the off-season, General Manager Paul Holmgren tried to address the team’s defensive needs by signing Shea Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet. The plans were foiled as the Nashville Predators matched the offer and retained Weber.

One such transaction that did work out for Holmgren was the reunion of brothers Brayden and Luke Schenn. Luke, the older of the two and playing defense, was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs. In his four-years in the league, and considering he was playing for the Maple Leafs, he has combined for 75 points and a plus / minus rating of negative twenty-three. It is expected with the team change that those numbers should be better.

Bad defensive news as veteran Chris Pronger’s status is still unknown after suffering a concussion that has kept him from playing since November 19, 2011. Also, Andrej Meszaros won’t be available for the start of the season as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon sustained during an offseason workout. Simply put, the defense is currently lacking depth and is a case of major concerns for Holmgren.

Starting goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is another area of concern. Acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes in 2011, in his first season last year he started 59 games for a 33-16-7 record. He posted a 2.48 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. While he is 10th best in the league with wins, his goals against average is 21st best and his save percentage drops even further to 33rd overall. With no backup on the roster to date, and no veteran expected in the spot, the Flyers are putting all their eggs in one basket.

Overall, the Philadelphia Flyers will be a fun team to watch. They will be a high flying, high scoring team with the possibility of being scored on a lot also. With more goals in the NHL always a focus, the Flyers will be a poster child. But as we all know, defense wins championships, and right now they do not have the depth at defense. A trade come the deadline or the Flyers again will end up short.

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