It has almost been a year already for the hype that was built around the Philadelphia Flyers‘ upcoming season. The Flyers were projected to be very successful and some, especially me, predicted them to appear in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Well, earlier today, the group over at The Hockey News posted their “2012-2013 NHL predictions”. In this article, the Flyers were projected to finish 5th place in the Eastern Conference. Their reasons as to why the Flyers would be a fifth seed are very educated. One should not disregard their predictions especially because their points are 100% valid. But I will show you what they think and then go into my own evaluation for the 2012-2013 Flyers.
Here is the prediction by The Hockey News:
“Why: The Orange and Black attack is rugged, relentless and guaranteed to get goals in bunches. Claude Giroux is a bona fide superstar and there are a plethora of 20-goal men around him. But defense and goaltending are far from sure things. Blueliners are falling fast, with Chris Pronger still a no-go and Andrej Meszaros out indefinitely with a torn Achilles. And Ilya Bryzgalov inspires about as much stability in net as the Greek economy. Sit back and enjoy the ride, anyway, because it’ll be fun to watch Philly play firewagon hockey all season long.”
Reading this article made me wonder about how much potential the Flyers have as a team. Claude Giroux solidified his place as an NHL superstar last season with his unbelievable vision, speed, grit, and his ability to shoot the puck. His possible line mates, Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek, are coming off career seasons and have recently signed new deals in the past month. The potential that the first line has for this upcoming season is scary. This line combination has the potential to have three players with 20+ goals and 20+ assists. At worst, the first line could see Giroux scoring 75-80 points, Voracek recording 35-50 points, and Hartnell recoding 35-45 points of his own.
The Flyers also have an assortment of players who are able to score at least 20 times. Young players such as Sean Couturier, Matt Read, and Brayden Schenn are looking to duplicate great rookie seasons. Daniel Briere is looking to have a bounce back regular season. Briere has scored 15 goals in every season that he has played at least 70 or more games. Wayne Simmonds has also been re-signed to a new deal and is looking to put up big numbers on the power play for the Flyers. Last season’s offensive surge was a beautiful sight to see in Philadelphia. But with production comes the urgency to duplicate, which could be a detriment to a young team such as the Flyers.
Almost anyone that watches hockey knows that when it hits playoff time the play of the goaltender means so much. Well, so does the defense. With multiple injuries to players such as Andrej Meszaros and Andreas Lilja hurt before the season even begins and Matt Carle leaving in free agency, many people have already dropped the Flyers down in their power rankings. I actually believe that these injuries could be somewhat of a help for the Flyers. Yes, the defense is a bit banged up, but the depth within the organization is incredible. Teams with great offenses can lead a team in the regular season if their goal-tending is at least average. If players such as Meszaros and Lilja could return early enough in the season, then their returns could be as valuable as mid-season trades.
Now, let’s retrace our memories to a year ago when GM Paul Holmgren traded away two stars in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. In return last off season, Holmgren was able to get Simmonds, Schenn, Voracek and also drafted Couturier. Holmgren had faith in what he traded for and he also took a chance on making the Flyers an even younger team. Well, in the short term, the trades worked out for every player that was traded. Carter and Richards won their first Stanley Cup and the Flyers surprised many people with the success of their youth.
This season the Flyers have the same core as they did from a year ago. They have grown as a team while staying young in the age department. Ilya Bryzgalov had somewhat of a rough time in his first go around in Philadelphia, but it was not the worst performance of his career. If last March was a sign of how good Bryzgalov could be, a month in which he went 10-2-1 with an 1.53 GAA (including OT), then the Flyers should be anticipating a bounce back performance from the 32-year old Russian goaltender.
In theory, the offense attack of the Flyers could actually benefit them in the regular season. If the Flyers can outscore their opponents on a normal nightly basis with average play by the defense and their goaltender, then they could win a good amount of games. If the offense sputters along with the defense, just like last postseason, then the Flyers will not fair well in 2012-2013. But, with a lethal offensive attack, a city of defensemen able to fill voids, and a goalie that is in store for a promising season, the Flyers have put themselves in a situation where they will be headache for anyone trying to prepare for them.
Personally, I believe that the Flyers will find themselves as the 4th seed going into the playoffs, but they will finish 2nd in the Eastern Conference in points. Look for the Flyers to continue to develop into a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference this year and for the near future.
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