This series will cover all thirty teams and go over the most important player, and player who’s performance most needs to improve to help the team succeed.
Out with the (not so) old, in with the new. If any team has had more turnover, particularly among its top players than the Flyers did this off season I don’t know who they are. It is hard to argue the city of Brotherly Love’s favorite team is stronger immediately, but they may be better three years from now than the team that was chased from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins in an inglorious sweep last spring. Shipping out one of the top two way centers in Mike Richards, and a goal machine in Jeff Carter is a big gamble. The rest of the people they let walk are almost negligible after the former team captain and his running buddy.
James Van Riemsdyk was anointed the future of the franchise even before the playoffs came to an end. The media love-in for JVR was about what one would expect of someone who found a cure for cancer that can be made from sugar water and bacon. When the suits in Flyerland moved Richards and Carter and let half the roster walk then for an encore made him the longest signed skater on the team it was clear the media had red the feelings of team management right. So all the third year player has to do is somehow justify the contract he signed in the off season. True, this contract doesn’t kick in until next season, but hey since when do fans in certain cities pay any attention to things like that? Realistically the three lettered man probably needs to crack the sixty point plateau to stave off fan wrath and drag the team into the playoffs.
With the former official captain no longer on the team Chris Pronger is freer to work his wiles upon the team. Unfortunately there are two factors at play that might prevent him from doing so. One is the wonky back that derailed his season last year. The other is how new many faces are on the team and the baggage they may bring with them. Jaromir Jagr is back in the NHL and not likely to go with the prevailing wind if he doesn’t like its direction, even if it comes from a figure like Pronger. Wayne Simmonds seems to have brought a cloud of controversy with him out of La-La-Land. And Ilya Bryzgalov is newly signed goalie who is expected to be the best goalie in team history, get used to a new city and team, and probably save kittens from trees in his spare time. Those are just some of the personalities that could cause spiritual drift in the locker room