It’s easy to look at the outcome of this Flyers season and say that Claude Giroux took a step backwards.
After all, he had a monstrous season in 2011-12 finishing with 93 points and garnered serious Hart Trophy consideration.
Then, he played in the playoffs under a moniker provided by his coach, when Peter Laviolette called him, “…the best player in the world” after Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
And for a brief while, it looked like Giroux was quickly becoming the new face of the NHL. His jersey sales were through the roof. He was emblazoned across the front of the league-endorsed video game.
And, he was named captain of a storied franchise who always seems to be in the mix for the Stanley Cup.
And with all the additional attention, the spotlight grew bigger. The expectations became greater. The pressure intensified. And any misstep was going to be scrutinized.
So, when Giroux got off to a slow start in this shortened season – coming off a concussion he suffered in Germany, which has been often glossed over – immediately the criticisms were that Giroux couldn’t live up to his new title as the best in the game.
Many an expert and hockey scribe felt that Giroux could no longer play to such a level without Jaromir Jagr by his side.
And after the Flyers first 13 games, he had just seven points.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
The Flyers used 13 different defensemen this season. In an 82-game season that’s quite high. In a 48-game season, it borders on ridiculous.
Nevertheless, it’s one of the issues the Flyers faced this season, and ultimately, while the group wasn’t as bad as some may want to make it seem, the fact that they had to rely on a baker’s dozen – more than twice as many as play in a single game – has to factor into the reasoning as to why the season ended before the playoffs for just the ninth time in the 46-year history of the franchise.
Defense in hockey, like pitching in baseball, is always in demand because there’s just not enough of it out there that is considered quality in the NHL. So, when the Flyers have to basically call up an entire minor league team worth of defensemen to play in the NHL, it’s easy to understand why there were problems in such areas as breakouts, turnovers, puck possession, and ultimately, goals against.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
There are two ways you can look at the Flyers goaltending situation.
The pessimistic view would be to examine Ilya Bryzgalov’s numbers from the 2012-13 season, see that he ranked 36th in goals against average (2.79), 43rd in save percentage (.900), 47th in even strength save percentage (.907) and 26th in save percentage while shorthanded (.866) and determine that it’s a mess.
The optimistic view is to see that the Bryzgalov was actually really good until he was forced into duty every night and wore down. It’s to take stock in the fact that he actually posted those numbers behind a patchwork defense for much of the season. And that despite all the negative press he received, he still finished with a winning record.
Couple that with the addition of Steve Mason via trade April 3rd, and his impressive numbers, albeit over a very small sample of seven games (4-2-0, 1.90, .944), and the Flyers appear to finally have a worthy tandem in place.
I tend to lean toward the latter.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
My history as a NHL playoff prognosticator is checkered at best.
With the exception of one horseshoe-attached-to-my-fingertips spring a few years back, I have basically been mediocre at picking the playoffs.
Since 2005-06, my collective record is as follows:
(Totals are based on each series picked round-by-round)
Totals: 68-37 (64.8 percent)
That’s barely enough to cover the vig – especially with how many upsets occur in the NHL playoffs.
Alas, people have requested my picks. So, for entertainment purposes only – anything else would be downright crazy – here’s how I see the first round playing out:(Click "Full Story" for more...)
The Flyers made a bit of dubious history this season.
They became the first team, since the playoffs were expanded to include 16 teams in 1980, to finish in the top five in both specialty teams categories and still miss the playoffs.
Think about that for a second.
The third best power play in the league (21.6 percent) and the fifth best penalty kill in the league (85.9 percent) – and no playoffs.
As a matter of fact, the Flyers were the 74th team in the expansion era (since 1967) to finish top five in both categories. Only twice before has a team missed the postseason, and both occurred at a time when only eight teams made the playoffs in the entire league.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
This weekend I spent a good amount of time answering the same question repeatedly:
What are the Flyers going to do over the summer?
It’s kind of a broad question that certainly will have a lot of answers, and any that I can give personally would be just as speculative as the next guy, but I find it fascinating still.
Reason being that there is a multi-faceted purpose behind the question.
1. Flyers fans really care. No, I mean REALLY care. They won’t take time to truly decompress from a disappointing season, and would much rather march forth with a purpose in to the summer and consider all options that the team has to assure itself of marked improvement.(Click "Full Story" for more..)
PHILADELPHIA -- It’s the final home game of the season (wow, that flew by) so it’s time for the Flyers to hand out their end of season awards.
As is customary, there will be a pre-game ceremony to present the awards tonight and five different players will receive the six awards.
The big winner will be Jake Voracek, who will be recognized for his breakout season by winning two key awards.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
RALEIGH, N.C. – On the road, Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek are roommates.
Last night, after arriving at the team hotel here, the two were sitting in their room talking about things that most 20-something guys talk about, when suddenly the conversation shifted.
Suddenly, the two close friends started discussing their newly formed rivalry.
For the next week, Voracek and Simmonds will go head-to-head in the first round of the EA Sports “Cover Vote” to see which NHLer ends up on the front of the NHL14 video game.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
PHILADELPHIA – Erik Gustafsson could have taken his demotion the wrong way. He could have gone back to the Adirondack Phantoms earlier this season and pouted.
He could have taken a sour attitude that he wasn’t given a fair shake in this, his third professional season, to prove that he belongs in the NHL full-time.
Many players in a similar spot to Gustafsson have done that in the past – leading either to a one-way ticket out of the organization, or to a career in the AHL always just a step shy of making it to the show.
But Gustafsson was smart. He realized that there was a reason the Flyers wanted him to go back to Adirondack. He understood that there were a couple specific things he needed to fine tune in his game, before he could come back for good.
Primarily, Gustafsson needed to slow down.(Click "Full Story" for more...)
One area the Flyers certainly weren’t lacking this season was in physical play. And now, they are making sure they will have that same grit for the next couple seasons.