The Philadelphia Flyers have come close in the last year or so. They've put some excellent pieces in place, they made solid trades, some decisions were not so good and they seem to have a competitive streak that just won't seem to go away. The 2014 version of the Flyers will test out a few of those theories, making sure they hold true to what they've done before, but as long as they have that competitive streak, they should be okay.
With the dropping of the salary cap ceiling, the Flyers had to go into defensive budgetary mode, which meant that cuts had to be made. Gone are Ilya Bryzgalov and Daniel Briere, thanks to the compliance buyout, while Simon Gagne, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mike Knuble, Kurtis Foster, Kent Huskins, Andreas Lilja, Jody Shelley and Brian Boucher... all gone to free agency. Out with the old, in with the new.
Ray Emery returns for another stint, Vincent Lecavalier gets new life, Mark Streit moved off the Island... those are three key pieces to a Flyers team that will make or break this season.
The Flyers have a very solid core and management appears to have done a reasonable job adding pieces to that core that shouldn't rock the boat too much, rather seamlessly fit right in. If that is the case, the Flyers could be a force to reckon with again this season.
Team Table (Players sorted by 2013 points)
Pool Worthy Forwards (35+ Points)
It was hard to keep the numbers relatively down for the Flyers forwards, because there are just so many of them, who have been off the charts over the last couple seasons and there are a couple of players that are poised to grow out of their skin this season. The Flyers will be popular at the draft, again, choose wisely.
There is an interesting 1-2 punch up at the top, as Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek stormed the Eastern Conference last season and pulled off a really good season. With Giroux likely going to be shaking off a little bit of rust later on in camp and the preseason, Voracek could very well get the jump on him scoring-wise this year.
Lecavalier should be a motivated individual, now that he has been shunned from Tampa and given an opportunity with the Flyers. Wayne Simmonds continues to grow as a player and I think his numbers will grow along with him this year. He'll make good this year. Matt Read, Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell will all fit in well in support.
Pool Worthy Defensemen (20+ Points)
I can't think of a team or a GM who wouldn't want Mark Streit and Kimmo Timonen as potentially your top defensive pairing going into a season. These two almost seem like it would be too good being put together, so to balance out the blueline, they would be split. Nevertheless, between the two, there is a potent amount of offense from Philadelphia and should be accounted for accordingly.
I think there is a possibility that Luke Schenn could make himself into a pool worthy defenseman this year, especially just being surrounded by so much offense.
Pool Worthy Goalies (25+ Points)
The goaltending situation might look a bit sticky, but I think it should work out in the end. I would imagine that the split in time may be a bit more generous than with other teams across the league, but I would see the split as more of a 70-30 to Ray Emery to start the year. Emery is not known as a starting goalie workhorse, so Steve Mason getting 30% should be reasonable and possibly quite profitable for the team, in terms of wins.
I am looking for a breakout season from Sean Couturier, who suffered a bit in his sophomore season. I think he can poke through and be the centre/winger that can fill some gaps between the 2nd and 3rd lines for the Flyers. If Couturier can handle some of that extra work, I think the Flyers could be a really hard team to beat, more than they are already.
It doesn't sound like Claude Giroux's finger injury will leak into the season, but it will hamper his preseason and last minute training regime on the ice. It seems really hopeful that Chris Pronger would be coming back to the ice any time soon, but never say never, I guess.
Only one restricted free agent still unsigned, but no one of any pool mention... forward Eric Wellwood.