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Flyers 2009-10: The Blame Game

Posted by Chris Shafer On March - 26 - 2010

With the team on the brink of total late-season collapse, Mike Richards' "fall-guy" status has returned.

When people are frustrated with inexplicable losses and poor efforts, they have this habit of trying to find out what’s wrong with the team in order to fix it.

Unfortunately for these people, it’s easy to blame specifics for what you can’t fully explain.

So who has caught the blame so far this season?

John Stevens, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn, Danny Briere, Paul Holmgren, Scott Hartnell, Paul Holmgren (again), Brian Boucher, and finally Mike Richards (again).

We have basically come full circle, and we’re no closer to the Stanley Cup then we were in November.

It wouldn’t be Philadelphia sports without a scapegoat right?

Well, how about we examine the real reasons this team is where it is right now.

1. Identity

I’m not talking about the “We are the Orange and the Black!” stuff. This is different than a fan mentality of identity. Fans associate themselves with the city and the team through location, but players identify themselves through their teammates and their organization; people they share the hockey team with. Fans obviously play a role in this as part of the atmosphere, but for the most part, a team’s identity is the locker room.

So does that mean there is locker room trouble? Of course not, but think back on 2007-08. That team had an identity. It had a feel all its own. That team knew exactly what it was, and I guess this goes a little back to chemistry. John Stevens was not the best coach for the Flyers’ situation, but he brought an identity to the team that Peter Laviolette just has not brought yet.

That’s also not Peter Laviolette’s fault. He hasn’t had the time to build the team the way he sees fit. The lack of identity seems almost inevitable, especially with an offseason acquisition like Pronger. Suddenly there are a lot of voices in the locker room, and that’s not to take anything away from the current captain Mike Richards, who often gets attacked unfairly. His job, however, is to take that kind of punishment. Through all of this, it’s his job to unite the team behind Laviolette. He needs to be Laviolette’s right-hand guy. Right now it may just be too soon.

Identity issues are the kinds of problems that are unavoidable but, in the end, will end up fixing themselves behind a core.

2. Confidence

Confidence is what makes this team a streaky team. They lost their confidence under John Stevens every once and a while, but each time they did, it seemed almost impossible to get back. Under Laviolette, the confidence as a team is used differently. Because of that, you see them being able to come back from behind to win games. Laviolette is what has given this team a “never quit” mentality. Unfortunately, as we’ve all seen, that’s not always enough.

A lack of confidence, which is what is responsible for the recent poor play, can be manufactured by many other things. For instance, this team felt comfortable with Michael Leighton in net. For whatever reason, even if Leighton let in a bad goal every once in a while, this team felt like they were okay. Now, with Boucher in net, that atmosphere has changed. As soon as Boucher let’s in a bad goal, the confidence plummets rapidly. Because of that, the team loses focus quickly.

It’s not easy to re-manufacture this confidence once it has vanished, much like it is hard to force an identity. However, pulling the goalie, calling timeouts to refocus the team, or even calling up a new starter as the Flyers will tomorrow against Pittsburgh are all effective shake-up methods. In the end, you have to hope that the players stay focused. The media and the fans certainly don’t do much to help the situation, but that’s the reality of professional sports.

Who is at fault?

No one person is to blame for this team being the way it is right now. You look at this team and how it’s struggled, and you want to point out one thing to fix that could change it. Time will change it. An offseason, a goalie to feel confident in, an offseason to bond with a new coach, and a new outlook on things will do wonders for this team.

Unfortunately, with a dog fight to the finish staring them right in the face, they really don’t have that luxury.

What now?

The season is not over. Pittsburgh is tomorrow. Johan Backlund will likely get the start over Brian Boucher. You take things one game at a time if you’re the Flyers. They’re still in the playoff race. They could still get Carter back. They could still get Leighton back. All they have to do is weather the storm. They need to get some points and hold on. If they can make it, a confidence boost from Carter and Leighton could work miracles.

We don’t know what to expect in the next couple weeks. The players don’t even know what to expect. It’d be easy to sit here and criticize Boucher’s technique or focus, but that’s not useful. Coming to terms with the situation at hand is important.

Leighton injury to change organizational mentality?

Posted by Chris Shafer On March - 23 - 2010

With Michael Leighton unlikely to return and Ray Emery's career in jeopardy, is a change in organizational philosophy on the way?

The Flyers’ Goaltending Curse

There is something a little creepy about both Ray Emery and Michael Leighton going down to long-term injuries during the course of a season. In fact, Ray Emery’s hit the IR list twice this season. Even Brian Boucher went down for a bit with a minor injury, which is what actually brought Leighton into the unlikely success he witnessed before getting hurt.

What about Johan Backlund, the low-risk high-reward goalie they signed out of Sweden last offseason in the hope of something special? Well, he got hurt too. That is why Jeremy Duchesne, a prospect likely without an NHL future, is currently the Flyers’ back-up.

How much disaster can one position take?

It’s not fair to blame General Manager Paul Holmgren for these goaltending tragedies that keep unfolding. Experts on a professional analyst panel will tell you that goaltending has been the reason the Flyers have not hoisted a Cup since the days of Parent or even been to the finals since the days of Hextall. Why would they tell you that? It’s because, from an outsider looking in, that’s exactly how the Flyers look. The unfortunate reality of this goaltending mess the Flyers have witnessed since the late 90′s is that the play between the pipes has not been holding back the team.

In every postseason since Hextall took the Flyers to the finals in 1997, there is an obvious reason why the Flyers didn’t win it all. None of those are because of goaltending.

Still, there is a certain amount of truth to the claims. An organization and a team on the ice both need a goaltender they are comfortable in for the long haul. Was Emery that goalie? Maybe before he got hurt. Was Leighton that goalie? Probably not despite his incredible rise to the starting position and his hot streak. Is Boucher that goalie? Certainly not.

Biron was a little too unsteady and wanted too much money. Niittymaki was plagued by injury here as well despite a great pedigree. He also may have been the fall-guy for a horrible on-ice team. Esche certainly wasn’t going to win us a Stanley Cup in a less than perfect world. Neither was Vanbiesbrouck, and though Cechmanek did finish as a runner-up for Vezina, he is no longer in the NHL.

All of these goalies could have won a Stanley Cup had the team in front of them not had other severe flaws with Emery and Biron having the best legitimate shot. After all, goaltending is largely based on the team in front of it. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if the Flyers had someone they could rely on it net every once in a while when the team is in some trouble?

You can’t prevent injuries. That’s basically what the Flyers’ 2009-10 season boils down to.

Still, with plenty on the line over the next coming seasons, it’s hard to believe the Flyers won’t finally decide to use some of their assets to go goaltender hunting.

What are our options?

Unrestricted Free-Agents

  • Marty Turco - Age: 34 – Was mediocre for a large portion of his career but often struggled behind a poor Dallas defense.
  • Evgeni Nabokov - Age: 34 – Is regarded as one of the top 10 goaltenders in the game today but will either cost a nice chunk of salary or will be re-signed by San Jose.
  • Jose Theodore – Age: 33 – Up and down mediocre goaltender who Washington overpaid for though he could still be a decent starter for cheap.
  • Dan Ellis – Age: 29 – Had a rough career in Nashville with struggling teams but always performed very well and could be a best possible UFA goaltender if Nabokov gets re-signed.
  • Marty Biron – Age: 32 – The Flyers have been down this road but would have probably held onto him had he asked for less money which he will this offseason.
  • Ray Emery – Age: 27 – If his career was not ended by his unfortunate injury, he is a definite cheap possibility in net if the Flyers are willing to risk it again.
  • Antero Niittymaki – Age: 29 – He knows the organization well and has rediscovered his talents with the Lightning but still may not be consistent enough to start in Philadelphia.
  • Michael Leighton – Age: 28 – He was in talks with the Flyers for an extension before getting hurt, but the Flyers wanted to wait until the saw him in the postseason before making any decisions.

Possibly Available Through Trade

  • Jhonas Enroth (BUF) – Age: 21 – Under Contract – With Miller penciled in as their goaltender for the foreseeable future, the Sabres could use Enroth as a bargaining chip to improve their roster.
  • Josh Harding (MIN) – Age: 25 – RFA – He has struggled at times on a poor Minnesota team, but since the Wild have decided to go with Backstrom long-term, the team could move Harding in a desperate attempt to make their roster half-decent and acquire anything that even remotely resembles a prospect pool.
  • Carey Price (MTL) – Age: 22 – RFA – With the emergence of Halak as their starting goaltender, there are rumors that the Canadiens could move Price in order to fill in some holes on their roster.
  • Jaroslav Halak (MTL) – Age: 24 – RFA – Though Halak has emerged as a very talented starting goaltender, the Canadiens are in a bind with two capable netminders and some holes to fill on their team.
  • Cory Schneider (VAN) – Age: 24 – RFA – Now that Roberto Luongo is signed until 2022, Cory Schneider is likely available this offseason when the Canucks have to re-sign him for some defensive depth, which the Flyers have plenty of.
  • Michal Neuvirth (WAS) – Age: 21 – Under Contract – The Capitals at this point are likely going to be looking at Simeon Varlamov to be their future between the pipes, so if they feel their desperate need for defensive depth is striking enough, they could part with Neuvirth.

Those are pretty much the Flyers options for next season. A number of those tradable goalies probably won’t be able to start next season either, but in a perfect world, the Flyers manage to lock up Dan Ellis for a couple years at a reasonable contract and trade for Cory Schneider. It’s no secret that Vancouver could use some defensemen, and the Flyers have plenty of them.

Whatever happens this offseason, it’s sure to be something substantial. Then again, we did say that last offseason when Biron and Niittymaki were replaced by Emery and Boucher. Was that substantial? Of course it was, but things don’t always turn out like you hope.

The Flyers’ mentality will not change. They’re never going to drop high-end pieces like vanRiemsdyk, Giroux, or Carter to acquire a goalie like Vokoun. They won’t overpay for a veteran on the free-agent market either. They will wait until someone establishes themselves in between the pipes and the organization feels comfortable with them.

The recently acquired Carter Hutton has been turning some heads in Adirondack on a tryout basis. A 0.921 SV%, a 2.50 GAA, and a win against the AHL heavyweight Hershey Bears over the course of two games certainly helps. Meanwhile, Joacim Eriksson is off in Sweden trying to play Leksand up to the SEL. There’s also Nicola Riopel, who went back to the QMJHL for the remainder of this year in order to follow up his QMJHL record-setting GAA from the 2008-09 season.

