Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Philadelphia Flyers are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Flyers!
2009-10: 41-35-6 (7th in East, Eliminated in Stanley Cup Final by Blackhawks)
General Manager: Paul Holmgren (4th Season)
Head Coach: Peter Laviolette (2nd Season)
What they did in the off-season:
It was a much shorter off-season than originally expected in the ‘City of Brotherly' love thanks to the Flyers shocking run to the Stanley Cup finals. Philly got the off-season ball rolling by extending the contract of third string netminder Jonas Backlund by two years. They then made the bold gambit of acquiring the rights to sign soon to be free agent defenceman Dan Hamhuis from the Predators for defenceman Ryan Parent. When they were unable to come to terms with Hamhuis, the Flyers then traded his rights to their cross state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. In case the ‘Broad Street Bullies' did not have enough muscle at their disposal they added tough guy Jody Shelley through free agency then bolstered their blue line depth, signing Sean O'Donnell and acquired Andrej Meszaros in a trade with the Lightning. Ray Emery, Lukas Krajicek and Arron Asham were all allowed to walk in free agency, while Braydon Coburn was re-upped for two more years and Daniel Carcillo and Darryl Powe each agreed to one-year deals. In a bit of a shocking move, Nikolai Zherdev left the KHL to join Philadelphia. After spending his entire career in Philadelphia, Simon Gagne was dealt to the Lightning for Matt Walker in what appeared to be a salary dump. When Bill Guerin was told that his services were no longer needed in Pittsburgh he jumped on the William Penn highway and earned himself an invitation to Flyers camp on a tryout basis.
Biggest issue facing the team:
The Flyers must have breathed a sigh of relief on how the Ilya Kovalchuk saga played out as their contract with stud defenceman Chris Pronger was also investigated by the league. Considering that they are right up against the NHL's salary cap as it is, it would have been very difficult to re-negotiate Pronger's deal and shed further salary to get under the cap.
Never the most disciplined team to begin with, the Flyers were once again among the most penalized teams in the league last season, the addition of Jody Shelley will do nothing to end this trend. While Philadelphia's penalty killing ranked 11th in the league last season, constantly putting themselves in a hole by taking bad penalties places an immense strain on the Flyers already shaky goaltending situation. Philadelphia has not had a legitimate number one goalie since Ron Hextall left town more than a decade ago and it has been the team's Achilles heel as they attempt to take the next step. Philly went through five starting netminders last season and enter training camp with the tandem of Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher between the pipes, the same combo that came up just short in the playoffs. Considering the amount of firepower at their disposal, you would have to think the Flyers need to solidify their goaltending if they want shed their status as perennial bridesmaids who are constantly one player short of a championship squad.
Player to watch:
This could be a very interesting season for Claude Giroux. Big things were predicted of the 22-year old last season, however he struggled for much of the campaign and finished with only 16 regular season goals while sporting an abysmal -9 plus/minus rating. The Hearst, Ontario native came alive in the post-season for the Flyers, scoring 10 goals and adding 11 assists in 23 games. His strong play should do a world of good for his confidence entering the season. The chemistry that he built up with linemates Dan Briere and Ville Leino should help him easily establish career highs across the board offensively, a great sign for a young player who is up for restricted free agency at season's end. He could well be this season's breakout star.