A Look Ahead for the Flyers

These aren’t your father’s Philadelphia Flyers. They’re not even your older brother’s Flyers or your Philadelphia Flyers from two months ago. To be honest, they’re barely even recognizable as the Philadelphia Flyers right now.

But are they a better hockey team than the one that was swept by the Boston Bruins in the second round of the 2011 playoffs? How will things look for Philadelphia next season?

One position where the Flyers definitely improved was in goal. Signing Ilya Bryzgalov to a a huge nine-year deal has hopefully put an end to the Flyers’ revolving door of goaltenders. Even if you take into account his postseason experienced (or lack thereof) Bryzgalov is still the best goalie to step between the Flyers’ pipes in years. Of course, he isn’t the solution to all of the team’s problems, but having a stable goaltender in net will go a long way for the team. Just knowing you have someone in net who you can count on will give the Flyers a much difference mentality.

Something else that will give the Flyers a much different mentality is that a large chunk of the players are new to to team.

It’s not a stretch to say that the Phildelphia Flyers shocked the hockey world when they traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in two separate deals within a half hour. Trading two of your team’s top five scorers is always a big deal. Trading your team captain and one of your alternate captains (who is also your leading goal scorer) in one day is downright unheard of.

Clearly the Flyers wanted to shake up their team and they did exactly that. Richards and Carter were the cornerstones of the Philadelphia franchise and are now in different cities. This wasn’t just a shake up, it was a team demolition. It will be tough to compare this incarnation of the Philadelphia Flyers with last year’s team because so many players have changed.

In addition to Richards and Carter, the Flyers also lost several other forwards in the last little while. Gone are Daniel Carcillo, Kris Versteeg, Darroll Powe, Ville Leino and (likely) Nikolay Zherdev. That’s significant turnover. Carter, Richards and Leino scored a combined 78 goals and 185 points last season.

Of course, the Flyers added several players as well. Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek came to the team via the Carter and Richards trades. Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot were signed on July 1st. While none of those names will take the place of Richards or Carter, they’re all talented NHL players.

But there are still several questions for the Flyers before next season begins. The team lost significant strength at centre by trading Carter and Richards, but they still have Daniel Briere, Blair Betts, Brayden Schenn, Claude Giroux and Max Talbot as options. The Flyers’ depth at forward allowed them to make the trades they did and still come remain a contender. That should fuel some optimism going forward.

However, the Flyers likely won’t score as many goals this season as they did last year. Jagr, Voracek and others will be able to put the puck in the net, but not with the same frequency as Carter. However, the fact that the Flyers’ defence only went through a few changes will help the team succeed and so will Bryzgalov. Perhaps the Flyers won’t need to score as many goals now because they won’t be allowing as many.

Either way, this Flyers team will have a lot of questions heading into next season. Luckily for them, they still have about $5 million in cap space to answer some of those questions, though they’ll probably want to sign Wayne Simmonds first. Also, it doesn’t look like Max Talbot’s contract is included in those numbers, likely because the Flyers will need to restructure his deal.