The Flyers have some good things going on in goal underneath the NHL level for the first time in a long time, but they need something this offseason. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will be between the pipes next year.

March Madness – Beer, Brackets, Blogs, Boosh, and Beyond

Posted by Chris Shafer On March - 19 - 2010

The Flyers may have the March Madness as their goalie situation gets turned on its head, quite literally, once again.

The March Madness might be a sign; a sign of change. It spreads through the American world much like a strong heavy rain washing away all of our winter interpretations of reality while bringing along the excitement of the unknown as we soldier on, as we do every year.

But change happens often. What is so special about March? In fact, what is so “insane” about March 2010?


Flyers’ Creationism

Well, the last five Marches have been a particular journey for me. As a Flyers fan I’ve seen the entire spectrum of what Flyers hockey can be from a perch in Washington, DC. It might have culminated last Saturday during a weekend trip to the ever exciting District of Columbia. I was in town for Shamrock Fest, the second biggest Irish festival in the United States (second to Boston for obvious reasons). The festival began at 1 P.M. on a rainy afternoon which was the same time the Flyers were matched up against the Chicago Blackhawks.

I probably would have skipped a chunk of the concert had my friend who I was staying with had Center Ice, but I decided text updates would suffice. So I went to the concert with my younger brother, beer in hand, and standing in the pouring rain while listening to some of the best Irish bands the world had to offer. I was annoyed as the alerts came in that the Flyers had fallen behind 2-1.

One of my top three all-time bands, The Tossers, were about to take the stage to my left when I got the text message that the Flyers had tied the game with just over 2 minutes left. The Tossers’ lead singer, T. Duggins, stepped up to the microphone when my phone buzzed again. There, covered in beer, drenched in rain, and smelling like any number of bars, I got word that Chris Pronger had pulled off a miraculous regulation win with roughly two seconds left.

How did I react? Well, my brother and I ran straight into the fray. That’s what happens at these kinds of things. The Flyers had created yet another couple points out of what probably would have been a sure loss. Goaltending or not, the Flyers are finally finding ways to face adversity, something that never happened under Stevens. With Laviolette, the pressure does not effect the team. They rise instead of shelling up and going quietly into the night.

March 2010 is the story of Flyers’ creationism. Turning nothing into something. They turned a rainy afternoon Irish festival into an incredible celebration of the very best things life has to offer; alcohol, music, friends, and sport (not necessarily in that order). They have not played particularly great, though not particularly bad either. Even so, they’re finding ways to win despite two back-up goalies and a quarter tank of gas. Teams that don’t quit are the teams that do well in the playoffs.

At the beginning of March they were a team that didn’t make a move on a more proven goalie. Now they’re a team that can find a way to win despite whoever is in net. That’s a great sign.

Orange and Black Depth Chart Theatrics

Last night, with the 8-10 week injury to Michael Leighton just beginning, the Flyers went back to the other goaltender in their reserve. Boucher hadn’t started a game since getting hurt in a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers back on December 21st, 2009. Last night, he was absolutely incredible as the Flyers came from behind once again to beat the Dallas Stars.

I wrote before about Leighton’s Christmas Miracle, but that seems to have ended abruptly in the worst possible way.

So, for those keeping track at home:

  • Offseason: Sign Boucher. Sign Emery.
  • Early Season: Emery hurt. Boucher in. Claim Leighton.
  • Early Mid-Season: Boucher hurt. Leighton in.
  • Late Mid-Season: Emery returns. Emery in. Leighton back-up.
  • Early Late Season: Emery hurt. Leighton in. Boucher back-up.
  • Now: Leighton hurt. Boucher in.

It’s a miracle that the Flyers are still winning games with all that upheaval between the pipes. However, I’ve mentioned this plenty of times before: goaltending is largely dependent on the team of skaters. If you have an elite team, your goaltending will look much better than it actually is.

Another thing to point out is that technically speaking Boucher is a better all-around goaltender than Leighton. He’s much more positionally sound and more athletic. Leighton may have found some chemistry with the roster, but Boucher never got a real chance to get his starts in once the team had fully pieced together Laviolette’s system.

Anyone else remember 1999-00? 35 GP, 20 W, 1.91 GAA, and 0.918 SV% regular season? 18 GP, 11 W, 2.03 GAA, and 0.918 SV% postseason? Ring any bells?

March 2010 is the story of Brian Boucher and his return a decade later. 2009-10: Unfinished Business?

No Draft Picks? No Problem.

At the beginning of this month I made a “fairly” in depth write-up about the Flyers’ prospect pool as they added two more free agent signings. Well, with a lack of draft picks and prospects, Holmgren is looking for other ways to restock the cupboard.

Luke PitherSigned to a 3-year Entry Level Contract beginning next year. He is a skilled, offensive center who will play with the Phantoms next season.

Shane HarperSigned to a 3-year Entry Level Contract beginning next year. He is a skilled, offensive winger who will play with the Phantoms next season.

Mike Testwuide – Signed to a 2-year Entry Level Contract and could even see time with the Flyers this season. He is a crease bully with some scoring talents.

Ben Holmstrom – Signed to an Amateur Try Out with the Phantoms and could get signed to an Entry Level Contract if he performs well.

Jussi RynnäsYoung, heavily scouted undrafted goaltender out of the Finnish league that Holmgren is pushing hard to acquire.

There’s no question that there’s more to come. Holmgren is rumored to have his hand in quite a few NCAA free-agents. Right now, our prospect group is starting to get a little tight for the Phantoms next season. We’ll see how it goes. It’s definitely going to be an exciting offseason at the minor league level.


Philly Blog March Madness

Far be it from me to question the seedings of someone else’s bracket, but The Phield is conducting their own version of March Madness. This one involves the best Philly Blogs in the known Philly Sport-verse. You can vote for which Philly Blog advances in each round until there is a winner. Well, your very own Phinally Philly got 7th seed in the Lauber Region. This is how The Phield sees the “Lauber Region” going:

The favorite: Phillies Nation
Created in 2004 by Brian Michael, Phillies Nation has been the major force among red-clad fan blogs. Part of the reason is its networking abilities: The Nation was one of the first blogs to champion Twitter, and also gained an enormous following on Facebook. The Nation’s reach is strong, with fans across the world checking the site regularly. Posts are every day with a mix of news, opinion and character. Its foray into podcasts became a hit, as well. It’s a regular one-stop shop for Phillies news and information, and towers above the other red-clad fan blogs.

The dark horse: The Fightins
We shouldn’t call The Fightins a dark horse, but many have debated its placement as a No. 3 seed, which might light the fire under these boys. Run by a motley cast led by, The Fightins paces the charge in Phillies humor, posting videos, photoshops, .gifs and lolz on the reg. Its off-centered content has made it a darling among beat writers and even players, who were seen sporting their t-shirts. Look, we know The Fightins is big time, so we might have to ready for a huge matchup in the elite eight.

The cinderella: The Shibe Times
It’ll be hard for any blog to power past Phillies Nation, The Fightins or No. 2 seed High Cheese, but we’ll mark the Shibe Times as a potential upset special. Its design is among the best, and its throwback theme kicks. It has a tough match against Phinally Philly to open, but it’s scrappy style might give enough of a scare to rattle some boards.

The unknown: The Good Phight
A weird case. The Good Phight gets a lot of hits. Commenters galore. Regular content and solid analysis. But where does it rank among the chalk? It’s probably the best 5 seed among the lot, and could even make a case for a 3 seed, but as we stand, it’s mired. We love WholeCamels and dajafi and the rest of the crew, but can they make enough noise to take down Phillies Nation in the Sweet 16? Maybe.

Best first-round matchup: Long Drive vs. Dirty Wudders
A solid 6-11 match, Long Drive is a new but loud force in the sphere, while Dirty Wudders is way under-the-radar, but provides more quality than you think. Long Drive might be cocky here, but be warned: these games are traps.

Best possible second-round matchup: The Fightins vs. Long Drive
And come on, if Long Drive gets past the first round, what a fun game this could be. The boys at Long Drive have ties to The Fightins, yet are completely focused on defeating them. We’ll see. Either way, consider this the marquee second-round matchup.

I think we, the fine folks here at Phinally Philly, have been underrated. We’re not getting our due. Granted, we are a younger blog, but out of most of these 65 (now 64) competitors.

Honestly, I think The 700 Level will run away with it, but what do we qualify as? A Cinderella? Who knows…just get out there and vote for Phinally Philly. Let’s make a run!

Beyond the Blogs

There’s also much more March Madness floating around if Flyers’ drama and blog showdowns aren’t enough:

There’s Real March Madness in the form of a guest post by Joe Gallagher. Don’t forget that everyone’s official Phinally Philly Sheets of Integrity are in full swing. Nova almost lost in OT, and Notre Dame screwed up my bracket beyond repair. Good luck to everyone still in the running for the Grand Prize.

There’s some Eagles Spring Cleaning Notes by Kieran Kelly since our Eagles’ writer, Dany Sloan, is taking part in some conferences down in Austin, TX. Take a look for your up-to-date Eagles’ offseason as we countdown to draft day.

There’s plenty of notes about the Phillies. All you have to do is head to the Phinally Philly Homepage to get a rundown on the shake-ups and preseason performers.

Then there’s more depressing news about the Sixers by Mike Santa Barbara.

There’s also the Union’s season in limbo as the MLS players threaten to lockout. Stay tuned. I have some hockey surprises in store for the upcoming weeks as well.

Don’t forget to go vote for Phinally Philly.

Is Michael Leighton the answer?

Posted by Chris Shafer On March - 8 - 2010

If someone, at the beginning of the season, told you that Michael Leighton would make a glorious return to Philadelphia and be penciled in as the starter heading into the postseason, how would you react?

Would you laugh like the rest of the NHL and possibly joke about the Flyers’ instability at the goaltending position since Ron Hextall?

Would you cry at the fact that the Flyers playoff hopes rest on the shoulders of a man who had 17 career NHL wins coming into the 2009-10 season?

It’s not easy to know how you’d react in hindsight, but you certainly wouldn’t feel all that comfortable knowing that prior to this season Leighton had played in 69 NHL only coming away with 17 wins, a 0.882 career save percentage, and a 3.51 career goals-against average.

