With only one victory in seven exhibition games, the Philadelphia Flyers’ preseason couldn’t have gone much worse. Outscored 25-16, the Flyers demonstrated all the characteristics that contributed to their lackluster lock-out shortened season of a year ago. A season that saw the orange and black fail to qualify for the playoffs for only the second time since 1994.
The Flyer fan-base is an eternally optimistic bunch, always feeling their squad is a Stanley Cup contender; however, the unrest in Philly is palpable. As the pre-season concluded Friday evening the team’s scoring punch, defensive acumen, and goaltender situation continue to be enormous concerns heading into Wednesday night’s regular season opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With Michael Raffl and Chris Vandevelde both being sent down to the team’s AHL affiliate Adirondack Phantoms, former first-round pick Scott Laughton has made the opening night roster. Leaving the team with five centers and only four lines, someone will have to be made into a winger when the season starts.
Only four days before they suit up for real, the complete lack of line continuity established in the pre-season is alarming. Captain and offensive star Claude Giroux was limited to only one preseason game due to injury, and veteran addition Vinny Lecavier is just getting acclimated to Philly, so who plays with whom on Wednesday night is anyone’s guess.
Defensively, the Flyers struggled mightily last season, and showed little improvement this September. Dealing with a ton of injury time and a rotating carousel of defensemen last season, the Flyers allowed the eighth highest goals against total in the NHL.
With the only change to the defensive corps being the signings of veteran free agent Mark Streit, and the tryout contract for the aging Hal Gill, it’s hard to see where there is much improvement on the Flyers blue line. The team continues to rely too heavily on the oft-injured Andrej Meszaros and Nick Grossman, underachieving Braydon Coburn and long in the tooth Kimmo Timonen.
As unproven as the Flyers are up front, they have not been able to have a similar youth movement on defense. This combination does not bode well for the immediate future of general manager Paul Holmgren’s team.
In net, neither Ray Emery nor Steve Mason has stood on his head so who will get the nod against the Leafs is still up in the air. Ideally a franchise trying to rebound back to prominence would like to be settled as they start the season; this is certainly not the case for the Flyers. Peter Laviolette and his staff certainly have their work cut out for them before Oct.2nd.
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