Depth across the board
I love the fact that Philadelphia does not possess a single bonafide NHL superstar on its roster. It’s great to see a team with solid talent and grit facing all opposition as a true team. Too often in this salary cap world we see teams slap a mega-star in amongst cast of lowly supporting characters and rookies and call it a playoff-worthy ship. (Think this year’s Ottawa Senators. Or the 2007-08 Maple Leafs. Or the 2007-08 Florida Panthers.)
Before you all start posting comments about the awesomeness of Danny Briere and accusing me of vastly underrating Braydon Coburn or Jeff Carter, think for a second about the Flyers’ roster compared to the NHL’s finest talent.
Would you genuinely rank any of the Philly forwards among the top ten in the NHL? Ovechkin, Crosby, Iginla, Lecavalier, Thornton, Malkin, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Spezza, Alfresson, Kovalchuk, E. Staal . . . do I need to keep going? As much as Briere, Gagne, and Richards contribute to this squad, they aren’t exactly supremely gifted compared with their peers.
And really, is Timonen-Coburn the best defensive pairing out there? After taking out Lidstrom and any possible partner he would have, you have to eliminate Scott Niedermayer, Zdeno Chara, Dion Phaneuf, Chris Pronger, Brian Campbell and Sergei Gonchar first. Then take out offensive D-men like Mike Green, Mark Streit, and Andrei Markov. Even with those guys down, any conversation revolving around Timonen and Coburn will speak of Timonen’s quiet effectiveness and Coburn’s potential for growth. Certainly not a rousing example of defensive prowess there.
Then there’s the goaltending. Martin Biron isn’t even the best goaltender in the Atlantic Division, let alone the Eastern Conference. And the east is the weak half of the NHL. As for Antero Niittymaki, he’s a great back-up, but I doubt he’ll be genuinely challenging guys in his age group like Ryan Miller for a fulltime gig in the near future.
No, Philadelphia doesn’t have surpassing greatness within the ranks. But that’s what propelled this team to the 2007-08 Eastern Conference FInals. They were a team. No one wins without a sustained effort from everyone else.
I once heard the great trumpet player Wynton Marsalis comment that, in music, “Sustained intensity equals ecstasy.” Well, this Philadelphia Flyers team doesn’t have star power on its side this season, and they will clash against the league’s best – Crosby, Malkin and Fleury in Pittsburgh; Drury, Gomez and Lundquist in New York; Martin Brodeur in New Jersey – on a regular basis. But with a constant, complete effort, the Orange and Black could definitely go all the way.