Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pool Outlook for Philadelphia

There were some pretty lofty expectations for the Flyers to meet in the 2011 season and for the most part, the regular season did meet up to most of those expectations, finishing 2nd in the Eastern Conference standings, leading the conference in goals scored and getting a good position for the playoffs.  Unfortunately, the playoffs didn't exactly go according to plan, as the 2010 Eastern Conference champions were bounced out of the Spring dance by the current champions, Boston Bruins, in the 2nd round.  With changes expected, I think the Flyers will be a hard team to play against in 2012 as well.

A new pool leader emerged out of the Flyers organization in the 2011 season, as Claude Giroux had an excellent season, scoring 25 goals and adding 51 assists for 76 points in all 82 games for Philadelphia.  Giroux was a force in most aspects of the game and really developed himself into a top calibre player, earning a contract extension early on in the season.  I wouldn't be terribly surprised if we were to see Giroux's name more often on top of the Flyers outlooks for years to come.

For the most part, the Flyers offense did a good job staying healthy, but point production wasn't quite what we should be used to out of most of these players.  Daniel Briere led the rest of the forwards with 68 points in 77 games, followed by Jeff Carter with 66 points in 80 games and Mike Richards with 66 points in 81 games.  With these three playing almost every game together in the year, there is an assumption that there should be some kind of chemistry among the lines that would boost their numbers. Ville Leino (53 points in 81 games) and Scott Hartnell (49 points in 82 games) also finished in the top 100 of forwards scoring, so the players were all there, it's just that they didn't excel into some astronomical numbers.

The Flyers blueline was also quite good in 2011, as five defenders all finished in the top 100 of their positional scoring.  Matt Carle led the way with 40 points in 82 games, followed by Kimmo Timonen (37 points in 82 games), Andrej Meszaros (32 points in 81 games), Chris Pronger (25 points in 50 games) and Sean O'Donnell (18 points in 81 games).  The Flyers were a bit of a gold mine on defense, which could have only been bettered by a full season from Pronger, who dealt with injuries for the back half of the year.

The regular season in the Flyers' crease wasn't quite as eventful as the playoffs were, as the team rode Sergei Bobrovsky for the bulk of the season, following up with Brian Boucher for the remainder of the year.  Sprinkle in a quick comeback for Michael Leighton and you have yourself a season in net.  Bobrovsky led them all with 58 points in the year, good enough for 20th among goalies, while Boucher had 36 points, good enough for 31st.  This could all change, however, with an off-season acquisition that already happened, which I will touch on shortly.

2012 Pool Outlook
It's already a pretty crowded house in Philadelphia, as the bulk of the team is already signed on and good to go for the 2012 season, but this doesn't mean that the Flyers are anywhere near ready to stop making changes.  The Flyers made a move to acquire the rights to a number one goalie, but some more moves are likely going to have to happen before any signings can be made official.  It will be an interesting day when that all goes down.

Claude GirouxMatt CarleSergei Bobrovsky
Daniel BriereKimmo TimonenMichael Leighton
Jeff CarterAndrej Meszaros
Mike RichardsChris Pronger
Scott HartnellBraydon Coburn
Kris Versteeg
James Van Riemsdyk
Blair Betts
Jody Shelley
Ian Laperriere

Salary CapAs of right now, I have the Flyers sitting with 17 players under contract and could be ready to go for the 2012 season, working with an annual projected cap hit of $58.4 million.  This will likely leave the team with only about $6 million in cap space to sign four or five players.  On the flip side of the coin, the Flyers want to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a brand new deal and he will likely command some big coin in the off-season, which means that the Flyers will need to free up some more space so they can get all of their deals done.

Not only are the Flyers doing their best with Bryzgalov, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, but the team also has to consider some other UFAs this year, including Ville Leino, Brian Boucher, Nikolai Zherdev and Sean O'Donnell, all of which have a less likely shot at getting re-signed, especially if Bryzgalov puts pen to paper.

Andreas Nodl, Darroll Powe and Dan Carcillo are all scheduled to become restricted free agents on July 1st, but their futures are definitely in doubt with cap space coming at quite the premium right now.  I think eventually the deals will be done for less money or else they will likely be dealt for players that will take less money.

With roster spots dwindling already, the rookie class for the Flyers may either be really shallow or non-existent by October.  Defenseman Erik Gustafsson may have a good look in training camp this year, but a higher entry-level deal may restrict his progress into the line-up, as the team will likely want to cut a corner or two.  Forward Eric Wellwood made it into a few games with the team in 2011 and may have a good shot at a roster position, thanks to a more affordable cap hit, giving him some good bottom-six minutes.  Forward Ben Holmstrom is another player that saw a couple of games with the club, also a player that is a bit more affordable, could give some bottom-six minutes as well.

The Philadelphia Flyers do not have their 1st round pick, traded to Toronto for Kris Versteeg, nor do they have their 2nd round pick, traded to Phoenix for Dan Carcillo in 2009, so the Flyers will likely continue to just draft for depth this Summer.  The Flyers could really use some blue chip help, but by the way the team has been signing young free agents and making deals for picks, they do not seem at all concerned with trading lower picks in each round away for something a little more tangible.

What I said last year at this time... "For 2011, it's going to be hard to top the 2010 season's result, since that would have to be a Cup win at the end of that yellow brick road, but I suppose it isn't impossible, when you look at the cast of characters in play already. Depth and goaltending will be on top of the agenda for the Summer, I'm sure, which should bring around some good new talent and we can only hope for complimentary players to their cause. I would like to think that the points for the pool will be better for 2011, but I don't think I'll jump too quickly on that bandwagon like I did last year. I'll probably play it safe in my rankings for next season's draft."

Depth and goaltending was definitely addressed in the Summer, as they committed to some new faces for the season, most of which was very complimentary to their cause, given their regular season result.  The pool scoring was somewhat of an issue, as the Flyers didn't put up those big numbers, just like I addressed in the top half of this post.  Sadly, I did jump onto the bandwagon, according to my rankings and where I drafted, which didn't help me at all in my draft, so it was a pretty bad year for me and the Flyers that way.

The 2012 season will be about the salary cap math going forward.  With Ilya Bryzgalov waiting for a new deal and management having to consider all of their options, the season will be a tough one for the team, managing players up and down, in and out of their roster.  I think the Flyers have enough talent already signed to make another good dent in the Eastern Conference standings, but the final landing spot for the team will definitely depend on who stays and who goes during the year, as signing big name players will mean shifting of talent elsewhere.  I like the Flyers for a playoff spot, same sort of scoring numbers next season, but possibly a few more wins, depending on their goaltending situation.

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