So it's now October, meaning that my beloved Philadelphia Flyers will be taking the ice for the regular season soon. I figure now is as good a time as any to commit my thoughts on this year's team to the wondrous internet.
The Flyers' strength last year was the depth up the middle, led by Mike "Captain" Richards who had a banner year in almost every regard. The scary thought for the rest of the league is this: he's still getting better as a player. He's just now getting to his prime, and he will remain an elite talent in the league for years to come--barring injury of course. Another centerman that looks to improve on an impressive 2007-08 campaign is Jeff Carter, who missed 30 goals by an inch last year.
Danny Briere looks to rebound from a season in which he put up 30 goals and a minus 22 performance. The return of winger Simon Gagne and a move to Richards' wing himself could be a big help. I'm looking for a big year out of Danny. Ditto for Lupul, who has been locked up for another 4 years.
Coming into the offensive fold, hopefully, is Claude Giroux. This kid is going to be exciting to watch, since he lit up the minor leagues for big points. I see him as a second line winger with Jeff Carter.
A big question mark for the Flyers last year was their defense, which allowed the most shots on net in the league. They also led the league in shots blocked, but I'm not so sure that's a stat to brag about since it just means you're good at hiding your defensive fuck ups. To remedy this, the Flyers made a conscious effort to be more mobile on the blue line, signing Steve Emminger, Osi Vannanen, and offering a trial deal to Bryan "Cyclops" Berard.
The obvious top pair is Timonen and Coburn, who were just spectacular in the playoffs. Look for Stevens to break them up on occasion to spread the wealth then throw them back together when it doesn't work.
Martin Biron shut every critic saying he's unproven in the playoffs up. I think there's no reason to doubt that he'll be just as strong to start the season. Niittymaki was injured in preseason, so the Flyers brought in J.S. Aubin to mind the backup role while Niitty recouperates.
The Flyers improved their blueline, and maintained an offense that is downright scary. The rest of the Atlantic Division did not improve substantially. The Flyers take the division and second place in the Eastern Conference. Another deep playoff run is written on the wall. And I couldn't be more pumped.
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