Even Leighton’s early season didn’t show any signs that he would miraculously come to life as a goaltender with the Flyers. He played 7 total games for the Hurricanes early this season, and the results were less than spectacular. He was only credited with 1 win and 4 losses in the 7 games but came away with 0.848 sv% and a 4.29 GAA.

It couldn’t just be that he plays well in Philly either. He played 4 games for the Orange and Black back in 2006-07 resulting in 2 wins, 2 losses, a 0.882 sv%, and a 3.69 GAA.

You can’t even claim that he was brilliant immediately when Boucher went down just before Christmas. Leighton has developed slowly into form between the pipes. Since his first ice time for the Flyers this season, he has gradually improved his positioning, his rebound control, his glove hand, and his composure in net.

To say that his rebound control and positioning are great would be a complete lie, but they are improved.

Does this have something to do with Holmgren’s offseason decision to finally give goaltending coach Reggie Lemelin the axe? It seems as though Jeff Reese has been working miracles. Leighton has gone from league laughing stock to top five in both save percentage and goals-against average by the Olympic Break. That’s a huge difference in just two months for the waiver wire pick up.

Right now with a 0.924 sv% and 2.29 GAA, he may not be in the top 5 of both categories anymore, but he is certainly giving the Flyers a chance to win games. Last night was no exception as he held the Leafs to just 1 goal on 28 shots against resulting in a 3-1 win for the Flyers.  He is now just 4 wins away from tying his total career wins before Christmas last December.

You have to realize by now that Head Coach Laviolette’s system and an elite defense are another big chunk of what has created this monster. Perhaps the best defense in the NHL is walling at the point, funneling attackers to the walls for bad shots, lifting sticks in the slot, clearing bodies from the crease, getting pucks deep into the offensive zone, and knocking those “juicy” rebounds off to the corers out of dangerous areas in front of Leighton.

Leighton owes steak dinners to each of Pronger, Timonen, Carle, Coburn, Parent, Krajicek, Bartulis, and Syvret at the end of this season. There’s no question about that.

Still, the Flyers under Laviolette believe in a team game. Defense is played as a team and offense is played as a team. Everyone knows their role, and everyone carries it out. Perhaps, Leighton owes some steak to forwards like Laperriere and Betts dropping in front of zooming pucks, or Richards and Gagne for back-checking to break up odd-man rushes, or maybe even Briere for pressing on the fore-check. Every little bit helps. Leighton is a reflection of the team he has in front of him, and the team in front of him is among the NHL elite regardless of their current record.

Goaltending in the NHL is about two things: the strength of the team in front of you, and how comfortable they are with how you play in net. Organizations don’t necessary look for the best goaltender when planning a team but, instead, look for the netminder the team feels the most comfortable with. Maybe that’s why the Flyers haven’t had a steady goaltender since Hextall?

So, how do you feel about Leighton? Is this a Cinderella or a ticking time bomb?

Spring prospect update as Flyers add two

Posted by Chris Shafer On March - 5 - 2010

When Luca Sbisa was shipped off to Anaheim along with two back-to-back first round selections, many were worried that the Flyers gave up too much for an aging Chris Pronger. Even though that doesn’t appear to be a fair statement based on Pronger’s play so far this season, it does not change the fact that the Flyers lost their first round talent for three straight seasons.

With vanRiemsdyk’s rookie season nearly over, the Flyers are without a first round prospect in the pool. Claude Giroux is also with the Flyers, Steve Downie is in the middle of a tremendous season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Luca Sbisa is in Anaheim’s system.

That leaves the Flyers with two choices:

  1. Hope that the players from later rounds develop into solid complementary talents at the NHL level.
  2. Find hit or miss undrafted players and bring them into the system.

The Flyers are relying on a little bit of both and have found a few players they liked enough to add including Luke Pither, Shane Harper, and Tyler Hostetter.

NHL Ready Prospects

1. James vanRiemsdyk -- LW
Age: 20
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 1st round (#2) in 2007
Potential: Elite scorer

If there were ever any questions about Riemer, I’m fairly confident they have all been answered. Many wondered why he was even selected 2nd overall behind Patrick Kane instead of Kyle Turris who went 3rd.

The Flyers' prize for enduring the Forgotten Year, James vanRiemsdyk, is finally making his presence known to all of the doubters at the NHL level.

As Kyle Turris continues his development in the AHL, there’s obviously something the Flyers’ scouting staff liked in JVR. He’s also a very different player from Turris. Though both are clearly talented forwards, vanRiemsdyk has the potential for so much more with his large frame.

Unlike Giroux, who is one of the most dangerous passers the Flyers’ organization has ever seen, vanRiemsdyk does not rely on one specific skill to make his mark offensively. Instead he is the perfect offensive mix. He is not overly physical, but he does not shy away from contact. He wastes no movement on his skates, but he can work well through tight traffic. He isn’t a sniper of Jeff Carter’s caliber, but he can certainly find twine. He isn’t going to thread a pass through sticks and legs to the far side like Giroux, but he is a crafty passer in his own right. He is big enough to stand in front of the net and fast enough to speed by players on the outside. There are not many flaws to his game.

Everyone already knows about his Calder race with other rookies such as John Tavares, Matt Duchene, Victor Hedman, and Tyler Myers, but they may not realize that vanRiemsdyk is averaging roughly 7 or 8 less minutes of ice time per game than them. He is also sometimes left out on the powerplay thanks to the depth the Flyers have at forward. With 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points in 59 games, he is averaging the second most points-per-game than among rookies.

With big names from the recent draft performing well such as Tavares and Duchene, it might be hard for Riemer to sneak iont the top three since Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers may be a lock at this point. Even so, the Flyers organization is impressed with what JVR has done at the age of 20 even if he was expected to spend another developmental year in the AHL.

2. Claude Giroux -- C/RW
Age: 22
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 1st round (#22) in 2006
Potential: Elite playmaker

What can’t Claude Giroux do? Well, he can’t score goals. Though I’m partially kidding, I wonder if having Giroux practice with his linemates standing behind the net would help him score more. All he has to do is thread a nifty pass through the crease and goalie to his teammates instead of trying to score a goal, and he would suddenly be an offensive machine.

Though he's small, Claude Giroux knows how to use leverage and speed to his advantage when on the attack.

Granted, it is not like he isn’t an offensive machine already. Though he has not broken out into point-per-game form just yet like many had hoped, he is still a little fire-cracker of offensive explosion. In 61 games with the Flyers this season, he has 13 goals and 25 assists for 38 points.

He hasn’t let his small frame get in the way either. Though he’s not afraid to throw a check here and there, his incredibly nifty stick-work gets him out of situations along the boards. Practically every game he will make a move or an incredible pass that will leave you gawking at the television. Even the nonchalant no-look behind the back pass to JVR for a 3rd period goal the other night against Tampa Bay seems like child’s play to him. He has as much talent, vision, and brains as any elite playmaking center in the NHL. Once he puts it all together and gets more ice time, he will be a devastating force for the Flyers.

3. Ville Leino -- LW/C
Age: 26
Acquired: Trade with the Detroit Red Wings
Draft: Undrafted
Potential: Versatile secondary scorer

You know those young players that have an incredible break-out year overseas and come to North America hoping to be star players? Names like Janne Pesonen, who had an incredible 2007-08 season in the Finnish league (SM-Liiga) before signing with the Penguins, Fabian Brunnstrom, who tore up the Swedish Elite League (SEL) also in 2007-08 before signing with the Dallas Stars, Jonas Gustavsson, who was labeled the best goaltender outside the NHL in 2008-09 before signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Mika Pyorala, who as a two-way forward had a great offensive year in the SEL before signing with us this past offseason, should all come to mind. Pesonen is now in the KHL, Brunnstrom works in and out of the Dallas line-up, Gustavsson has had a mediocre season with the Leafs, and though Pyorala was a decent depth two-way forward, he is now in the AHL.

Leino looked good in his debut with the Philadelphia Flyers the other night wearing number 22 and sporting an awesome beard. He even scored a goal in his first game wearing orange and black.

Leino, only a year younger than Pesonen, had one point less than Pesonen in the SM-Liiga in 2007-08 before signing with the Detroit Red Wings. He had a great 2008-09 season with Detroit’s AHL team in Grand Rapids before jumping into the NHL late that season. He had a great surge in 13 regular season games with Detroit, and many pronounced him one of the favorites to win the Calder Trophy this season.

It didn’t work out as he hoped.

He struggled as Detroit struggled. Some of his problems such as skating and back-checking became more apparent without a healthy Detroit roster covering them up. He became a healthy scratch and was eventually traded for next to nothing to the Flyers in order to free up cap space.

He still has every offensive talent a forward could need, especially around the net. He will never likely be a star, but he’s got the makings of a solid depth forward if he can work on his skating. He’s not afraid of the crease, and in Laviolette’s system, he will either work on his skating or get left behind. He has the chance of becoming a very versatile secondary scorer as soon as the Flyers have an offseason to work with him.

He also happens to have an awesome beard growing. He was playing the other night and wearing number 22 as Powe was out with a minor injury. He looked good and was willing to work hard. He seems to really want to earn a spot on the roster, and he helped his cause by scoring a goal in his orange and black debut.

4. Ryan Parent -- D
Age: 22
Acquired: Trade with the Nashville Predators
Draft: 1st round (#18) in 2005
Potential: Smart shut-down defenseman

Ryan Parent is certainly not an offensive contributor in any world, but he does bring a very important and often underrated skill-set to the Flyers. While he has played 83 NHL games, he has only contributed 7 total points off of 6 career assists and a goal that he had the other night against the Florida Panthers. Even so, he is a very positionally strong defenseman who works well funneling dangerous threats inside out. He has very good stick-work, and when he does retrieve the puck, he always makes the safe play first.

Parent has finally returned from back surgery and scored his first NHL goal in his first game back.

Since he has limited offensive potential, he will always be a cheap option on the backside. Though offensive capabilities are something most NHL defensemen need in the new NHL, Parent will have a role as a shut-down defenseman. He is more than capable of pulling his weight even if his ceiling is only as a second pairing blueliner.

Unfortunately, he has also suffered a number of injuries throughout his career. This year was his second opportunity to play his first full NHL season. Back surgery sidelined him this time, and the rest of the season will be a huge test for him.

