Previewing the East: Philadelphia
Comeback seasons, free agents needed to get Flyers back to playoffs
DETROIT – The Red Wings are moving to the Eastern Conference next season where they will be reunited with a trio of Original Six rivals (Boston, Montreal and Toronto) in a division that also includes Buffalo, Florida, Ottawa and Tampa Bay.
Throughout the summer, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose will take an analytical look at a different Eastern Conference team. This week it's the Philadelphia Flyers:
2013 Record: 23-22-3
Head Coach: Peter Laviolette (fifth season)
Home Rink: Wells Fargo Center
Red Wings All-Time Record vs. PHI: 47-56-21-0
2013-14 Games: Oct. 12 @ DET; Dec. 4 @ DET; Jan. 28 @ PHI
Pending Unrestricted Free Agents: Defensemen Kurtis Foster, Kent Huskins and Matt Walker, left wings Simon Gagne and Jody Shelley, and right wing Mike Knuble.
Pending Restricted Free Agents: None.
Free Agents Lost: None.
Free Agents Gained: Center Vincent Lecavalier, goalies Ray Emery and Yann Danis.
|Center Brayden Schenn is among a handful of Flyers who need to rebound from disappointing seasons in 2013. (Photo by Getty Images)|
Coming off an atrocious season, the Flyers went shopping this spring and summer and landed perhaps the biggest fish of the offseason.
The Flyers signed center Vincent Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million deal with the hopes that the 33-year-old veteran center, who’s already played over 1,000 games, has enough left in the tank to contribute to the team’s attacking offensive system. Lecavalier had his weighty contract bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning, making the All-Star center an unrestricted free agent. However, health is a concern for Lecavalier, who hasn’t played a full season since 2009-10.
As bad as the 2013 season was, the Flyers, led by right winger Jakub Voracek, finished among the top 10 scoring teams in the league, and had the third-best power play percentage. Only Washington and Pittsburgh fared better with the man-advantage.
Voracek finished with 22 goals, which was tied for eighth in the league. Besides a seemingly potent offense, several Flyers under-performed, most notably young centers Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, who combined to score 12 goals. While Matt Read chipped in with 11 goals and 13 assists, it was a bummer of a sophomore season for the speedy two-way forward, who produced 47 points in 2011-12.
Injuries played a role with the Flyers who missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Winger Scott Hartnell is one of the veterans that needs to bounce back from an injury-plagued season where he managed just 11 points while missing 16 games. Six Flyers’ defensemen finished the season on the injury list while forwards Zac Rinaldo and Max Talbot, and center Scott Laughton also missed significant time with injuries.
Philadelphia re-signed center Claude Giroux and Couturier to contract extensions, while they bought out goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and winger Danny Briere, and traded for veteran defenseman Mark Streit.
The negatives for the Flyers are a questionable defense, along with the goaltending tandem of Ray Emery and Steve Mason. The 30-year-old Emery returns to Philadelphia after spending the last three seasons between Anaheim and Chicago.
The blueline is anchored by a pair of 30-something veterans in Streit and Kimmo Timonen, while the rest of the unit will be made up of big, physical, young defensemen with 6-5 Braydon Coburn, 6-2 Luke Schenn, 6-4 Nicklas Grossman, Erik Gustafsson and 6-2 Andrej Meszaros.
FEEL GOOD STAT
644 – Giroux led the league in practically every faceoff category, including total faceoff wins, which were 85 more than Toronto’s Tyler Bozak and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, who finished tied for second in the NHL. Giroux also led the league even-strength faceoff wins (436) and power-play faceoff wins (129). He finished fourth in total faceoff wins in 2011-12.
270 – The Flyers led the league in overall penalties this season and 213 minors (excluding nine bench minors), both of which lead the league. Rinaldo (85) and forward Wayne Simmonds (82) finished among the top 16 players in the league in penalty minutes. Only Toronto had more players garner top 16 PIMs. Despite the lack of discipline, Philadelphia’s penalty kill allowed 18 power-play goals in games it lost, but just eight power-play goals in games the Flyers won.