Welcome Guest | Register | Login

Things to Watch in Philadelphia Flyers 2010-2011 Season

"Bookmark



"Five Hole" logo by Matt Schetter.Hello, Flyers fans. It’s that time of year again. Beyond the magic of another Phillies playoff run and the whirlwind of yet another McNabb soap opera  is the promise of another season of Flyers hockey.

Beginning this Thursday in Pittsburgh, the Flyers will drop the puck on their 2010-2011 NHL season. I trust I am not the only person in the Delaware Valley who is Flyered up after last year’s deep, yet heartbreaking playoff run.

As we reflect back on last season, there are a few highlights that provide great optimism for the upcoming season. First, the establishment of the Flyers as one of the premier defensive teams in the league only looks better with the offseason additions of Andrej Meszaros and Sean O’Donnell. The addition of Nikolai Zherdev will help soften the loss of longtime mainstay Simon Gagne. Perhaps most importantly, the presence of coach Peter Laviolette for his first full year as coach of the Flyers.

I realize that the hockey season is a roller coaster ride, with its many twists and turns, peaks and valleys. Heck, as last spring proved, just the playoffs alone can be thrilling and bumpy. Still though, the Flyers have a realistic chance to drink from the Cup this year and here are some of the things to keep an eye on for the upcoming season:

 

Goaltending

Michael Leighton is back. After going from playoff hero to goat as fast as you can say Patrick Kane, he returns but is sidelined with a back injury that could keep him out for a month.

Brian Boucher is also back. After filling in admirably last season, Boosh appears to be the starter in net as the season opens. But he should be looking over his shoulder as young Russian prospect Sergei “Bob” Bobrovsky has opened many eyes with his impressive preseason play. Look for “Bob” to possibly become the man in net as the season progresses.

Ray Emery is not back. Wait a minute, what the heck ever happened to Emery anyway? He seemed to just vanish into thin air. I digress.

Ultimately, the Flyers appear to be far stronger at forward and defense than in net. But the cap space cleared with the offseason trade of Gagne to Tampa Bay may give Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren  enough wiggle room to acquire a goalie at the trade deadline if none of the aforementioned goalies play strong enough.

 

Andrej Meszaros

The addition of the big Slovakian Meszaros further strengthens an already impressive Flyers defense that ranks amongst the top in the NHL.

Possessing a big 6’2’’ frame and above average offensive skills, Meszaros (along with veteran Sean O’Donnell) should provide much needed depth that will help reduce some of the grueling ice time given to the top four defensemen last season, especially throughout the playoffs.

 

Nikolai Zherdev

He is a classic case of fool’s gold. He is big and talented, but his skills are often outweighed by his demeanor. Well documented as a lazy player who can be a locker room detriment, Zherdev continues to be given chances because he is immensely gifted offensively, once leading the New York Rangers in scoring for a season.

It will be compelling to see if Philadelphia is where he rights his ship.

 

Claude Giroux

I think this is the year. This kid is undoubtedly a star in the making.

I implore you to keep an eye on number 28. Although if last year’s playoffs are any indication, how could you not? His extrasensory passes and superb stick skills are really second to none.

It is not a question of whether young Claude will become a legitimate NHL star. It is just a question of when.

 

The Briere lineVillie Laino of the Flyers.

Ok, let’s face it. The Flyers had one line that showed up for the Stanley Cup Finals. So, the question begs, can the line of Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Ville Leino capture the magic that made them practically unstoppable on the sport’s biggest stage?

The early signs are not encouraging as Briere has been slightly sidetracked by- of all things- an infected tonsil. Still, if Briere heals up this line could be a force to be reckoned with. Stay tuned.

 

Jody Shelley

For the first time since the departure of Donald Brashear, (with all due respect to Riley Cote) the Flyers went out and got a true heavyweight.

In his final days in Philadelphia, Brashear had become a bit “gun shy”, becoming at times reluctant to drop the gloves. Some are saying the Flyers slightly overpaid for Shelley (3 years,$ 3.3 million), but the bottom line is this: he won’t back down from a fight. It should be fun watching him beat down the opposition when his services are needed.

 

Peter Laviolette

When the Flyers fired John Stevens and hired Laviolette last December, it was a much needed move for a team that was lacking fire and purpose. Six months later, it was very clear that Laviolette is a man capable of leading this team to the promised land.

This will be his first full season behind the Flyers bench. He is a proven winner and has built a great deal of trust in his system. It should be fun to watch him build upon last season’s success.

Do not watch for a midseason coaching change this year. For once, we have our guy for the foreseeable future.

Outside the Zone…

 

Here’s to You, Lappy…

Lastly, I’d like to take this opportunity to send best wishes to Ian Laperriere. The man known as Lappy has been experiencing issues related to his head injuries suffered last year. His penchant for blocking shots with his face has made him a cult hero here in Philly, and rightfully so. But he has long been a warrior in the National Hockey League, giving up his body night after night in town after town for the past decade and a half.

He was the type of player that I had always heard would be loved if he ever played for the Flyers, and nothing could have been more true. He ultimately has given his career to inch the Flyers towards that long elusive Stanley Cup.

No matter what transpires in the remainder of his career, Ian Laperriere gave his body, mind and heart to his team. He is a true Flyer.

Here’s to hoping that Laperriere has found a home in the Delaware Valley and can remain a part of the Flyers organization after he hangs up his skates. It is his type of clout, influence, and infectious personality that could put future Flyers teams over the top.

We can only hope.

LET’S GO FLYERS!

Until next time…stay cool….

Contact Ryan Downs at rdowns@philly2philly.com