5. Oskars Bartulis -- D
Age: 23
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 3rd round (#91) in 2005
Potential: Middle pairing puck-moving defenseman

Bartulis is a very composed player. He thinks thing through from the blueline but is quick enough to get the puck out of danger. He is very fluid, calm, and direct when moving the puck whether he is passing or skating it up ice. He doesn’t have tons of offensive potential but has a great shot from the point on the powerplay. He will be someone on the back-end that a team can count on to be safe while getting the puck up ice.

Bartulis has been a welcome surprise for the Flyers this season and even got the chance to play for Team Latvia at the Olympics.

It has been a great season for Bartulis, who had an outstanding outing with Team Latvia at the Olympics despite not earning a medal. He wasn’t expected to make an impact on the Flyers’ blueline this season, but he has been a welcome surprise. Even though he has a team worst minus 10 rating, he has survived through a carousel of partners on the blueline. With the acquisition of Lukas Karjicek, who fits the mold of a more offensive-defenseman instead of just a puck-mover, and the return of Parent from back surgery, Bartulis may have been shifted down to the 7th defenseman despite his recent minor groin tweak. With a relatively healthy blueline at the moment, he can take his time recovering, but the Flyers would love to have him back soon just in case someone else gets hurt on the back-end.

Like Parent and Braydon Coburn, Bartulis would have been a restricted free-agent (RFA) this offseason. With his outstanding play at the blueline, Holmgren locked him up to a three year deal at a bargain price, so Bartulis could be here for a while as he progresses as a defenseman.

6. Jon Kalinski -- LW/C/RW
Age: 22
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 6th round (#152) in 2007
Potential: Versatile utility and energy forward

There was a point last season when not only was Jon Kalinski’s hockey career in danger, but his life was on the line as well. The story about Kalinski’s injury has been all over articles, and even on TV during hospital commercials on CSN. He has made a very solid recovery and does not seem to have lost a step at all. He even earned another call-up this season when the Flyers were hurt by injuries early in the year. In 10 games during this year’s stint, he earned 2 assists, and in 2008-09, he played 12 games earning a goal and 2 assists.

Kalinski is a heart and soul forward who has already seen NHL action as a call-up in times of need.

His offensive numbers aren’t astronomical. They never have been and they never will be, but at the same time, Kalinski provides an energy and work ethic that can’t be taught. He is, first and foremost, an energy player who can line-up wherever he is asked, do whatever he is asked, and make it look fun. He is a heart and soul type of player, who can be effective at the NHL level immediately if the need should arise.

Before Blair Betts was brought into training camp this past summer in hopes of earning a roster spot with the Flyers as a fourth line center, it was Kalinski who was penciled in for the role. Now with Betts locked up long-term on a bargain contract, it will be hard for Kalinski to make the jump as a fourth line center. Even so, he has the versatility to play wherever the team needs him. He has a legitimate shot at making the team next season if it isn’t too log-jammed.

On The Verge

1. Patrick Maroon -- LW
Age: 21
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 6th round (#161) in 2007
Potential: Top line power-forward

When Patrick Maroon was drafted in the 6th round back in 2007, there were plenty of people who skimmed over his name and forgot it a second later. He was an American skater from St. Louis and a long shot to ever get a chance at the NHL. Fortunately for the Flyers organization, Maroon never wanted to be that name forgotten to the draft log.

Maroon has re-awakened his game after a mid-season injury gave him the chance to rest. He has a legitimate shot at the NHL next season.

Maroon, when he was drafted, was one of the most gifted stick-handlers coming out the of the United States, but he had a severe conditioning problem. There are plenty of stories online detailing his incredible effort to get in shape and to make a name for himself. He worked hard on his conditioning and skating. Eventually he found himself with the London Knights of the OHL. In one season, he became a star leading the Knights in scoring and into the playoffs.

He ventured to the AHL the following season where he worked on his skating some more. He had a great year for his first professional season scoring 23 goals and adding another 31 assists for 54 points in 80 games with the Phantoms. Still, as a 20-year-old he finished fourth on the team in scoring.

He went through a slump early this season, but after returning from an injury, he went on an offensive fury. He has brought himself back up to third in scoring even though his goal totals are low.

Maroon provides an excellent weapon in front of the net to bang home the trash. His stick-work and hand-eye coordination are already NHL caliber. He has the makings of a Mike Knuble type of forward who can press the issue in the corners, on the end wall, or in front of the net. He is the type of player that the Flyers could use, but after an injury set him back in preseason, he failed to make the roster. All through the early portion of 2009-10 he seemed a little slower than normal but was just feeling the aftereffects of his offseason injury. Another chance to rest midseason seems to have revitalized him. He was expected to make the Flyers roster even before vanRiemsdyk, so he has a legitimate shot of being a top nine winger by next year.

2. Andreas Nodl -- RW
Age: 23
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 2nd round (#39) in 2006
Potential: Third-line two-way forward

Andreas Nodl has had a hard time finding consistent offense. He isn’t doing poorly at the AHL level with 8 goals and 15 assists in 45 games played with the Phantoms this year, but his offensive potential has yet to materialize.

In his short professional career, Nodl has gotten very good at digging out pucks trapped in corners.

Even so, Nodl has many other qualities to his game that would be helpful to the Flyers. One thing Nodl has become an expert on is board-work. He has strong defensive capabilities, but his board-work and forechecking are excellent. If his offense never materializes, he has the potential to be a very good utility forward on the third line. He has the speed to create turnovers and work ethic to make offense happen, but he is not necessarily a gifted finisher.

He had an incredible start to his professional career making the Flyers’ roster at the on-set of the 2008-09 season even before Giroux, but eventually his lack of offensive production became evident. The organization decided that he could use some developmental time at the AHL level. He scored his first NHL goal on December 23rd, 2008 just before the Christmas break but was sent down before the next game. He also got a 10 game stint with the Flyers this season registering an assist.

3. Joonas Lehtivuori -- D
Age: 21
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 4th round (#101) in 2006
Potential: Middle pairing puck-moving defenseman

After a let-down season compared to his 2nd full year in the Finnish league, Joonas Lehtivuori made the journey the Phantoms in order to slowly work toward the NHL. Instead of more frustrations, Lehtivuori figured out how to play a North American brand of hockey rather quickly, and while other defensive prospects like Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall have struggled for parts of the season, Lehtivuori’s experience playing against men in the SM-Liiga eased his transition. The transition seems to have been much harder on Bourdon and Marshall, who have both ventured over to the Phantoms from the Quebec junior league in Canada.

Joonas Lehtivuori races against Team USA's Patrick Kane to the puck up ice on a fast break.

Lehtivuori has almost immediately become the Phantoms’ best defenseman in the absence of Bartulis. He is the only defenseman on the current roster with a positive plus-minus at plus one, and he is second on the team in production from the blueline registering 4 goals and 11 assists in 48 games.

He has quickly become the veteran presence that the Phantoms’ needed even as a rookie. His abilities to move the puck calmly while finding the safest path up ice have been exactly what the Phantoms needed, and even though he is not a prototypical powerplay quarterback with a booming shot and a nose for the net, he earns his keep in other ways. Lehtivuori feels comfortable managing the game on the ice and keeping the tempo at his speed. That play-management ability is something the Flyers see every game only from Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen.

4. David Laliberte -- RW
Age: 23
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 4th round (#124) in 2004
Potential: Secondary scorer

On November 2nd, 2009 in his second game of an 11 game stint with the Flyers, David Laliberte did something that no Flyer has done since Eric Lindros: score a goal in each of his first two NHL games. The first one was scored against Michael Leighton then of the Carolina Hurricanes, and Laliberte added an assist for good measure. He then scored against Tampa Bay in the following game putting himself among some very elite company.

Former QMJHL winger David Laliberte patterns his game after Simon Gagne.

Oddly enough, he patterns his game after the only person on the Flyers’ roster who had the opportunity to play with Lindros: Simon Gagne. Unfortunately for Laliberte, he does not have the blazing speed necessary to pull off what Gagne can do in any given game, but he can put up some offensive numbers. During his final year in the QMJHL, Laliberte scored a massive 50 goals and added another 48 assists for 98 points in 68 games. Needless to say, he has some offensive skills.

During his first professional season he split time in both the ECHL and AHL before becoming a full-time AHLer for the Phantoms in 2008-09. Without the speed of Gagne, he has to rely on his stick-work in traffic to get by, but he has an opportunity to make an impact on the Flyers if he continues to improve.

Need More Time

1. Joacim Eriksson -- G
Age: 19
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 7th round (#196) in 2008
Potential: Consistent starting goaltender

The new sensation of the Flyers’ prospect pool, Joacim Eriksson, is tearing up the Allsvenskan over in Sweden. The Allsvenskan is the second tier of Swedish hockey, but it is not like the AHL. The relationship between the Allsvenskan and SEL is more like if you took the NHL and split it into two leagues; one league of playoff teams and another made up of the rest. Then the best of the NHL-B and the worst of NHL-A would go to their own playoff for the right to play in NHL-A next season. So, to say Eriksson is only tearing up a secondary league in Sweden is a little unfair.

Eriksson has had a remarkable season in the Allsvenskan and has surpassed Ed Belfour's club shutout record.

Eriksson was a member of the Brynas system and stuck behind elite goaltending prospect Jacob Markstrom. Because Markstrom was on the Brynas SEL team, there was no room for Eriksson without relegating him to a back-up position. He was then loaned to Leksand of the Allsvenskan where he has been incredible. He beat Ed Belfour’s club record by securing 8 shutouts this season and is 2 away from tying a league record.

All season long he has been in the upper-echelon of goaltending, often being the number one in both GAA and SV%. Though he has fallen back a bit, he is still in the top three among goaltenders, all of which don’t see nearly as much rubber as he does. He will likely play in the SEL next season. He needs more time before he is NHL ready, but he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.

2. Kevin Marshall -- D
Age: 20
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 2nd round (#41) in 2007
Potential: Mean shut-down defenseman

The physical shut-down defenseman Kevin Marshall had gotten off to a slow start in the AHL. Even so, it is his first professional season, and you cannot fault him for getting out of the gate slowly. He has started to progress as the games come off the schedule, but he still has a bit to go.

Marshall was a major impact player during a summer prospect scrimmage against the Capitals' prospects even though vanRiemsdyk got all the glory because of his incredible offensive display.

Though he doesn’t have much in the way of offensive instincts, he has managed 2 goals and 2 assists in 56 games. He does have a very hard slap shot from the point but probably won’t get the opportunity to use it much at the NHL level. His responsibilities are, first and foremost, as a shut-down defenseman. He plays his position very well, and while he is similar to Parent in a lot of aspects, he is unafraid to get a little mean along the boards or in the corners. This will only work to Marshall’s advantage as he grows in the AHL.

With a deep blueline on the Flyers already including Pronger, Timonen, Coburn, Carle, Parent, and Bartulis, who all could possibly be in the organization’s long-term plans, there is certainly no rush on pushing Marshall through his progression. He will work in the AHL and get better. Since he already has a defensively responsible skill-set, he could probably play a fairly safe NHL game sooner than most, but Bartulis and Lehtivuori are closer only because they seem to be less frazzled by outside influences and are calmer with the puck.

3. Marc-Andre Bourdon -- D
Age: 20
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 3rd round (#67) in 2008
Potential: Mean power-play quarterback

Last year at this time Bourdon was rounding out the finishing touches of an incredible QMJHL season from the blueline where he scored 18 goals and added 42 assists for 60 points in just 54 games spent with two different teams. He became one of the most important players for the Rimouski Oceanic during their Memorial Cup run and even won the award for the best QMJHL defenseman of the 2008-09 season.

Bourdon was the offensively gifted defenseman drafted after Luca Sbisa in 2008 that made Sbisa less of a hard loss to swallow. Even so, he has to work on his puck-moving game before he can become an effective professional defenseman.

Since then, things have been rough for Bourdon. He, like Marshall, got off to a slow start playing in the faster-paced AHL. The competition was bigger, tougher, and faster. In the end, Bourdon’s skating issues caused him some problems. Though he he has the third most points among defensemen on the team with a goal and 13 assists in 55 games, he has the third worst plus/minus rating with a minus 12.

If Bourdon is ever going to make it to the professional game he has to work on being more careful with the puck like Bartulis and Lehtivuori. He is an offensive juggernaut when given the right opportunities, but he needs to figure out how to put himself, and the puck, safely into those situations. He has a ton of talent and, like Marshall, can bring some tenacity to the back-end. With a stacked blueline, there is no rush on Bourdon either, so he has plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles in his game.

4. Stefan Legein -- RW
Age: 21
Acquired: Trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets
Draft: 2nd round (#37) in 2007
Potential: High-energy secondary scorer

There has been plenty of discussion about Stefan Legein’s little “vacation” from hockey. He had all the talent to be a professional ice-hockey player and even got to win a World Junior Championship gold with Team Canada. He just suddenly got tired of all the pressure and felt overwhelmed.

After a return to hockey and a change of scenery, Legein is starting to look like the player Columbus hoped he would be when they drafted him.

The story has been beaten to death, and while there is obviously a little apprehension when discussing the future of a player who once hung up his skates, you can only go off of what he has done since being traded to Philadelphia. Columbus decided to part ways with Legein, and Philadelphia may have reaped the rewards.

Before coming to Philadelphia, Legein had only 3 goals and an assist at the professional level in 32 games after coming back out of retirement. Since his change of scenery, he has seemed more comfortable. He has definitely given the Phantoms’ offense a jolt with 21 goals this season. He is a former 43 goal scorer in the OHL, so he certainly knows how to set-up a meeting between rubber and twine even if he has certain draw-backs as a passer. He is also a hard-nosed locker-room guy who will fight for any pucks on the ice. He’s a hard worker and plays much like Darroll Powe.

The organization will take some time with Legein to be sure that everything is in order. He has a real opportunity to be one of those hard working energy players that become fan favorites in Philadelphia.

5. Eric Wellwood -- LW
Age: 20
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 6th round (#172) in 2009
Potential: Two-way secondary scorer

Eric Wellwood is in the middle of a dream season for a defensive specialist with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. Not only is he playing with easily the most talented line-up in possibly the entire CHL, but he is keeping the pace offensively. That’s not an easy task for a defensively responsible forward working on the kill instead of the powerplay. Even so, his incredible offensive outburst during the 2008-09 postseason scoring 21 points off of 10 goals in 20 games made the Flyers take an extra long look at him.

Wellwood has gotten the opportunity to celebrate a lot of goals this season. He has 31 in 61 games played for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.

It is certainly paying off now. Wellwood has 31 goals compared to his 16, 34 assists compared to his 18, and 65 points compared to the 34 he had last season in the same amount of games. He has certainly taken his game to a whole new level and hopes to continue his play with the Phantoms next season since he has already signed a contract.

Though he has a far more skilled brother with the Vancouver Canucks in Kyle Wellwood, he is a much harder worker. He also has something his brother will never have: incredible speed. Eric Wellwood won’t necessarily look for body contact, but he can breeze by for a break away after stealing the puck on a penalty kill. On top of that, he has the talent to finish.

Though his offense may never translate, he can at worst become a Blair Betts type of player at the NHL level with a little more offensive abilities. Every team could use more players like Betts anyway.

6. Jonathan Matsumoto -- C
Age: 23
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 3rd round (#79) in 2006
Potential: Third-line center

Jonathan Matsumoto has done nothing nothing but produce offensively since leaving Bowling Green State University for the Phantoms. In 232 games played with the Phantoms, he has 72 goals and 86 assists for 158 points including the 21 goals and 26 assists he has this season. He was the leading scorer among forwards for the Phantoms last season and leads the team in production this season. Still, Matsumoto has not seen one NHL game.

Matsumoto has been one of the most consistent forwards for the Phantoms in the last couple of years.

He has watched Giroux and vanRiemsdyk quickly leap-frog him into the NHL. Even Nodl, Kalinski, and Laliberte have become regular call-ups before him without producing nearly as much at the AHL level. So why does Matsumoto seemed trapped with the Phantoms?

Part of the reason is the depth at center the Flyers have. There is not a very large need for Matsumoto with Giroux, Richards, and Carter clogging up the middle. On top of that, he does not have the skill-set to be a role player, energy guy, or even a relief scoring winger like the other players that have been called up before him. He is a skilled center who is decent at everything he does. He doesn’t necessarily excel at anything to make him a role player, but he is not talented enough to beat out the big three hogging up the center positions at the NHL level. With it looking more and more like Carter, Richards, and Giroux will be here long-term, Matsumoto may be stuck if he does not end up a complimentary winger.

7. Simon Bertilsson -- D
Age: 19
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 3rd round (#87) in 2009
Potential: Balanced hard-hitting defenseman

Simon Bertilsson is a puck-moving defenseman with a very specific skill-set. He is smart, mobile, mean, and even has a decent offensive upside. He’s more of a balanced defenseman who can hit pretty hard, and his game is sort of like another Swedish defenseman, Niklas Kronwall. He certainly does not let his hard-hitting or his puck-moving abilities get in the way of his defensive capabilities. Bertilsson is a very balanced defenseman.

Bertilsson is the kind of defenseman that is smart, can move the puck, can provide offense, can play a solid defensive game, and also just happens to like to skate through walls.

Unfortunately for Bertilsson, the 1 goal and 4 assists he has in his 51 game SEL career is not indicative of his true offensive potential. It is important to remember that he is a boy playing amongst men in the Swedish Elite League. When competing with the U-20′s in the junior league at the age of 17 before getting SEL time, Bertilsson scored 9 goals and added another 22 assists for 31 points in 30 games. He definitely has some skills.

He was hoping to be a major part of Team Sweden in the World Junior Championships this year, but an injury held him off of the final roster. It has also cut into the amount of games he could be playing with Brynas in the SEL this year.

Bertilsson also happens to be from the same system as Eriksson. Though Eriksson is playing with Leksand right now, if Markstrom vacates his starting position for North America, both Bertilsson and Eriksson could be reunited in the SEL next season. There’s a slight chance that either or both could head to the Phantoms next year, but the odds of that happening are slim.

8. Denis Bodrov -- D
Age: 23
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 2nd round (#55) in 2006
Potential: Smart shut-down defenseman

Professional hockey has been a tedious task for Denis Bodrov. At one point, General Manager Paul Holmgren was doing everything possible to get him over to North America. It didn’t work out, and Bodrov continued with his career in the KHL. Suddenly locker room dramatics became apparent. Because of this, he was traded off a team that included his brother to another organization where his problems began to translate into poor on-ice performances. It was only a matter of time before he was let go, and his contract was effectively ripped up.

Bodrov is finally getting the opportunity to leave Russia and all of his problems behind him. This season with the Phantoms is his fresh start.

There is obviously more to the story that the media is not hearing. There was also some very telling shenanigans going on where Bodrov and some state officials marched on Mytishchi Atlant’s stadium to take possessions in the form of motor vehicles. Why did this happen? It turns out Atlant was refusing to pay the overdue contract balance as well as the remainder of the contract rightfully owed to Bodrov.

While his court battle continued overseas, Bodrov turned to the only place he had left to go: the Flyers. Holmgren saw Bodrov finally fall into his lap and got him set-up with an AHL contract on the Phantoms since Holmgren was flirting with the 50 contract NHL limit. Bodrov was a little out of shape but has since performed well with the Phantoms.

Bodrov is the type of player that won’t let his size get in the way. He is a very smart shut-down defenseman, who could have a solid NHL career ahead of him if he does not let other issues throw him off track in North America like they did in the KHL.

Long Way To Go

1. Luke Pither -- C
Age: 20
Acquired: Signed as a Free-Agent
Draft: Undrafted
Potential: Secondary skilled scorer

Luke Pither is one of the two newest members of the Flyers organization signed just this past Tuesday. It’s easy to decipher Holmgren’s rationale behind Pither even though he is a long-shot prospect. With the graduation of Giroux and vanRiemsdyk to the NHL level full-time, the forward position of the prospect pool is looking a little thin on talented, game-breaking scorers. There’s absolutely no question that Pither is a game-breaker. He was originally a top 5 draft pick to even get into the OHL even though he failed to get drafted by the NHL.

Pither is currently 3rd in the OHL in scoring and will join the Phantoms next season.

There are some cautions there though. He has his faults, and they are not talent. The real question is whether the Flyers can correct these very fixable problems when no one else has been able to so far. Pither has been described as an unbelievable offensive talent who disappears as the slightest hint of physicality. He needs plenty of open space to work and doesn’t do so well in traffic. He’s also quite a bit less than reliable on the backcheck to help out defensively. These are all correctable problems, but he has to want to learn these parts of the game before any amount of time with the Flyers’ organization will help him correct them.

He has incredible speed, an incredible shot, and incredible puck-handling. In open space, he is a terror. If the Flyers can harness that into something useable then this could be a steal of a signing. He started out with the Kingston Frontenacs but moved onto the Guelph Storm midseason during his second OHL year. He was misused there for a number of years before heading to the Belleville Bulls in the middle of the 2008-09 season. There he put up an incredible 42 points off of 19 goals in 23 games. This year, now with the Barrie Colts, he has continued his unbelievable offensive dominance and is third in the OHL in scoring with 34 goals along with 55 assists for 89 points in 62 games.

Pither will be added to the Phantoms’ roster next season where the Flyers can get a better look at him.

2. Shane Harper -- RW
Age: 21
Acquired: Signed as a Free-Agent
Draft: Undrafted
Potential: Secondary skilled scorer

Shane Harper is the other undrafted free-agent prospect that Holmgren liked enough to give him a chance with the Phantoms, but Harper also comes with a cool story about his journey through youth hockey. The California native grew up in the L.A. area playing roller hockey until he was six. He then changed over to ice hockey where he actually became good friends with Wayne Gretzy’s son. Birthday parties with the Great One and the Great One’s son must have been a thrilling experience for a California kid whose parents had no interest whatsoever in hockey.

Harper's play with the Everett Silvertips this season has earned him an NHL contract with the Flyers despite never being drafted.

Another interesting thing to realize about Harper is that he has not missed a game in two full seasons along with the entirety of this one. He was a healthy scratch for the first game of the 2007-08 season but has not looked back since, becoming the all-time leader in games played for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. This season he also tied a team record for goals in a season with 39 though there are quite a few games left to go. He also has 35 assists this season in the 66 games that he’s played putting him at 74 points on the season and 17th in the WHL in scoring.

He’s not as offensively gifted as Pither, but he is a much more balanced player. He has a ton of offensive talent and is one of the best stick-handlers in the WHL this season. He also has a very fast, accurate snipe of a shot that is able to catch goaltenders off guard and possesses a good work ethic. He will also be joining Pither and the other Flyers’ prospects in the AHL next season.

3. Adam Morrison -- G
Age: 19
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 3rd round (#81) in 2009
Potential: Average starting goaltender

Without a 1st or 2nd round pick in 2009, the Flyers used their first selection in the draft to pick up a promising WHL goalie in Adam Morrison. He had very good numbers as a back-up in 2008-09, and the Flyers hoped his talent would lead to greater things in 2009-10.

Morrison backed up Capitals' prospect Braden Holtby last season, and despite a great performance early in this season, he has taken a nose-dive back to the back-up position.

Well, the organization got its wish for at least half a season. For half the year, Morrison was spectacular in net. He was among all of the goaltending leaders in the WHL in both GAA and save percentage. Unfortunately, that’s where things started to go south for the 19-year-old. He wasn’t performing well even though the team continued to help him earn wins.

The Saskatoon Blades had acquired an undrafted goaltender earlier in the year, who had been struggling on the Prince Albert Raiders, to be the back-up goalie. Steven Stanford slowly climbed his way up to the starting position, and though he doesn’t have spectacular numbers, he is still winning games. Morrison’s numbers have taken a severe nose-dive, but he is young. He has plenty of time to regroup and come back out next season as a stronger goaltender. He certainly has the talent to do so, but he seems to be a streaky goaltender who relies a lot on his own confidence.

4. Dave Labrecque -- C
Age: 20
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 6th round (#153) in 2009
Potential: Secondary skilled scorer

The Flyers picked up center Dave Labrecque late in the 2009 out of the QMJHL because of his offensive explosion in 2008-09. Almost out of nowhere because of more playing time, Labrecque scored 13 goals and added 48 assists for 61 points in 59 games. He had developed into a very talented playmaking center with some great skating for the Shawinigan Cataractes.

Labrecque is another talented offensive weapon who will look to better his overall game in the AHL next season.

This year Labrecque has 4 less points in the same amount of games, but he is improving in other areas. This offseason he focused on his goal-scoring, and it seems to have paid off. He jumped from 13 goals to 22 goals and has become a more balanced offensive weapon.

Labrecque is still growing, but he’s going to have a hard time jumping into the fray at the AHL level immediately. He had a very impressive camp this past offseason with the Flyers, but his defensive liabilities are not something the organization can just ignore.

Like Pither and Harper, Labrecque is a talented scorer who is going to take a little work before he can hopefully emerge as an NHLer. He is another forward that will also likely join the Phantoms next season.

5. Nicola Riopel -- G
Age: 21
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 5th round (#142) in 2009
Potential: Average starting goaltender

Nicola Riopel seemed to be a QMJHL late bloomer when he stumbled on the best season that any QMJHL goaltender has ever had. The Flyers, thin at the goaltending position, decided to take a chance on the athletic Riopel in the 6th round. I mean, why not? He only had a 2.05 GAA, 0.930 save percentage, and 43 wins over the course of 59 games played in 2008-09.

Riopel is an extremely athletic and quick goaltender dominating the highest scoring league on the planet.

Well, Riopel joined the Phantoms early this season and performed poorly the back-up while the Phantoms were struggling. Johan Backlund, a free-agent the Flyers brought in on a one-year deal to see if he had what it takes to survive in North America, ended up the AHL starter. Backlund’s performance meant that the raw Riopel was not seeing a large chunk of the workload.

Because of this, Riopel was sent back down to the Moncton Wildcats in the highest scoring league on the planet and is doing well. In fact, to say he is doing well might be a gross understatement. In 21 games since his return, he has an absolutely unbelievable 1.93 GAA, a 0.920 save percentage, and 18 wins.

Since it’s looking more like Backlund will not be returning to the Phantoms next season, it’s very possible that Riopel could end up the starter in the AHL. He will need to work out some of the kinks, but he definitely has the talent and athleticism to handle an AHL position after he gets in rhythm. If he can dominate the highest scoring league in the world, like he has been for two years straight, there may be nothing completely out of reach for Riopel.

6. Andrei Popov -- RW
Age: 21
Acquired: Draft
Draft: 7th round (#205) in 2006
Potential: Power-forward secondary scorer

Andrei Popov is another surprise for the Flyers’ organization. They picked him up as a long-shot in the last round round way back in 2006. The following year he had his debut with Chelyabinsk Traktor of the Russian league, which would soon become the famous KHL.

Popov hit a massive offensive explosion during his fourth season in Russia's highest league but has slowed down considerably since an injury benched him for 6 games.

Popov got off to a really slow start offensively. The power-forward suffered from poor offensive outputs for three straight seasons before 2009-10 rolled around. Suddenly, and without warning, Popov hit an offensive explosion nobody seemed to expect. He was averaging nearly a point-per-game at the beginning of the season and was keeping up with many of the KHL stars.

Things slowed down to a grinding halt though when Popov was injured. He spent some time out of the lineup to heal, but when he returned, the offense had disappeared. He slowly floated down the KHL leader boards and was overtaken by two other players on his team despite missing only 6 games.

Even so, 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points in 48 points is a career year for Popov by a large margin. He has tripled his career high in goals and more than doubled his career high in points. He’s got the potential to be a viable power-forward at the NHL level even though his skating could use some work. The unfortunate reality is that it may be hard to ever get Popov to the States so that the Flyers can get a better look at him. He would likely top out on the 3rd line with the Flyers, but in the KHL, he has the opportunity to be a high-paid star.

7. Tyler Hostetter -- D
Age: 19
Acquired: Signed as a Free-Agent
Draft: Undrafted
Potential: Offensive defenseman

The Flyers signed the Pennsylvania native Tyler Hostetter after he was skipped over in the 2009 draft.

As the 153rd ranked North American skater in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, it is odd that Tyler Hostetter did not get picked up. He is a really good skater, can move the puck pretty well, and is unafraid to join the rush. Like many offensive defenseman though, his one draw-back is his reliability in the defensive zone.

The Flyers managed to sign him to an ELC after the draft in order to secure another depth defenseman at the AHL level with some NHL potential for next season. It was a good signing, but like Matsumoto, at some point Hostetter is going to be fighting a numbers game with other talented, young blueliners competing for ice-time and eventually an NHL role.

That hasn’t stopped Hostetter from working hard with the Otters in the OHL. He has improved on his offenisve production even though he is a defenseman. In 57 games played he has scored 2 goals and added another 23 assists for 25 points. He will likely be with the Phantoms next season.

Flyers do nothing at deadline, sort of

Posted by Chris Shafer On March - 3 - 2010

It took a week or so for the Flyers to get used to a new kind of coaching under Laviolette, but the team seems to have sparked due his energetic system.

It’s easy to go and blame contract clauses and shortage of usable assets for the Flyers’ lack of movement on trade deadline day. While everyone wanted a shiny new toy to throw into the locker room, no team really got anything special in one of the slowest Trade Deadline Holidays in recent memory.

Not much happened among the competitors today and yesterday other than Pittsburgh getting a serviceable winger and Washington getting a decent defenseman for some minor assets.

The biggest change in the Eastern Conference is likely the Devils getting Kovalchuk, which happened even before the Olympics. We all know how the Flyers handled that situation.

It takes a special kind of person to see that changes need to be made to a roster to have the best shot at winning in the postseason, but sometimes it takes a calmer hand to realize that giving up too much may not be in the best interest of the team. It takes a real man to claim he’s willing to stand pat.

Holmgren stood pat, and all we can do now is wait for the rest of the season to play out.

After a dominating third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, you kind of had the feeling that there wasn’t much that needed to be changed on this team.

Obviously with Emery done for the season, you would like a starting goalie with a little more pedigree, but last night was Leighton’s fifth straight game giving up only two goals. The defense seems comfortable with him. He isn’t great, he has some flaws, and he certainly has the ability to make quite a few people nervous, but it is what it is. I’m not saying you should feel completely comfortable with Leighton, but our offense and defense are world class.

I’m not saying that we’re the favorites, but really, those teams that you may think have the best shot at the Cup have their own problems to deal with as well.

