Teams like Washington and Pittsburgh have built contending teams by tearing down and starting over through the draft. Philadelphia proved last season there is more than one way to go from terrible to terrific in this league, but other teams beware: The core of the Flyers success still came from the draft and shrewd trades more so than the spending spree they went on last summer. Not every team that hits rock bottom is going to have Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and R.J. Umberger (among others) as a nice head start in the right direction.
2007-08: 42-29-11, 95 points (fourth in Atlantic)
PLAYOFFS: Lost to Pittsburgh in conference finals
WHAT WENT RIGHT: GM Paul Holmgren’s roster renovations proved to be a huge success, as the Flyers went from 30th in the NHL two years ago to the league’s final four last season. Mike Richards made The Leap and became one of the top two-way centers in hockey. Scoring depth was a great strength as they entered the playoffs with seven 20-goal scorers. Vinny Prospal replaced Simon Gagne at the deadline and proved to be a top playoff performer. Braydon Coburn became one of the top young defensemen in the league, which somehow didn’t cost Atlanta GM Don Wadell his job. Martin Biron was a solid No. 1 netminder, especially in the second-round upset of top seed Montreal.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Gagne’s troubles with a concussion lingered and he played only 25 games. The Flyers defense corps was old and slow, something it took the Washington Capitals too long to expose, but the Penguins were able to especially with injuries to Coburn and Kimmo Timonen. Though the organization had no qualms about it, the league did not like the return of the Broad Street Bullies image, and told them enough was enough after several suspensions.
ARRIVALS:D Steve Eminger, C Glen Metropolit, RW Aaron Asham, D Ossi Vaananen
DEPARTURES: C R.J. Umberger, LW Vinny Prospal, D Jason Smith, D Denis Gauthier, C Ryan Potulny
IMPACT PROSPECTS:RW Claude Giroux
Who does Giroux play with?
The Flyers had very little roster turnover, but did lose R.J. Umberger, who led the team with 10 playoff goals. Philadelphia could move on without skipping a beat if Giroux, who lit up the “Q” last season, proves to be ready. He could also be one of the favorites, along with Steve Stamkos and Kyle Turris, for the Calder trophy if the Flyers find him enough playing time.
Does Eminger still have it?
Plenty of Caps fans were befuddled by the team’s decision to not play Steve Eminger in three-fourths of the team’s games last season, but he was in the lineup in the playoffs and performed well against his new teammates. Acquired during the draft, Eminger has plenty to prove and there are plenty of people (the guy typing this included) who thing he still has plenty of game as well. Don’t expect to see a healthy Eminger in the press box for Philadelphia, and he could even crack the top four on the depth chart.
PROGNOSIS: Philadelphia’s hallmarks – scoring depth and toughness – should not change, especially if Gagne returns to full health and Giroux is a hit. Only their cross-state rivals can match Philadelphia’s 1-2-3 punch at center, and if Jordan Staal has to move to a wing, then the Flyers will have the top set of pivots in the league. Less minutes for guys like Jason Smith and Derian Hatcher and more for guys like Eminger, Randy Jones and Ryan Parent should also be a positive. All signs point to the Flyers being contenders again in the Eastern Conference.
|Simon Gagne||Daniel Briere||Mike Knuble|
|Scott Hartnell||Mike Richards||Joffrey Lupul|
|Claude Giroux||Jeff Carter||Scottie Upshall|
|Riley Cote/Aaron Asham||Glen Metropolit||Steve Downie|
|Kimmo Timonen||Braydon Coburn|
|Randy Jones||Steve Eminger|
|Lasse Kukkonen||Ryan Parent|
|Derian Hatcher||Ossi Vaananen|
*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations