The Countdown Begins
Training camp is approaching quickly. Many players are practicing in Voorhees, tickets for pre-season are on sale, and the smell of hockey is in the air.
It’s easy to be optimistic at this point in the year. The Flyers followed their unexpected run into the playoffs with a great off-season of signings and draft acquisitions. But we all know that it takes more than a few personnel changes to forge a Stanley Cup contender.
Simon Gagne has often been referred to as the “free agent” signing of 2008 for the Orange and Black. And in many ways he is – two-time 40-goal scorer, plays on the power play and penalty kill, and great speed on the wing. But Gagne is returning from a major injury. Historically, he requires a half season of play to get back into the swing of things.
That means the Flyers may need to find ways to win without points from their star winger. On the positive side, Gagne is an excellent two-way player who will attract the opposition’s top checking lines. That should leave more space for Richards and Carter to work some magic.
Speaking of Jeff Carter, this is the season for him to step up to the plate. He improved defensively in 07-08 and demonstrated the ability to carry this team when MIke Richards went down with a hamstring injury. At 23 years of age, it’s time to prove that ability across longer stretches of time. Streaky play will not cut it when you’re making $5 million per year under the cap system.
The other big question for this year: Marty Biron. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. But FF, did you see him grab those two consecutive shutouts to lead the team into the playoffs? Did you miss the way he flashed his glove on Ovechkin, Semin, and Backstrom? Did you watch those games against Montreal?
I did, and he was incredible. But that was a Biron we saw only a few glimpses of during the regular season. He was competent most of the time, streaky occasionally, and downright awful in the second of back-to-back games. This is a contract year for Biron, and he needs to prove that last year’s playoff performance wasn’t a fluke.