Flyers: Five Things You Need To Know
By Katie Strang
The Flyers surprised quite a few with their first-round knockout of the all-mighty Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last season before falling in the second round to the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers still have some significant firepower up front, but have more than a few question marks in net and on defense.
1. Last chance for Bryzgalov Ilya Bryzgalov's antics were nothing if not entertaining, but you can bet the Flyers would gladly welcome a shy, serious netminder who stops the puck rather than a class clown prone to existential musings. The possibility of the Flyers using an amnesty buyout to rid themselves of Bryzgalov and his nine-year, $51 million contract looms large for the 32-year-old netminder. That means that the shortened 2013 season is likely his last shot at sticking around. Bryzgalov played in his native Russia during the lockout -- he had a 2.13 goals-against average and .913 save percentage for CSKA Moskva -- so at least he wasn't sitting idle during the work stoppage. Whether he can button up and buckle down to anchor the Flyers in net will likely play a huge role in the team's success, as well as his own future.
2. Captaincy for Claude? With Chris Pronger's career likely over because of concussion-like symptoms, the Flyers will likely try to fill the captaincy with the face of the franchise, Claude Giroux. The 24-year-old had a banner year for Philly with 93 points (28 goals-65 assists) and is a likely choice to wear the "C." The Hearst, Ontario native suffered a minor neck injury while playing in Germany during the lockout but is believed to be ready for the start of the season, perhaps with a new leadership role to boot.
3. Goaltending woes The Flyers are no strangers to goaltending concerns and this year is no different. GM Paul Holmgren's 2011 signing of Bryzgalov may go down as one of the worst -- and most expensive -- mistakes should his second year with the team go up in flames. And 31-year-old backup Michael Leighton, who spent the last two years in the American Hockey League, doesn't do much to dissuade the questions about the team's lack of required depth for a playoff run. And the Flyers traded former backup Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus this summer.
4. Depleted on D Health will be a concern for the Flyers' blue line, which will be anchored by 37-year-old Kimmo Timonen. Beyond concerns for his durability during a shortened season, several of the team's returning blueliners are coming back from offseason injuries, including Andrej Meszaros, Andreas Lilja and Nick Grossman, and could be more susceptible to re-aggravation with the compressed schedule. The Flyers have to hope Luke Schenn and Braydon Coburn can help bolster the blue line as the Flyers compete against one of the toughest divisions in the league.
5. Veteran production needed The Flyers still have enough firepower up front to be a dangerous team, but they'll need to rely on production from more than just Giroux. Philly will need big seasons from Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds and Danny Briere, although the latter is coming off a wrist injury. Given the team's lack of depth in defense and goaltending, it sure wouldn't hurt to get strong sophomore campaigns from Matt Read and Sean Couturier, also. Both players had outstanding rookie seasons.
Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
Experience: Entering 11th NHL season
Stanley Cup titles: 1
Rising: Brayden Schenn
Like Eberle, Schenn will be coming into this lockout-shortened season already hot. He leads the Flyers AHL affiliate Adirondack Phantoms with 33 points in 33 games. While increased production was expected from Schenn this season, the strong showing in the AHL reinforces what was hearsay before. In addition, there are questions surrounding the health of Claude Giroux (neck) and Danny Briere (wrist) heading into game action. But even if both stars are healthy, Schenn will be looked at to anchor the team's secondary scoring and possibly play a first-unit role on the power play (maybe even with his brother Luke Schenn on the point). -- Sean Allen
Who's On The Move
The offseason signings/acquisitions and departures for the Flyers:
• June 23: Acquired D Luke Schenn from Toronto for RW James van Riemsdyk.
• July 1: Re-signed G Michael Leighton.
• July 5: Signed LW Ruslan Fedotenko and D Bruno Gervais.
• July 23: Re-signed C Ben Holmstrom.
• July 26: Re-signed RW Jakub Voracek.
• Aug. 8: Re-signed D Marc-Andre Bourdon.
• Aug. 16: Re-signed RW Wayne Simmonds.
• Aug. 20: Re-signed LW Scott Hartnell.
• Jan. 13: Signed D Kurtis Foster.
• RW Jaromir Jagr (unrestricted free agent, signed by Dallas)
• G Sergei Bobrovsky (traded to Columbus)
• RW James van Riemsdyk (traded to Toronto)
• D Matt Carle (unrestricted free agent, signed by Tampa Bay)
• D Pavel Kubina (unrestricted free agent)