Better With Popcorn

Hockey in Sight

Note: I already wrote this post once and deleted it because I’m incompetent.

The perception that hockey season is just around the corner is now a reality. Flyers rookie camp started today, and it won’t be long until the puck drops on the 2010-11 season. There is plenty of enthusiasm and excitement in the fan base (hopefully on the team as well), as the Flyers came oh so close to winning the Stanley Cup last year. What is there to watch for in this year’s camp? Let’s take a gander, shall we?

Rookie camp is rookie camp. There are fresh faces everywhere, including the seemingly endless amounts of collegiate free agents that the Flyers signed last season. The reality of the Flyers' current roster is troubling for those rookies. I find little reason to believe that a forward or defenseman will crack the opening game roster, as the luxury of depth is one that the team has this year. In my opinion, backup goaltender is the only spot that offers immediate upward mobility.

Michael Leighton will most likely be the Flyers number one goalie headed into the season. Some may believe that Brian Boucher has a great chance at taking the spot, but I don’t. Leighton was re-signed in the offseason and looks to be ‘Plan A’. Boucher is a capable backup, but if a young player were to open eyes wide enough, they could take his place.

There are really only two realistic options to push Boucher to the waiver zone. Nicola Riopel is one of the options. Riopel has been a virtuoso in the QMJHL for the Moncton Wildcats. His potential is impossible to ignore, yet his mediocre stint with the Phantoms last season may be lurking in the back of Paul Holmgren’s mind. Who knows? No one knows. Paul Holmgren’s mind is not something that will ever be fully understood.

The second option, and most likely option in my mind is Sergei Bobrovsky. Flyers fans know that this kid must be pretty special, given the track record of the team’s front office to shy away from signing Russian players. Bobrovsky posted a .919 save percentage, allowing just 2.72 goals per game for Novokuznetsk Metallurg in the KHL. His team finished 24th out of 24 teams in the league, which only makes his numbers that much more impressive. Although he will have to clear the usual hurdle for Russian players of adjusting to the style of play in the NHL, there are high hopes for Bobrovsky. There's a good chance that he is the future in net for the Flyers moving forward, the only question is when that future will begin.

Aside from backup goaltender, there is one other fresh face that may be on the Flyers opening game roster. By fresh face, I don’t mean a young face. In fact, the most likely addition is the opposite of young. "Father Time", also known as Bill Guerin has been skating with Flyers players at their practice facility since the first of September. At first, Guerin explained that he was just staying with in-laws for a bit and needed a place to skate. I assume that reasoning was false, seeing as how people don’t like to spend a weekend with their in-laws, nonetheless twelve days with them. It seems clear that he would like a contract, or maybe even a tryout with the team. (Another note of incompetence, during the time that I deleted and recreated this post, Guerin was interviewed for and he explained that his plans changed after he had worked out for a bit. See the interview clip here: )

I don’t know if a contract or tryout will be offered, but I’m puzzled as to why Guerin is still hanging around. If a team has no intention of signing him and gives him a place to skate, so be it. But would that really extend into rookie camp? Highly doubtful. Paul Holmgren, the man who the television show, “Hoarders” may or may not be modeled around can‘t be ignored. I’m sure Homer would love to have such an experienced veteran on a team built to win the cup now. Although a move would probably be necessary to add Billy G, he’s the one person I could see doing pulling that trigger. Guerin can still produce, and furthermore, he would bring an excellent presence to help guide players like Giroux, JVR and Leino to raising their game to the next level. Guerin’s role in helping Sidney Crosby progress as a Stanley Cup winning captain is nothing to be forgotten. A player like Guerin would certainly benefit the Flyers. Whether or not he is given the opportunity remains to be seen.

More will be revealed about the Flyers each day that passes in this year’s training camp, that much we do know. The idea of the season opening in Pittsburgh is finally a reality. I think we’re all just glad to have the season around the corner. The excitement is starting to grow in fans of all 30 teams. Well, 29 teams.

Sorry, Phoenix.

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