Better With Popcorn

At Halfway Point, Flyers Offseason Looks Like Success


When the Flyers decided the direction of the franchise was one that wasn’t going to be influenced by Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, outcry and uproar ensued.

The core of the team that made it within two games of hoisting the Stanley Cup and a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference the next year was sent packing.

Obviously, Carter and Richards were the biggest shoes to drop. The captain and his close friend were supposed to be the faces of the team for years to come. Not so much.

Ville Leino wasn’t re-signed and few had issue with it. Most could see that his deal in Buffalo was baseless and far too big.

Blair Betts and Darroll Powe were waived and traded respectively, and that was a sticking point with some. The two soldier-like penalty killers were given away and some feared the franchise couldn’t find anyone to replace their strong play.

Kris Versteeg? Traded. Dan Carcillo? See ya. Nikolay Zherdev? Of course he was free to go.

Philadelphia’s experiment of ‘we’re going to look different’ was a success from the get go; but would they be any good?

Halfway through the season, it sure looks that way.

With the third-highest point total in the Eastern Conference, the Flyers are good. With the personalities on the team, the Flyers are intriguing. With the infusion of young talent, the Flyers are fun to watch.

What’s more, this team apparently likes each other.

The Flyers went out on a limb and it’s worked thus far. They’re talented, quick and young. They’ve survived injuries to this point, and with Chris Pronger out for the year with post-concussion syndrome they’ll acquire a defenseman by the trade deadline.

Obviously, the big question mark from the offseason has been goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and the hefty contract he signed. Luckily for the Flyers, Sergei Bobrovsky has been spectacular in relief of the zany starter.

When Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier are on the ice, they look like players with strong careers in front of them.

Jaromir Jagr was added to the mix in one last go-around, and he’s looked like he still has another year left in the tank. Max Talbot was signed out of nowhere and he’s proved invaluable to the squad.

Claude Giroux is a candidate for the Hart Trophy at the season’s midpoint and his emergence has had an immeasurable impact on the team’s success.

Last season, General Manager Paul Holmgren signed college players and it seemed like a footnote. Now, two of the signings (Harry Zolniercyk and Matt Read) are in the lineup every night and making an impact. The 25-year-old Read even made the NHL All Star Game to play on the rookie team.

It didn’t always look like the moves the Flyers made had a solid rhyme or a logical reason, but here they are.

Whether or not they can make the pieces work for the remainder of the season remains to be seen. However, it’s clear they have a strong group to move forward with in the future.

Most players are playing their natural positions and they’re buying into the aggressive system Coach Peter Laviolette employs. They’re strong on the forecheck and physical on the boards.

As HBO’s 24/7 series showed, the team is playing hard on the ice and enjoying the ride off it. The lingering questions about leadership and chemistry, whether they were fair or not, are now gone.

It’s become a matter of dropping the puck and playing the game now.

For as loud as the complaints of many were when the Flyers made their moves, they’re equally as quiet now.

Maybe the powers that be knew what they were doing.

At least through half of the season, it sure looks that way.


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