Better With Popcorn

Out with the Old, In with Giroux

The Philadelphia Flyers forever changed the face of their franchise on June 23rd by trading away the two cornerstones of their post-lockout organization, captain Mike Richards and leading goal scorer Jeff Carter. In the process of trading away the two young veterans, the organization opened up a spot for a more prospective future to emerge. Headlined by Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk, the new group brings with it a refreshing sense of excitement about the possibilities of the future.  Packaged with that excitement is an undeniable anxiety about the amount of points going out the door with Carter and Richards. Now that Ville Leino has also left the team, it has become more important than ever to realize that the keys to this team’s future success revolves around youth, balanced lines and the growing responsibilities of Giroux.                     

Last season the Flyers led the Eastern Conference by tallying 259 goals. Jeff Carter led the team with 36 and Mike Richards scored 23. In addition to his 23 goals, the former captain also tallied 43 assists for a total of 66 points. Carter also reached 66 points by registering 30 assists.

Of Richards’ 23 goals last season, nine of them were go ahead goals, three of them tied games, and four of them were game-winners. Of his eight goals on special teams, five came on the power play and three on the penalty kill. Of Richards’ 43 assists, 26 of them were primary, meaning that he directly facilitated the goal scorer. Of Carter’s 36 goals, 13 gave the Flyers the lead, four tied the game, and seven won the game. Eight of his goals came on the power play, which tied him for the most on the team with Giroux.

Giroux led the team in assists with 51 as well as in total points by registering 76. When analyzing Giroux’s points from last season, one will find that Carter or Richards (or both) tallied points on 42 of his 76 points. In two full NHL seasons, Giroux has managed to stay in the lineup for the season’s duration of 82 games both years, the most of any player on the Flyers roster during that span. He led the Flyers in assists, points, power play goals, short-handed goals, short-handed assists, and short-handed points. He also led all Flyers forwards in power play and even-strength ice time.  Of Giroux’s team leading 51 assists, 34 of them were primary assists, the most of any player on the team. Clearly, Giroux’s ability to lead the team in almost every statistical category made it much easier for the Flyers to part ways with their former superstars.

Giroux’s roommate, Danny Briere, was the second highest scorer on the team registering 68 points. Briere spent the majority of the season on the first line with Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino. The three forwards combined for 170 points last season, 53 of which came from Leino. Of Leino’s 34 assists, 18 of them were primary, 14 of which directly facilitated either a Briere or Hartnell goal. With Leino joining the continually growing list of former Flyers, another spot has opened up for a young forward to fill.

Jakub Voracek was one of the pieces included in the deal that sent Carter to Columbus. The 21-year old forward registered 46 points last season, scoring 14 goals and tallying 32 assists.  Of his 32 assists, 19 were primary, seven came on game-winning goals, seven on game-tying goals, and five on go-ahead goals. Voracek scored five go-ahead goals, four goals that tied games, and two that won games. While in Columbus, Voracek played a large quantity of time with Blue Jackets’ star forward Rick Nash. Nash scored 66 points last season, the most of any player on the team and Voracek registered points on 28 of them. Voracek’s experience facilitating a star player on the top line as well as his similar production to Leino makes him a perfect fit to work with Briere and Hartnell.

 

 

AGE

POINTS

ASSISTS

PRIMARY

HEIGHT

WEIGHT

LEINO

27

53

34

18

6’1”

190

VORACEK

21

46

32

19

6’2”

214

 

 

The addition of Jaromir Jagr brings the Flyers a pure goal scorer. Whether or not the 39-year old forward can still play at the NHL level will be determined in the coming months. But, it’s indisputable that he was one of the most prolific goal scorers the NHL has ever seen. Jagr has scored 40 or more goals six times, has won five Art Ross trophies for leading the league in points, and owns a laundry list of NHL records which includes the likes of most career overtime goals and most consecutive 70-or-more point seasons.  Considering that Giroux is a magician with the puck, playing him on a line with Jagr has the potential to produce a large quantity of points. In adding the emerging physicality of van Riemsdyk to that line, the Flyers would have an extremely well-balanced unit.

Proof of van Riemsdyk’s physical development can be seen in the discrepancy between his hit totals over the past two seasons. In 2009-10, JVR totaled 37 hits in 78 games played. In 75 games played in 2010-11, van Riemsdyk increased his total by 70 finishing with 107 hits. JVR finished last season with 21 goals, nine of which gave the Flyers the lead, two of which won games, and one that tied a game. His dominance in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Bruins, in addition to his seven goals in 11 games during the 2011 playoffs opened many fans eyes to the future of the emerging heavyweight. JVR’s biggest hurdle next season will be to improve upon his stellar play from the previous season. He’ll most likely play top-six minutes and will need to maintain the high level of play that he showed in the playoffs.

                                  

With the loss of Carter, Leino, and Richards comes the ability to add young role player depth to a team still loaded with All Star ability. Instead of having players with large contracts compromising their position to fit onto a line, the club now has players with short-term deals playing their actual positions. Each line now has a pure scorer (Briere and Jagr), a facilitator (Voracek and Giroux), and a physical presence (Hartnell and van Riemsdyk). While the Flyers may not be done tweaking the roster, one thing is clear; this team now revolves around Giroux and any future moves will have the young center in mind. Only two Flyers forwards have any kind of no-movement or no-trade clauses in their contract and only three players aside from Giroux have contracts longer than three years. This means that the club can continue to move pieces and shape their roster with the intent of doing anything to help their budding star carry the orange and black number 28, as well as the team, on his back. 

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