Connect with us

NHL Morning Papers

NHL Morning Papers: Did the Flyers get better?

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: