After long-time general manager Bobby Clarke stepped down from his post early on in the 2006/07 season, many people in the hockey industry believed Clarke’s old buddy Paul Holmgren would fill the Flyers’ GM position on an interim basis; however,this was not the case. Holmgren, whose been in the GM chair for less than one calendar year, has done a very impressive job of retooling the Flyers’ personnel and taking the organization from the bottom of the Eastern Conference competition to hopefully become a team that feels it can compete for a playoff spot.
Here are five questions people have about the Broadstreet Bullies heading in 2007/08:
1. Is the team’s defense good enough to allow the team to make the playoffs?
With the off-season additions of Kimmo Timonen and Jason Smith, the Flyers’ defense became a lot more experienced. Experience is one of the strong points on the team’s defense and management is hoping it will make up for the obvious lack of foot speed on the blue line. The Flyers’ one through six defense is nothing to write home about and with four of their top six defenders being 30 years of age or older when the season begins, the lack of foot speed is not getting any better. The team’s defense may be what is holding the Flyers back from post-season play.
2. Did management make the right additions up-front?
Adding Daniel Briere, Joffrey Lupul and Scott Hartnell in the off-season were all terrific moves by Paul Holmgren. Briere will anchor the team’s top line alongside Simon Gagne for many years to come; Lupul should slot in on the second unit and as a result be privy to far less pressure on Philly’s second line than he was under in Edmonton; Hartnell is the type of player Flyers’ fans have always loved, with his gritty up-and-down style that intimidates opposing teams’ defenders. An important point to remember about these three acquisitions is that all three players are under 30 years of age and have the ability to continue to improve.
3. Is Martin Biron good enough to start 60-65 games for a playoff team?
I have to admit, I was for more comfortable with Martin Biron becoming the backstop of this team at last year’s trade deadline when I was under the impression that the Flyers were going to rebuild. In my opinion, his positive attitude and reputation as a good teammate would have been perfect for a rebuilding situation. However, with the rebuilding plan well back in the rear-view mirror, Biron is now the starter on a team with very high expectations. Moreover, he is playing in a city that hasn’t seen world-class goaltending in almost thirty years. It is difficult to predict how Biron will react to all of the external pressures; we have to remember that he has only played over 54 games in a season once.
4. Will Jeff Carter and Mike Richards rebound for sub-par performances in 2006/07?
Perhaps our expectations were too high for this dynamic duo after Carter and Richards put up 42 and 34 points respectively in their rookie seasons of 2005/06. After disappointing sophomore seasons, the youngsters will be looking to get back on track in 2007/08. Both forwards are more than capable of turning their game up a notch, as evidenced by Richards’ play at season’s end when he was averaging a point-per-game during the month of March, until he went down with a shoulder injury that ended his season. Carter also improved his game over the latter part of the season and was playing with more force to his game. Without these two youngsters playing at the levels they are capable of, the Flyers lack the goal scoring depth that is necessary if you wish to succeed in today’s game. It says here that both will bounce back with 55+ point seasons in 2007/08.
5. After all the transactions over the past year, will the Flyers make the playoffs?
The answer seems like it would be a simple yes until you consider they play in the Atlantic Division, meaning that they face-off against the Devils, Rangers and Penguins 24 times this season. The additions up front, on the back end and in net will contribute significantly to the team’s improvement; however, the Flyers will most likely be fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot. It says here that they squeak into the playoffs as a number seven seed, but bow out in round one to a superior all-around hockey club.
On to the morning papers:
- Kevin Allen of the USA Today takes a look at the Eastern Conference in this morning’s paper.
- You can’t say Derian Hatcher doesn’t care about his on-ice production writes Tim Panaccio of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- There is a lot of pressure on John Stevens as he enters his first training camp in the NHL as a head coach.
- The Coyotes are without an established number one netminder, and that means it is open competition for the starting spot in the desert; Jim Gintonio has the story.
- Coming off a much more relaxing summer, Evgeni Malkin feels he is much stronger than he was heading into last season.
- Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News explains the appeal of playing in San Jose and how the organization has transformed itself into one of the most popular destinations among NHL’ers.
- According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Andy Murray is never lacking in the preparation department.
- Can Vinny Lecavalier improve on his 2006/07 production? Erik Erlendsson takes a look at that question in this morning’s Tampa Tribune.
- Apparently coach Paul Maurice missed the don’t guarantee anything memo and not only claimed the Leafs would make the playoffs, but also said this Leafs’ group is the most talented team he has ever coached. (Writer’s note: If this is the most talented team he has ever coach, I worry for Paul Maurice’s sanity)
- Meanwhile, the Leafs want to cut down on their goals against but are not resorting to the neutral zone trap to accomplish that.
- Put the conspiracy theories away, Mats Sundin wants to stay in Toronto writes Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun.
- Expectations are even higher for the Sedin twins heading into 2007/08 writes Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province.
- Youngster Jim Sharrow arrived in Victoria and is shacking up with Mattias Ohlund; Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province has the story.
- There is a sense of optimism at Capitals’ camp, Tarik El-Bashir tries to capture that sentiment in this morning’s Washington Post.
- As Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail explains, Owen Nolan still feels like he has a lot left in the tank.
- While there are concerns about some of the Oilers’ goal scoring capabilities heading into the season, there appears to be no concern about the physical condition of some of those players, writes Alan Maki in this morning’s Globe & Mail.
- You can’t say Ilya Brygalov isn’t a good teammate writes Dan Wood of the Orange County Register.
- Craig Custance of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution examines the five differences but this year’s version of the Thrashers and last year’s.
- The pressure is on the Bruins’ defense heading into the season writes Fluto Shinwaza in this morning’s Boston Globe.
- Veteran Glen Metropolit won’t go down without a fight, as he is trying to extend his hockey career by attempting to crack the Bruins’ roster. Maybe his past experiences with Claude Julien will aid his cause.
- Tim Graham of the Buffalo News tells us of Lindy Ruff’s possible plan of having a captain-of-the-month.
- Miikka Kiprusoff wants to remain a Flame writes Randy Sportak in the Calgary Sun.
- By taking the team on a getaway to Banff, Jarome Iginla is doing his part to ensure the Flames are a close-knit team this season.
- The Calgary Herald has seven questions about the Flames heading into the season.
- After a season on Broadway, Matt Cullen is happy to be back with his old squad in North Carolina.
- According to Joe Sakic, expectations are higher than they were last season in the Rockies; Adrian Dater provides the background in this morning’s Denver Post.
- The Blue Jackets are going to experiment with Nikolai Zherdev at center on a line with Rick Nash and David Vyborny writes Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch.
- Without external reinforcements, the Stars are hoping to increase their goal scoring output with same core as last season.
- Count Ken Holland among the many who don’t want to see the NHL expand to Europe.
- Joanne Ireland details Raffi Torres and his lifestyle changes in this morning’s Edmonton Journal.
- Coming from Montreal, Sheldon Souray knows all about the pressure to win in a Canadian city.
- No more concussion questions says Jarret Stoll.
- Olli Jokinen has no problems with things getting a little heated at Panthers’ training camp writes Steve Gorton.
- Apparently the pre-season got underway last night! The L.A. Times has the review of the battle of Southern California.
- Marcel Dionne understands why Danny Briere could pass up on the opportunity to play at home. On the other hand, Serge Savard says, lets not kid ourselves, money was the deciding factor.
- Just because Patrice Brisebois didn’t pass his physical, doesn’t mean he won’t be suiting up for the Habs this year.
- Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette examines the need for new leaders to step up for the Canadiens.
- David Legwand is expected to step-it-up to the next level in Nashville this season.
- No time to rest for Devils’ newest head coach Brent Sutter writes Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger.
- It is the Stanley Cup or bust in NYC this year says Jaromir Jagr.
- Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun discusses the Senators’ expectations for 2007/08 and, not surprisingly, a return to the Stanley Cup Finals is on the agenda.