You want to know what Laviolette’s system and a world class team has turned Leighton into? Here you go:

Goals Against Average

  • Tuukka Rask (BOS) – 2.15 GAA
  • Ryan Miller (BUF) – 2.16 GAA
  • Mike Leighton (PHI) – 2.18 GAA / Miikka Kiprusoff (CGY) – 2.18 GAA
  • Antti Niemi (CHI) – 2.26 GAA
  • Jimmy Howard (DET) – 2.28 GAA

Save Percentage

  • Thomas Vokoun (FLA) – 0.931 SV%
  • Mike Leighton (PHI) – 0.930 SV% / Ryan Miller (BUF) – 0.930 SV%
  • Jimmy Howard (DET) – 0.927 SV% / Evgeny Nabokov (SJS) – 0.927 SV%
  • Tuukka Rask (BOS) – 0.926 SV%
  • Miikka Kiprusoff (CGY) – 0.925 SV%

Leighton has 13-3-1 record in 19 games played and is not only tied for second with Ryan “USA’s Hero” Miller in save percentage at 0.930 but is also tied for third in GAA at 2.18. In 77 games played over his career before his return to Philadelphia this season, Leighton has 18 total wins with a 3.63 GAA and a 0.878 SV%.

I’d say that Laviolette’s system and our elite team is a major part of that, and though I’m not completely confident in Leighton, there is a lot to work with when your team can turn a guy like him to a legitimate goaltender.

You also have to look at what other teams wanted in return for a goalie. Montreal asked for Carter for Jaroslav Halak. It’s also likely they asked for one of Giroux or vanRiemsdyk for Carey Price. For Thomas Vokoun, Florida wanted Carter as well.

That wasn’t about to happen.

Our deadline moves were simple. Ryan Parent is now healthy and will help out a lot. Lukas Krajicek was claimed off waivers to add even more depth. Because of that, our defense is arguably the best in the entire NHL. We did all of this without sacrificing any forward strength. Hell, we even gained a former Calder Trophy favorite for rookie of the year from Detroit for almost nothing in Ville Leino. If one of our forwards goes out, we have a competent replacement waiting in the wings.

In the end, the hiring of Peter Laviolette may be the best trade deadline move we could have done.

We also signed a couple of prospects to add to our pool of forwards. I will update them later tonight.

For now, the Flyers look to play the Florida Panthers tonight at 7:30.

NHL Post-Olympic Mission Statement

Posted by Chris Shafer On March - 2 - 2010

Forward James vanRiemsdyk is not only looking to become an elite hockey player from New Jersey, but he is also an American with hopes for a gold medal some day.

Here I am on a Tuesday morning working on an top prospect article for the Flyers’ top 20 prospects with Mike & Mike in the Morning playing on the TV in the background. For those who have never heard of the show, it’s normally some of the best programming ESPN has to offer even though quality ESPN programming has become hard to find in recent years.

Well, this morning there was a big deal about the NHL. I was in shock. ESPN should not be talking about hockey. That’s not something it never does outside of when a three second clip of some incredible, miraculous goal gets beat out in the top 10 on Sports Center by a couple of mediocre dunks that any NBA player can make in any game.

The talk this morning was about how the NHL is going to capitalize off the incredible atmosphere that the Gold Medal Game against Canada created.

Even though Team USA lost, it was the most watched hockey game in the United States since 1980. It pulled in more viewers than any NBA Finals game since 1998, more viewers than any MLB World Series game since 2004, and every NCAA Final Four Basketball game since 1998. Not including NFL related football, it was the 2nd most watched single sports event this year falling just shy of the BCS National Championship game.

That’s just in the United States.

As far as Canada is concerned…well last Sunday was arguably their most important game in Canadian sports’ history. To say the majority of the country tuned in would be a gross understatement.

Everyone in the world watched last Sunday’s gold medal game, and even though the United States lost, nothing can be taken away from that one incredible game.

So where does the NHL go from there? How does it become more popular from one incredible event?

ESPN wants them to take out the fighting because it’s so much more destructive and violent than any other television program kids will see. Fighting cheapens the game of hockey, but if there is a fight in the stands at an NBA game or a massive player brawl on the field at Miami University, ESPN won’t fail to show non-stop live coverage until everyone has had their say.

Fighting is not the reason nobody watches hockey, and in fact, to say nobody watches hockey is a bit of a severe misinterpretation of reality. Hockey is a culture that you either get or you don’t. There are no tweeners. There are no casual viewers. You either watch your local team or you tune in if something important happens. People won’t just pick up hockey a random hockey game to watch a superstar play like some might pick a football game out of their weekend selection.

Mike and Mike feel that is what needs to change. They feel the NHL needs faces; it needs names. Give me a name, and I’ll draw you a picture with words, you self-proclaimed journalists.

They talk about how there are no “story lines,” but who is at fault there? Story lines are written by the players, but they’re told by story tellers. The journalists are the ones that convey the story. There’s far too little actual journalism at ESPN and far too much sensationalism. Hockey gets lost in the fold.

If you really want to believe that hockey isn’t on ESPN because it’s not marketable, you really need to re-assess reality. ESPN has created Danica Patrick and midnight poker tournaments. What makes hockey so inferior to the garbage ESPN wastes it’s coverage on?

This is Trade Deadline week. It is practically a hockey holiday. Mike and Mike failed to mention that too.

Mike and Mike want to blame hockey for not marketing American stars like the Cherry Hilly native Bobby Ryan, or Zach Parise playing just north in New Jersey, or even the best goalie in the NHL, Ryan Miller. Unfortunately, what they don’t seem to realize is that these players exist just as much as the Brett Favres, the Kobe Bryants, and the Derek Jeters. Hockey players do exist. The stories are waiting to be told, so tell them. Don’t sit idly by making up excuses to look like you have some insight about what is wrong with the hockey world.

There is nothing wrong with hockey that can be fixed by people who know nothing about it. Mike and Mike couldn’t name you half of Team USA, but they know they exist. Find out who they are. If you really care enough to make it a point of emphasis on your show, then do something about it instead of playing the role of the Californian trying to tell the Philadelphian how to cook his cheesesteak.

I hope I do enough. I love sports. I love hockey. The gold medal game, despite the loss, was something spectacular. For Canada, the winners, it was one of those moments you will be able to tell your kid exactly where you were when it happened.

Don’t make excuses for hockey. We’ve proven we can survive without ESPN. It would be nice, however, if there was anything real about the way you talk about hockey. Mike and Mike, you are not journalists, you are not storytellers.

Any publicity is good publicity? I hope that’s true. I truly hope, for the future of hockey, that all the leaps and bounds USA Hockey has gone through as an organization over the past decade, to create a team worthy of skating on the same ice as the Canadians, have not gone to waste for your grand sense of self-righteousness. I hope kids everywhere begin to pick up their hockey sticks from Houston, TX to Duluth, MN and from Los Angeles, CA to Cherry Hill, NJ. I hope they do it just to spite you.

Lost in all of this was Team USA, which is slowly becoming one of the biggest hockey countries in the world. That’s right. USA Hockey has a group of young talent unlike anything it has ever had before. We will have our say. USA Hockey will not be denied whether ESPN will acknowledge its existence or not.

I wanted to beat the Canadians this time just like every other American on the planet, but they worship hockey. They celebrate hockey. As a country, we can never do that if people like you undermine sport; not just hockey, all sport.

Listen to the sounds of Vancouver, of a nation, as they celebrated, and tell me how different it was from New Orleans or even all of America in 1980. Tell me the difference. Tell me a story.

(Sound bite @1:15)

After all, in the end sports is just a story.

Guest Post: Down with Bunnies

Posted by Roman Zubarev On February - 20 - 2010

Let’s give a warm welcome to guest writer Candice Monhollan.

With NHL hockey on hiatus for the Olympics, life has been pretty quiet in Flyerdom. So instead of focusing on the team, I’m going to touch on a subject that reared its annoying head again.

An issue that has been bothering me all season long appeared again last night during the Canada-Switzerland game. A female Canada fan in the crowd held up a sign that read, “Sidney, can I hold your stick?”

So we seem to now have moved on from blatant marriage proposals to “sexual advances disguised as hockey talk,” as Sean Leahy of Puck Daddy describes it.

Now I may have you confused as to why this is an issue. Most male hockey fans just roll their eyes and shrug it off as desperate attempts by so-called “puck bunnies.” But what about the female hockey fans like myself?

If you take a vote of all the women at any given hockey game, I’m sure the majority will admit that they know very little to nothing at all about the sport itself. They’re probably there with their husbands or boyfriends to keep them company, or try to be the good, supportive companion.

But then there are those few ladies, like myself, who actually do know what’s going on. I take pride in the fact that I have studied (yes studied) and followed the sport of hockey. On any given day, I can fill an entire sheet of paper with the names of current NHL players, but I digress.

We ladies who go to the games not because our significant others asked us to, but because we want to. We love the thrill of the game, the smell of the rink, the sounds of the sticks and posts.

The problem is that these puck bunnies ruin the reputations of the rest of us. Their goal? To try and get the attention of the players on the ice for a date or more. A prime example was seen at a Pittsburgh Penguins game earlier this season in Calgary. 23-year-old Kristyne De Mott showed up to the game in a white dress and veil, holding a sign that said “Marry me Sidney.” A little much, wouldn’t you say?

Others, not as obvious, can usually be spotted at the glass for warm ups. You know, the ones all dressed in tight and/or revealing clothes and face covered in make up. Some have signs in tow, others do not. They try to let their looks do the talking.

These ladies give men the impression that women are only there to oggle the players and try to score with them, or even some of the guys at the games. Because of this, men look down upon the ladies.

I recently attended a Flyers game with my best friend, who also happens to be a girl. I noticed the looks I got from some men. The look of “What’s she doing here? She’s probably just here for the players.” I am even judged on my own personal pages, such as Facebook. You can always catch my comments and opinions going up during Flyers games. But for the people who follow me that do not know me personally, they always fight and contradict what I say. They do not take me seriously. What would I know? I’m just someone who can’t like hockey because I’m a girl.

Do I blame the men? Not really. I blame the women who bring this on to us. So this is my parting message.

To the men: Don’t be so critical toward women. Believe it or not, there are some of us who actually love the sport and teams. And there are also some of us who know what we’re talking about.

For the women: Don’t think I’m writing this to say that you can’t ever look at another player again. Just don’t cross the line. It’s okay to see a player and think, “Oh, he’s cute.” It’s even okay to sometimes fantasize what it would be like to be with one of those players. Men do it too, like with the ice girls (don’t deny it guys). But to show up dressed in white and protest your undying love to a player, that’s overkill.

So to all those puck bunnies out there, stop ruining the game for the rest of us. Your sad attempts are pathetic. Let us ladies have our credibility back. And besides, do you really believe all that effort is going to work?

Let Sidney Crosby answer for you.

“No,” Crosby told the Edmonton Sun after being asked if he was considering the offer from Kristyne De Mott. “I apologize.”

Your 2010 Olympic Hockey Guide

Posted by Chris Shafer On February - 14 - 2010

Former Flyer and NHL great Peter Forsberg will bring Team Sweden to Vancouver looking to upset another stacked Canadian team for his third gold medal.

There’s a lot at stake for Team Canada this year. Coming in as the  heavy favorites, the Canadian team, complete with Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Chris Pronger, is possibly one of the most talented and balanced teams to ever take the ice during the Olympic games.

Sweden, however, has plenty of talent and a roster filled with Olympic veteran leadership while Canada has a healthy group of newcomers to the Olympic games.

Then there is Russia with more offensive firepower than perhaps the world has ever witnessed.

That’s not to count out USA, the Czech Republic, Finland, and Slovakia which all have very talented rosters capable of upsetting any of the big three. Switzerland, Norway, Latvia, Belarus, and Germany close out the field of 12 as long-shots for a medal.

139 current NHL players will be competing in the games making up just over 1/2 of the entire 276 player field at the Olympics. Canada and the United States are the only two teams bringing a roster made completely up of NHL members. (Full Roster Guide)

This will be the 21st Olympic Winter Games and only the 2nd time Canada has hosted the event. The only time before these current games when Canada held the Winter Olympics was in 1988 in Calgary, Alberta. That year was a complete disaster as the Canadians failed to medal.

Even so, Canada leads the medal (and Gold medal) count with 16 total (9 Gold, 5 Silver, and 2 Bronze). The United States are 2nd overall in the medal count with 13 total (3 Gold, 8 Silver, and 2 Bronze. Sweden has 10 total medals (2 Gold, 3 Silver, and 5 Bronze), and Russia actually has 10 total as well when counting the Gold they won at the 1992 games in Albertville, France as the Unified Team (8 Gold, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze).

Jeff Carter to Play?

With Ryan Getzlaf’s injury more severe than previously suspected, there’s a good chance that Jeff Carter, as the alternate for Getzlaf, will be suiting up for Team Canada. The Anaheim Ducks have a game tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, and according to many sources, if Getzlaf does not play then Carter will be the Olympian.

Flyers, Former and Current, At The Games

Former Flyer Peter Forsberg carrying the Swedish flag yesterday night after the first Montreal game signaled one thing: the Olympics are back. Forsberg, as the leader for Sweden, is definitely one of the most important hockey players to watch. He will obviously be wearing #21. If he performs well, the Flyers could look into him for next season.

Former Flyers at the Games:

  • Peter Forsberg will be wearing #21 for Sweden.
  • Luca Sbisa will be wearing #91 for Switzerland.
  • Joni Pitkanen will be wearing #25 for Finland.
  • Lasse Kukkonen will be wearing #5 for Finland.
  • Antero Niittymaki will be wearing #30 for Finland.
  • Patrick Thoresen will be playing for Norway. (#TBD)
  • Ole-Kristian Tollefsen will be playing for Norway. (#TBD)

Current Flyers at the Games:

  • Chris Pronger will be wearing #20 for Canada.
  • Mike Richards will be wearing #18 for Canada.
  • Jeff Carter will be playing for Canada pending news on Ryan Getzlaf’s injury. (#TBD)
  • Kimmo Timonen will be wearing #44 for Finland.
  • Oskars Bartulis will be playing for Latvia. (#TBD)

Need a reason to cheer for Team USA?

There are some that believe defenseman Matt Carle was a snub. It’s very possible with his play this season that Carle deserved to be on the roster more than 1 or 2 of the defensemen that Toronto Maple Leaf’s GM Brian Burke selected for the team. James vanRiemsdyk, with his outstanding rookie season, also could have made a case for himself, but in the end, he was likely a little too young to compete at the Olympics against the best competition in the world. There are enough Flyers on Canada’s team (Richards, Pronger, and Carter will likely play due to Getzlaf’s injury being more severe than previously thought) to make a case to cheer for Canada as a back-up.

Even so, this is America. You can pick Sweden as a back-up (as I am) or Finland for Timonen, but the reality is that as an American you should keep Team USA at the front. Well, I have your reason.

His name is Bobby Ryan, and he will be sporting #54.

He was born and raised a Flyers fan right across the river from Philly in Cherry Hill, NJ. He grew up working out at Bobby Clarke’s own facilities, and it is widely known that the Flyers desperately tried to move up to the 2nd overall position in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft to take Ryan right behind Sidney Crosby. He is a good, young powerforward currently playing out in Anaheim if you’ve never heard of him. I will be cheering for him and Team USA to capture gold this winter in Vancouver with Sweden and Canada as my fall-backs.

I will also be providing updates on games here at Phinally Philly and through my twitter account.

Full Television Schedule In EST
*Must-watch preliminary and USA matches are italicized.

03:00PM EST – USA vs. NORWAY (USA)
03:00PM EST – CZECH (5) vs. LATVIA (12) – (USA)
07:30PM EST – CANADA (6) vs. GERMANY (11) – (CNBC)
10:00PM EST – SLOVAKIA (7) vs. NORWAY (10) – (CNBC)
12:00AM EST – SWITZERLAND (8) vs. BELARUS (9) – (NBC)

Flyers win four, off to Vancouver

Posted by Chris Shafer On February - 14 - 2010

Blair Betts registered a short-handed goal tonight in the blowout win against the Canadiens only days after receiving a nice two-year extension from the organization.

There may be no better way to head into the Olympic Break than with four straight wins through two home-and-homes against playoff bound teams.

First the Flyers iced the Devils with the newly acquired Ilya Kovalchuk, twice coming back from 2-0 deficits to win both games 3-2 in dramatic fashion. Next up was the Montreal Canadiens who fell down 3-0 in the first game and never quite recovered enough. Then, in response to some late game extracurriculars and perhaps a little blurb likening them to NAZIs, the Flyers took out their pre-Olympic frustrations on a worn, battered, and beaten Montreal Canadiens, even chasing Team Slovakia’s Olympic goalie, Jaroslav Halak, from the net.

Most importantly, the Flyers nest themselves fairly comfortably in 6th place in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand against Ottawa above them, two points in hand against Boston below them, and three games in hand against Montreal, who now sit below the Bruins at 64 points. The Flyers have 67 points with 22 games left to play. The magic number is likely somewhere around 90.

For now at least, it seems the offense has returned as well. Though the stellar defensive play is helping Leighton keep the Flyers in games with Emery resting through the entire Olympic Break, the team is now putting some points up once again.

Believe it or not Hartnell wins the week of four wins with 6 assists for 6 points. Carter is up next with 5 goals, and Briere, after a hat trick tonight, ties him with 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points. Pronger gets 4 assists, and Giroux gets 3. Gagne gets a pair of assists and an incredible OT winner against the Devils. Betts and Carle both get a goal and an assist while Timonen and Coburn each get a pair of assists. Richards, vanRiemsdyk, and Asham walk away with a goal each, and Powe and Bartulis each finish out with an assist.

Needless to say, this week has done wonders for some offensive point totals. Two great come-from-behind wins against the division rival Devils as well as a pair of dominant efforts against Montreal had to have done wonders for the team’s confidence.

Now, the Olympics

Former Flyer Peter Forsberg carrying the Swedish flag yesterday night after the first Montreal game signaled one thing: the Olympics are back. Forsberg, as the leader for Sweden, is definitely one of the most important hockey players to watch. He will obviously be wearing #21. If he performs well, the Flyers could look into him for next season.

Former Flyers at the games:

  • Peter Forsberg will be wearing #21 for Sweden.
  • Luca Sbisa will be wearing #91 for Switzerland.
  • Joni Pitkanen will be wearing #25 for Finland.
  • Lasse Kukkonen will be wearing #5 for Finland.
  • Antero Niittymaki will be wearing #30 for Finland.
  • Patrick Thoresen will be playing for Norway. (#TBD)
  • Ole-Kristian Tollefsen will be playing for Norway. (#TBD)

Of the current Flyers competing:

  • Chris Pronger will be wearing #20 for Canada.
  • Mike Richards will be wearing #18 for Canada.
  • Jeff Carter will be playing for Canada pending news on Ryan Getzlaf’s injury. (#TBD)
  • Kimmo Timonen will be wearing #44 for Finland.
  • Oskars Bartulis will be playing for Latvia. (#TBD)

Need a reason to cheer for Team USA?

There are some that believe defenseman Matt Carle was a snub. It’s very possible with his play this season that Carle deserved to be on the roster more than 1 or 2 of the defensemen that Toronto Maple Leaf’s GM Brian Burke selected for the team. James vanRiemsdyk, with his outstanding rookie season, also could have made a case for himself, but in the end, he was likely a little too young to compete at the Olympics against the best competition in the world. There are enough Flyers on Canada’s team (Richards, Pronger, and Carter will likely play due to Getzlaf’s injury being more severe than previously thought) to make a case to cheer for Canada as a back-up.

Even so, this is America. You can pick Sweden as a back-up (as I am) or Finland for Timonen, but the reality is that as an American you should keep Team USA at the front. Well, I have your reason.

His name is Bobby Ryan, and he will be sporting #54.

He was born and raised a Flyers fan right across the river from Philly in Cherry Hill, NJ. He grew up working out at Bobby Clarke’s own facilities, and it is widely known that the Flyers desperately tried to move up to the 2nd overall position in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft to take Ryan right behind Sidney Crosby. He is a good, young powerforward currently playing out in Anaheim if you’ve never heard of him. I will be cheering for him and Team USA to capture gold this winter in Vancouver with Sweden and Canada as my fall-backs.

I will also be providing updates on games here at Phinally Philly and through my twitter account.

Go Team USA!

To the Flyers not participating…heal those wounds. The season starts up again in March, and the Trade Deadline is right around the corner.

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