Flyers 2010 Season Preview: Is the Cup next for Philly?

Photo/Getty

The 2010 Philadelphia Flyers will enter October 7th in Pittsburgh as a team with a lot of expectations. After losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games last June, the Flyers decided to make minimal changes to try to keep this winning attitude in tact.

With the arrivals of Nikolai Zherdev, Andrej Meszaros, Matt Walker, Sean O’Donnell, and Jody Shelley the Flyers added both a scoring touch and toughness to their lineup. When we look at departures, the only significant move was the trade that sent long-time fan favorite Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Michael Leighton finally received the respect he deserved when the Flyers rewarded the netminder with a new 2-year contract and the starting nod between the pipes. Can Flyers fans expect the Leighton they saw dominate the postseason or the Leighton who made his rounds around the NHL as a backup?

The Flyers obviously moved on from a big contract in Gagne, to gaining a scoring threat in Zherdev and defensive lightning rod in Meszaros. Others like Walker, O’Donnell, and Shelley will bring other little aspects of the game that the Flyers possibly lacked.

This Flyers season preview will be a bit different from the normal ones we all read and analyze. This piece will be strictly Q & A based that will include writers: Matt Ecret, 610 WIP’s Eric ‘Turtle’ Golden, and of course, myself.

This is a big season for everyone here at Faceoff with Chris. We have an official sponsor in Rednex Rebellion clothing line. You might have seen their hats and tees throughout the past two Flyers seasons on captain Mike Richards during pre and post game interviews. You can purchase all of those hats and shirts at www.rednexrebellion.com. Readers will eventually see pictures and links of all RDNX Rebellion merchandise on the front page.

So, without further ado, let’s get this show on the ice:

Who is the biggest threat to dethrone the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference?

Ecret: For me the East comes down to four teams; Philadelphia, Washington, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh. Theres no doubt that on paper, the Capitals are one of the most talented teams in the entire league, but to me, I think they are the most overrated team in the same token. They win a ton of games every year but people forget, 24 out of their 82 games are against a combination of Florida, Tampa, Atlanta, and Carolina. Not exactly the toughest division rivals. They can score a ton on anyone, but you can’t win every playoff game 5-4. The Capitals simply aren’t built to win the type of grind it out 2-1, 3-2 type playoff games that you have to win, if you don’t believe me, look back at their playoff success over the last 3 seasons.

Sidney Crosby and his Penguins will once again be a thorn in the Flyers side. Photo/CBC.ca

Golden: Lets start off with the obvious; Sindey Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jordan Staal. Need I say more?

A team that has 2-of the-top 5 best players in the NHL along with a top-notch Stanley Cup winning goalie and a very good up-and-coming center will be very hard team to beat. But the Flyers have had epic wars with this team in the past and we expect nothing less this season. Next, Alex Ovechkin, or Alex The Great; whatever you decide to call him and his Capitals. This is one of the most dangerous players in the entire NHL and his team isn’t too shabby either. Washington may not have all of the talent that the Penguins have but they are still stacked with good young players and tough hard-nosed vets such as former Flyer Mike Knuble.

As Long as Semyon Varlamov holds up in net this will also be a very hard team to beat and the Flyers expect nothing less.

Chris: When I look at the East, I don’t see a whole lot of outstanding competition outside of the normal Pittsburgh’s, Washington’s, and New Jersey’s. The only other organization I see as a possible sleeper would be the Buffalo Sabres. Any team who has Ryan Miller as their netminder will always be a contender in my book. Plus, with Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, and Thomas Vanek the Sabres’ time is now to make a serious run at the Cup.

I look at New Jersey and I’m still questioning how effective they are going to be, even with the long-term signing of Ilya Kovalchuk. Martin Brodeur isn’t the Brodeur of five or six years ago and he proved that during the Flyers-Devils playoff series last season. He seemed slow and out of position; however, I still have to give the Devil his due and not count him out completely.

The Capitals will continue to be that team that hangs around atop the Eastern Conf. then fails to reach the Stanley Cup finals because they become one-dimensional. Led by captain Alex Ovechkin, Washington has a plethora of scoring threats and stud names to go with it. Nikolas Backstom, Alexander Semin, and even defensemen/forward Mike Green.

Furthermore, the Capitals have to find a way to get over the proverbial hump that keeps haunting them. They have become the San Jose Sharks of the East and it might continue to be the same old song and dance.

In order, this is how I see the East shaping up at game 82: 1. Washington 2. Buffalo 3. Pittsburgh 4. FLYERS 5. Devils

 
Which Flyer forward has to have the best season in order for the team to be successful?
Ecret: You could go many ways here, but in my opinion, its Jeff Carter. It’s no secret, that Carter is one of my least favorite Flyers. His lazy style of play & often lack of motivation bugs the heck out of me, but I’ll be the first to admit, he’s the best scoring threat we have. This team is loaded with plenty of guys who can score anywhere from 20-30 goals, which is great, but Carter is the only one capable of going wild & scoring 40-50, & championship teams need that type of threat to be successful.
 
The big issue is where to play Carter. As I said before, we are stacked up front, particularly at center. Danny Briere & Claude Giroux are far better suited to play at center, so I think it would be smart for Coach Laviolette to at least try Carter at the wing, where I think he is much better fit to play. If Carter can have a guy like Richards dish him the puck, Carter could return to the 46 goal type of season he had 2 years ago. I expect big things from #17 this season, if for no other reason, than it’s a contract year. If he wants a big raise to pay him like the elite player that so many people think he is, he needs to step it up bigtime this season.
 
EG: The Popular Choice For This Question Would Normally Be Jeff Carter; which would be a very good answer. You could also go with a player such as Leighton or Boosh, because we all know that the goalie is the most important position in pro sports today. But I’m going to take a different approach and give you 2 players that must have a good year for this team to be very successful. Secondary Scoring, Secondary Scoring and Secondary Scoring is the KEY for this team to be all it can be and more in the season of 2010-11. 
 
Scott Hartnell Is The First Guy That Must have a good year; needs to have a good year in order for this team to get back to the promise land! Acquired In a trade from Nashville, Scott Hartnell’s time here in Philadelphia has been more like a story of Jekyll and. Hyde The Of an All-Star Hockey Player. His First Two Seasons here Hartnell Tallied 54 Goals and 49 Ast For a Very Nice Impression on this team and these fans, but last season was a down year for Scott  which almost got him traded according to many rumors.
 
This 6-2 210lb Winger MUST have a bounce back year in order for this team to be successful. In his first full season as a Philadelphia Flyer, Claude Giroux had a break out season not only in scoring but as a possible elite level player in the league. Crunch Time It mattered most to this youngster, and playoffs where his playground! At 22 years old this play-maker played 23 playoff games scoring 10 goals and 11 ast for 23 pts; Finishing More Goals and Points Then all-pro players Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg and The Sedin Brothers. If The Flyers Want To Have Continued Success, it will take all the efforts of both these players; but Carter,Richards and Leighton as well.
 

Photo/Getty

Chris: I figured the other two on here would choose Jeff Carter, no shock there. For me, he isn’t even in my top-5 of players who need to step up their game if the Flyers have a shot at the next level. When thinking about players who absolutely need to have a great season, I think of Claude Giroux and Danny Briere.

 
Briere, who had a lackluster regular season netting 26 goals with 53 points, enjoyed his best postseason of his career. The 32-year old forward lit up the NHL playoff scoreboard with 12 goals and 30 points in 23 games. His play was outstanding, and proved why he deserves the contract he has. Briere, thrived at center throughout the postseason and head coach Peter Laviolette has stated he envisions Briere staying in the middle for this season. Look for Briere to hit the 35-goal, and 75-point plateau once again.
 
For Giroux, after having a widely considered disappointing regular season given the amount he skill he often shows, ‘G’ also had himself an impressive playoff campaign. Scoring 16 goals in 82 regular season games, Giroux tallied 10 in 23 postseason games. The 22-year old out of Ontario is out to prove that his offensive output in the postseason was only scratching the surface on what we can see out of this young superstar. If I were a betting man, I’d expect 25 goals and 70 points for Giroux.
 
Can the Flyers repeat the same success that they had last season or was it just lightning in a bottle?
  
EG: At 41-35-6 Last Season For 88 Points The Flyers Will Have Much Room To Improve on last years record, but the playoffs are a much different beast. But when looking at the overall performance of the team last season,the Philadelphia Flyers believe that they have acquired the pieces to make that cup run once again.
 
It does not happen that much and the odds that a team will not only be able to catch that fever again and take it all the way are very slim. The most recent team to achieve such success were the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007-08(Loss to the Red Wings) then went on to win it in 08-09(win vs. Red Wings). This will be a very hard task to complete in the now very competitive Eastern Conference of the NHL. But with a few things falling on the Flyers side, they should be able to compete for the ultimate goal again.
 
Chris: I honestly can sit here and tell everyone reading this that the Flyers can reach the Stanley Cup Finals for a second straight year, but I won’t go that far just yet. A lot has to fall into place with this club in order for them to have a chance to raise the Cup. As stated earlier, guys like Briere, Giroux, Richards, and whatever netminder fills the crease will have to be on top of their game consistently. There is no room for error with this team.
 
That being said, I think they have the right guy leading the helm in Peter Laviolette. Having a full training camp to hone his system with these players will prove beneficial when it’s all said and done. In the end, as it were, the Flyers should be back in the Eastern Conf. Finals if they don’t find a way to lack consistency between the pipes or the injury bug creeps up as usual.
 
Stanley Cup? I don’t predict that far into it; however, they have the tool set to get and the GM that will make whatever move possible the ensure they have a quality chance to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup.
 
ME: Well, that’s the million dollar question. To be quite honest, the question should be, can they put themselves in position to repeat the success they had in the playoffs last year. A lot of people forget they were a shootout away from not even making the playoffs.
 
From there, they certainly played well, but they also benefited from favorable matchups; for whatever reason, we have the Devils number (not to mention they were still trying to mesh with Kovalchuck). From there, we played Boston where history was made. Montreal was a good team, but weren’t built to handle our size and grit. We were fortunate to avoid Pittsburgh and Washington. The Flyers clicked on all cylinders but I feel we wouldn’t have been able to defeat either of those teams in a 7 game series.

So for the orange and black to have anywhere near the success they had last season, simply put, they have to play much better, & more importantly, more consistently from game 1 through game 82.

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