Flyers Fans React - pt. seven
For today’s Flyers Fans React, we are joined by Flyers blogger David Strehle. David has been a hardcore hockey fan since mid-70s and ardent supporter of the Orange-&-Black since '79. He’s seen the Flyers reach the Finals four times but has yet to see Philadelphia win Lord Stanley's coveted chalice. David currently blog’s about the Flyers at Puckdrop.ca and all things NHL at CrashtheCrease.com.
DL – Entering the Olympic break on a four-game winning streak, how comfortable are you with the Flyers coming out of the break?
DS - I'm actually feeling pretty good about the team for when they come back after the break. I think any question marks in goal have been answered by Michael Leighton, so I don't think it matters what is determined by the three week layoff given to Ray Emery. Even if he's deemed healthy, I would stick with Leighton. As I see it, he's earned the number one job. As for the rest of the team, I feel their commitment to defense has been incredible. Having given up two goals or fewer in ten of the last 11 games, you're going to win the majority of your games. Curiously, the trouble this team has had from time to time has been scoring goals. When you look up and down the roster, you would think scoring goals would never be a problem. But since Laviolette took over, I think the growing pains of learning his system have been diminishing over time. As long as there are no injuries to any of the players participating in the Olympics, I believe this team could not only make the playoffs, but maybe make some noise with a deep run.
DL – You’re GM of this team – what moves do you make, if any?
DS - Honestly, a couple of weeks ago there may have been a long listing in this column. But I don't think any major moves need to be made. What I would like to see is maybe one of the larger contract forwards that isn't producing up to par moved to secure a depth defenseman and one or more decent draft choice( in upcoming drafts. I totally support Holmgren in not dealing James van Riemsdyk or Claude Giroux for what probably would have amounted in a rental player in Ilya Kovalchuk. Holmgren needs to continually make the team younger as he moves forward. The team's stockpile of upcoming NHL-caliber talent is depleted, and with giving up first round picks in the Pronger deal, there won't be any coming soon. The defense actually got a big boost when Holmgren picked up Lukas Krajicek off of waivers. I wasn't expecting anything more than just a band-aid type contribution from Krajicek, but he has looked really good and has great mobility. But if Danny Syvret can come back and play as well as he was prior to his shoulder separation, the need would be far less urgent. Also, another name that I would just mention is Ryan Parent. I am not counting on him coming back and being ready to contribute following his back surgery. Even though he is just 23, he has been injury-prone and this back issue seems to be chronic. But there is always the chance that this surgery could be the one that helps him realize his potential. Like I said, I'm not counting on it, but if he did come back and was able to take on a 6th of 7th role, it would be a bonus. Two huge problems with the scenario of moving the high-price tag forwards is that: One) The ones that have not been as productive as needed all have no movement clauses. Two) Most of the teams that would be looking to acquire any of these forwards, if that player would waive his clause, are in need to sending salary back to Philadelphia. Not many of the teams contending for playoff spots have any room to add salary, especially as much as Holmgren would be sending if a player would be willing to go.
DL -What’s the best part of being a Flyers fan?
DS - To me, the best part of being a Flyers fan is knowing that there is a desire from the top of the organization right on down to win the Stanley Cup every single season. They make every possible move to try to enable the team to succeed. I think it was really obvious in years prior to the salary cap, when Snider basically gave Clarkie a blank check to go out and get whatever he deemed necessary to bring a championship to Philadelphia. The Flyers always were in the top 3 of team salaries and I give Snider a lot of credit for being one of those owners that cares about his franchise and has continually tried to help it thrive no matter what.
DL – What are your expectations of the Philadelphia Flyers this season?
DS - This is a tricky question, since the team has been so Jekyll and Hyde this year. This can look like they could be ready to make that move and climb into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference standings for two weeks, then look like they may not even make the playoffs for the next two week period. It's pretty maddening for the fans, so I'm sure it must drive the coaches and upper level management absolutely crazy. I think the best-case scenario for the Flyers this season is that the players not in the Olympic Games continue to practice together and gel and the players playing for their countries do well. I think it benefits the Flyers if Team Canada goes deep into the medal rounds, with Mike Richards and Chris Pronger likely to have major roles with the team...and Carter is waiting in case any forwards aren't able to go. These guys have all had success at the international level, and Richards and Carter have been on the same Canadian teams that have won in juniors. The key for Flyer success will be how well Laviolette can get the team to be more consistent, and how healthy the Olympic players come back from Vancouver. And that point I made earlier about the depth at defense will be even further tested if Pronger and Kimmo Timonen come back tired, which is the downside of any deep medal round run by either Canada or Finland. Both of these players will be 35 when the playoffs commence, so it might be an incentive for Holmgren to pick up some added defensive depth so these players can cut their minutes somewhat down the stretch run of the regular season without compromising the team's chances of bettering their playoff seeding.
DL – Who is your favorite Flyer and why?
DS - Current Flyer, I would have to say Richards. I think being the captain, Richards is developing into the leader that this team needs and like Clarke in the Broad Street Bullies days, he will be directly linked to any success the Flyers can achieve. He is the type of player that can kill you with skill as well as grinding it out. All-time, I think Pelle Lindbergh edges out Ron Hextall. I truly think if Lindbergh hadn't been killed in a car accident during the '85-'86 season, the Flyers would have another Stanley Cup championship. Lindbergh was coming off of a Vezina Trophy winning year and picked up in '85-'86 right where he had left off. The team performed so incredibly well through that tragedy and gave it their all to finish first overall in the then-Prince of Wales Conference. I think it burned them out. And it was a shame they didn't make the Finals that season, because when they made it the previous season and in 1986-87, the greatest team of all-time, the Edmonton Oilers, were waiting for them. In '85-'86, Calgary upset Edmonton and the rest is history.