Orange & Black Breakdown
by Marc Siciliano on 10/04/11 at 08:09 PM ET
The Flyers are in the process of finalizing their lineup by way of waivers, but there are still many questions that have been left unanswered. Let’s see if we can make some sense of it all before the opening day roster is set in stone.
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The questions begin at the top of the depth chart and continue through its core, surprisingly stopping well outside the blue paint for the first time in recent memory. Yes, you read that correct: goaltending is of no concern this year! With the solid tandem of ‘Bobby Bryzgalov’ in the crease for the foreseeable future, the main focus of preseason has been on who among the skaters will populate the roster, and rightfully so.
To add fuel to the already out of control fire, a recent round of waivers has (at least temporarily) taken the NHL lives of Betts, Bartulis, Walker, Harry Z, Gustafsson and Schenn. So what are we left with?
On the offensive side of the puck, the Flyers will once again enter the season with ample talent to fill the top-six spots in their lineup with some offensive firepower to spare. Giroux, JVR, Jagr and Briere seem to be locked into such roles, and Voracek’s skill set should have him in a similar boat with a little bit more to prove. Simmonds has impressed with his ability to get to the net. Aas of today rounds out the top-six, with Scott Hartnell and his $4.2 million cap hit on the outside looking in.
My personal line combinations look something like this:
JVR / Voracek – Giroux – Jagr
JVR / Voracek – Briere – Simmonds
I’m putting a lot of stock in the impact Jagr can potentially have on Voracek and I think that this line could work some serious magic together. Voracek possesses an ability to think the game much like Giroux, which could allow them to become a lethal and dynamic threesome if they’re all on the same page. At the very least, it would be an interesting experiment to try initially, because JVR could eventually replace Jagr on that line, keeping the three young forwards together long-term. It seems to be the best way to potentially maximize success for Voracek.
So who does that leave for the bottom-six? Hartnell, Nodl, Read, Rinaldo, Talbot, Couturier and Shelley represent the remaining forwards, along with possibility of Betts (waiver dependent) and Schenn joining the mix.
Today, the lines that practiced together were Nodl/Read/Hartnell and Rinaldo/Betts/Talbot, with Couturier and Shelley as the odd men out. Factoring in your waiver moves today, and you’re potentially left with a Rinaldo/Couturier/Talbot fourth line to start the season. Whoa.
This bottom-six contains some serious youth, and that doesn’t even include the liklihood of Schenn joining the fold after his trip to the minors eventually concludes (shrinking his cap hit in the process, per @capgeek). Can these young bucks hold their own defensively and give the Flyers offense a chance? Can their defensive smarts make up for their rookie mistakes, as well as the loss of defensively responsible guys like Betts, Richards and Carter? We’ll have to wait and see.
With the remaining bodies, my personal bottom six looks something like this:
Hartnell – Couturier – Read/Nodl
Rinaldo – Talbot – Read/Nodl
This combination can be mixed and matched as necessary to fill the needs at any given time, but I wanted to keep Couturier off the 4th line at the expense of Read or Nodl given his offensive ceiling. As the time comes to make a decision on Couturier (around the 10-game mark), if he has left any lingering doubt he can be replaced in the lineup with Schenn, keeping his cap-friendly contract fully intact for the next three-years. In the event Couturier plays himself onto the team, a fantastic problem has presented itself and the Flyers will be looking to find room for several young stars within their lineup.
As it stands, the current structure of the roster would seem to hinder the development of Couturier and Schenn by way of reduced ice time. However, it appears as though the shared defensive ability of the two young forwards will be put to use early in a special teams role, further exposing them to the game at it’s highest offensive level. For two defensively responsible prospects, asking them to focus on defensive contributions might be a welcome change from the quest for basic statistics that most rookies often fail to attain.
On the defensive side of the puck, there isn’t much change within the top 5: Pronger, Carle, Meszaros, Timonen and Coburn once again represent the core of an impressive Flyers blue line. Filling in for the missing O’Donnell from last season seems to be Lilja at the moment, though I would like to see Gustafsson ultimately take his place. Regardless, as it stands this defense is still one of the deepest in the league and boasts a great mix of age, talent and skillset. With Coburn and Carle in contract years, the Flyers could be looking at some questions at the end of the season but right now, they’re poised to reap the benefits of a talented blue line, barring injury.
I’m sure this post will be rendered irrelevant by the time the puck drops on Thursday, but the roster is slowly beginning to shape up into one full of youthful exuberance, particularly within the bottom six forwards. Is it what you were expecting? What would you do differently?
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About Orange & Black Breakdown
The Orange & Black Breakdown looks to be the ultimate, around the clock source for news and information on the Philadelphia Flyers organization and it’s ever-present quest for the Stanley Cup. Focusing on what the team can do to achieve success is the ultimate goal.
The OBB is written and maintained by myself - Marc Siciliano. I’m a college graduate and media production professional in the sports industry with credits on projects like Hard Knocks: Bengals and 24/7 Penguins vs. Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic. A man of many hobbies, I always seem to find a way to spend a disproportionate amount of my daily routine with two things: Flyers hockey and social media (much to the dismay of my hockey impartial friends on twitter).
So what does this mean for you? The plan is to combine these
time-wasting habits passions with my love for writing to provide you with complete coverage of the Flyers from both my head and around the web, 24/7.
This is my second writing stint focusing on the Flyers, but for a much larger audience - so do be gentle. Different perspectives and opinions on the organization are welcome and encouraged. Just because I see it one way doesn’t mean I’m beyond seeing it your way as well, so speak up!
I’m always interested in interacting with readers, so find me on twitter (@marcs797) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s talk hockey.
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