I reviewed the Philadelphia Flyers’ defense in Part 3 of this series. This four-part hockey preview ends by focusing on the team’s offensive lines.
The Flyers scored 264 goals in the 2011-12 regular season, which put them third among all National Hockey League teams. Despite the trade of James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the departure of Jaromir Jagr to the Dallas Stars via free agency, head coach Peter Laviolette’s forward line group still appears to be solid.
Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell had a strong linemate in Jagr. His absence this season likely means that Jakub Voracek will get first dibs at number 68s’ old right wing spot. Chemistry can form immediately, or over time. So, we’ll have to wait and see if this trio gels.
Danny Briere has steadily become one of the better playoff performers in team history during his first five Flyers’ years. He currently stands in sixth place all-time with 72 postseason points (37 goals, 35 assists). John LeClair, who appeared in 48 more playoff games than Briere, is in fifth place with 74 points (35 goals, 39 assists). Bobby Clarke is the franchise leader with 119 points (42 goals, 77 assists) in 136 games played.
Consider this 2012 playoff point as well: “Danny B” scored eight goals last spring, which tied him for first place among all NHL postseason performers. He accomplished feat despite the fact that the Flyers only were alive for two postseason rounds (facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the quarterfinals and the New Jersey Devils in the semifinals).
Wayne Simmonds was a sharp addition, coming over from the Los Angeles Kings in the Mike Richards’ deal. He’s a modern version of Rick Tocchet and a true warrior who should get even better in the future.
Matt Read was a revelation. A late-bloomer, this former college player’s 24 goal, 23 assist performance was no fluke because he plays a sound game.
Brayden Schenn showed the proverbial “flashes of brilliance” at times last season. In his defense, he did battle through some injuries during the year. He was a presence in the playoffs when he scored nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 11 games.
Sean Couturier is the best young two-way Flyers’ forward in many years because he has great skill and a natural hockey sense. With good health, “Coots” will have a stellar hockey career.
Max Talbot was a great free agent addition last season. The former Penguin possess exactly the right type of energy and motivates his teammates on a regular basis. The 34 points (19 goals, 15 assists) that he scored were a regular season career-high and an unexpectedly nice bonus on last season’s team.
Ruslan Fedotenko is a positive veteran (and a Flyers’ alumni) to have added as a free agent. He should offer a sound veteran presence on one of the lower lines.
Zac Rinaldo is a gusty enforcer who has the potential to become a more versatile player in coming years.
Eric Wellwood displayed tremendous speed last season. If he’s disciplined and learns how to finish, it’s possible that he’ll make a solid set of four lines even deeper.
There are some other players like: Jody Shelley, Tom Sestito, Matthew Ford, Ben Holmstrom, Tye McGinn and Harry Zolnierczyk who could work their way into the mix at some point as well.
Sean O’Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He was a freelance sports writer for five years in the 1990s and is currently a Featured Contributor in Sports for the Yahoo Contributor Network! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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