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30 Teams In 30 Days: Philadelphia Flyers

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TSN.ca Staff
9/19/2011 11:45:05 AM
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Join TSN.ca in a 30 Teams In 30 Days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Today, we examine the 2011-12 campaign for the Philadelphia Flyers. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. And use the Your Call feature to give us your take!

Here's a hypothetical situation: You are the general manager of a team built around two young superstars trying to return to the Stanley Cup Final after a disappointing second-round playoff exit. How do you address your team's future?

Naturally, you deal the two superstars.

What the Philadelphia Flyers did this off-season to remake the look of their franchise was bold, to say the least. The exodus of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards and the additions of Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr and Brayden Schenn make the Flyers a vastly different club to compete against, but will it produce a better result?

Here's a look at what's in store for the 2011-12 season.

Additions: G Jason Bacashihua, G Ilya Bryzgalov, RW Jaromir Jagr, D Andreas Lilja, RW Wayne Simmonds, C Brayden Schenn, C Maxime Talbot, RW Jakub Voracek

Subtractions: LW Dan Carcillo, C Jeff Carter, G Brian Boucher, LW Ville Leino, D Sean O'Donnell, RW Darroll Powe, C Mike Richards, D Danny Syvret, RW Kris Versteeg, RW Nikolay Zherdev

Prospect Report: The primary benefit to trading a pair of All-Stars for Philly is the immediate impact it had on their prospect pool. The acquisition of Schenn gives them arguably hockey's most NHL-ready prospect and a potential future captain.

The team also scooped up a player with No. 1 potential on draft day by catching Sean Couturier with Columbus' first-rounder (acquired for Carter). If his sky-high talent can translate to the NHL, he'll be a stud. And Philly might need him to do so, because behind him the organizational depth is very thin due to years of trading draft picks.

Breakout Player to Watch: In the 2010 postseason, the Flyers watched Claude Giroux emerge as a dominant force. And he responded in kind by leading the team in scoring last season.

In the 2011 playoffs, it was James van Riemsdyk that blew the doors off defenders by scoring seven goals in 11 games. If the Flyers' All-Star dispersal strategy is to pay off, it will largely hinge on van Riemsdyk becoming a 70-point player. He put up 40 last season. That number could balloon with top-line minutes and first-unit power-play time.

Marquee Match-Up: Jan. 2 vs. Rangers - The Flyers will play host to the New York Rangers at Citizens Bank Park, home of baseball's Philadelphia Phillies in the Winter Classic. The NHL's annual outdoor game is always a highlight.

Other Dates to Watch: Oct. 15 vs. Kings - For some reason - and that reason remains within the Flyers organization - the captaincy of Mike Richards just wasn't working out. The friendly Philly fans won't have to wait long for his return, as the Kings come to town in the club's second home game of the season. Oct. 6 at Boston - After being bounced in the second round, the Flyers must watch the Bruins raise their Stanley Cup banner on opening night. Nov. 5 vs. Blue Jackets - Carter lines up against his former Flyer mates for the first time. Dec. 29 - Max Talbot's first game back in Pittsburgh as a member of the cross-state rival (not to mention Jagr, who turned down his former team on July 1). Dec. 3 at Phoenix - After four years with the Coyotes, Bryzgalov returns to the desert a Flyer.

Reason to Get Excited: Few teams can overhaul their rosters so dramatically without missing a beat. Philly may be one of the teams that have the depth to do so.

Giroux and Briere are expected to carry the load offensively and the team's leadership may already have been handed over to Chris Pronger. The message to Philly fans at the time was 'we'll be fine'. When you tack the completion of the Bryzgalov signing and luring Jagr to town, the Flyers may actually be better.

Home Hardware: Brayden Schenn dominated the WHL last season with 57 points in just 29 games. At the World Juniors, he set a Canadian record with 18 points despite playing part of the tournament with a separated shoulder. He finished his year by playing at just under a point-per-game pace with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs.

There are many contenders for the Calder Trophy. Schenn may very well be the favourite heading into the season.

On The Hot Seat: If there is one position that has been a concern for the Flyers over the course of history, it's been in net. Since Ron Hextall's departure, the revolving door of keepers in Philly has been a constant hindrance to the team's ability to win it all.

The newest contestant on 'Name That Goalie' is Bryzgalov. The Russian keeper has posted a save percentage over .920 and a goals-against-average under 2.50 in three of the past four seasons and is a perpetual Vezina candidate. That said, he hasn't won a playoff series since 2006. He'll have to step up when it matters most to prove he's worth his nine-year, $51-million deal.

It's Your! Call: Which Jaromir Jagr will emerge in Philadelphia this year?

Jagr is no stranger to victimizing NHL defenders, but his final season in the NHL (2007-08) was also his only full NHL season where he didn't score at least one point per game.

The future Hall of Fame is 39-years-old and has been playing in the KHL for the past three seasons. To be fair, he's put up decent numbers there with 146 points in 155 games.

He also looked dominant at this spring's World Championship, forming a formidable combo with Tomas Plekanec, scoring nine points in as many games en route to winning the award for Best Forward.

Jagr obviously came back to the NHL for a reason and it may well be that his competitive streak has returned and he'd like to try for his first Cup ring since 1992.

The benefit to Philly is that with a talented core of Giroux, van Riemsdyk and Briere and with the potential for Voracek and Schenn to emerge as top-line offensive forces, they may only need Jagr to contribute in a supporting role.

But will he be able to keep up with the league's young superstars as he approaches the age of 40? As always, It's Your! Call.

Chris Pronger (Photo: Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
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