2013 Flyers Preview: Centers
The Philadelphia Flyers may have one of the deepest center combinations in the entire National Hockey League.
Captain Claude Giroux had a “subpar” lockout shortened year, but still registered 48 points in just as many games. Giroux is just a year removed from a career-high of 28 goals, 93 points and it would not be out of the realm of possibility that he eclipses both this season.
With more players able to play the penalty kill, it seems likely that Giroux will get less time on the PK, opening him up to doing what he does best: playmaking.
Acquired in the offseason as a free agent, Vinny Lecavalier gives the Flyers 14 years of veteran experience on their second line.
The former Rocket Richard trophy winner doesn’t put up the points like he used to (52 goals, 108 points in 2006-07), but still posted 10 goals, 32 points in 39 games last year. He’ll be much more valuable as a leader to the younger players and can shoulder some of Giroux’s leadership burden.
One player looking for a bounce back season is third-year center Sean Couturier.
Couturier burst on the scene in 2011-12 as an 18 year old and played great. Last season, however, it seemed like the sophomore jinx had hit Couturier. Couturier’s struggles were a combination of a few things: more offensive responsibility, various line mates and lofty expectations.
This season, Couturier has reportedly put on muscle, which will continue his development as an NHL center and make him a more physical presence on the ice.
The forgotten man down the middle is Adam Hall.
Hall, who was picked off of waivers by the Flyers from Tampa Bay, isn’t going to be relied on to score goals. In fact, he had none in 37 games with three teams last season.
But Hall is valuable in the faceoff circle, where he won 59% of his draws in eleven games with the Flyers. He is a career 54% faceoff winner, and hasn’t been under the .500 mark since 2005.
Having a steady faceoff specialist will be a benefit for a team that has struggled on the dot for the last few seasons.
Just because those four are penciled into center positions does not mean anyone else might see time at the position. Peter Laviolette loves to tinker with his lines and there is always the possibility of injuries forcing a change.
Brayden Schenn was acquired as a center, and has seen time at the position during his time with the Flyers.
While it is likely that he will continue to play the wing, he is still an option for Laviolette. Like Couturier, Schenn is entering his third season and is looking for a breakout year.
Brought in from rival Pittsburgh two years ago, Max Talbot brings a lot of grit and determination that the team lost when Ian Laperriere was forced to retire. Talbot is one of those versatile guys that can play either the center or wing and not miss a beat.
Last season, Talbot broke his leg on Easter against Washington. This season, he is looking to get back out there and continue to be an asset for the orange and black.
The Wild Card of the roster is 2012 first round pick Scott Laughton.
Laughton played in five games last season, before being returned to Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League. While he did not register any points, he didn’t look out of place.
This season, the Flyers will have to make a tough decision whether to let the 19-year-old play fourth line minutes or let him flourish with Oshawa. Laughton might be ready to step in, but the numbers crunch may force him out.