The holiday season is upon us and, while stockpiling items on our Amazon wish lists, we decided to come up with our own list of things we would want for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011. Here are our top 10 wishes, minus the most obvious one (a Stanley Cup championship):
10. Cap relief
The Flyers have zero need for Matt Walker. They never did. When he becomes healthy, if the Flyers can find a taker who is desperate for a physical defender, jackpot. If not, just waive him. Meanwhile, it probably won’t be too long before the goaltending logjam gets resolved. I think another team would take a chance on Leighton, assuming he gets showcased and performs well in the next few weeks. This could have a huge impact on the team, which leads me to our next point…
9. A contract extension for Ville Leino
By moving Walker and/or Leighton, the Flyers should be far enough under next season’s cap to offer Ville Leino an in-season contract extension. Accomplishing that at a reasonable price would officially wrap up Paul Holmgren’s most successful stretch as a GM to date.
8. A breakout second half for James van Riemsdyk
So far, van Riemsdyk’s career has been a roller coaster ride. Some days, he’s the best player on the ice. On other days, his play warrants being a healthy scratch. As the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, he has a lot of pressure and high expectations put on him and I’m confident that he has the skill needed to be a top tier player. However, he does not appear to have the drive and determination necessary. If he can find a happy medium between his highs and lows after the holidays, it would be a big step in his development.
7. Good health
Although the Flyers were hit early on with the news of injuries to Michael Leighton, Ian Laperriere, and Matt Walker, everything has worked out well so far. The health of key players could play a big factor through the rest of the season. The Flyers might be able to overcome the loss of a Sergei Bobrovsky or a Claude Giroux in the long run but it is the last thing I want to see.
6. Discipline and restraint
The Flyers average 15.7 penalty minutes per game and they have taken a total of 185 penalties to date. These numbers are among the league’s worst (26th and 29th, respectively). The team needs to play more disciplined hockey down the stretch so that they don’t burn themselves out for important games and the playoffs.
5. Goals for Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros
When Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros came to Philadelphia, they were essentially reclamation projects. Their careers veered off course from promising rookie years and nobody knew if they were capable of getting back on track. For the most part, both players have done a great job here in Philadelphia, arguably outplaying the highly-touted Braydon Coburn to make up the second half of our top four defenders. However, neither player is having much luck scoring goals. The projects would come to completion if they start finding the back of the net.
4. Relocating the Phantoms back to Philadelphia
I know this isn’t the most realistic item on the list — especially considering the fact that the Spectrum is no longer an option — but, hey, it’s called a wish list for a reason. We love our hockey here in Philly and, if we can watch games cheaply, it’s even better. Phantoms games were great for families, people on tight budgets, and hardcore fans who wanted to keep a close eye on prospects. Bring the Phantoms back home where they belong, Comcast. We miss them.
3. More power play time for Nikolay Zherdev
OK, I get the fact that Peter Laviolette likes holding players accountable and values hard workers over skilled players but let’s be real here. Nikolay Zherdev would contribute more to the power play than he does on the fourth line, yet he averages only 1:06 of power play time per game. He has 10 goals on the season and is 4th on the team in goals per game (.34), despite his limited time on ice (12:00, 18th on the team). Laviolette needs to give him more of a shot to prove his worth to this team.
2. Consistency on the power play
Does this one even need to be explained? Despite being first overall in the NHL standings, the Flyers sit at a meager 16.2% on the PP, which is 18th overall in the league. Nonetheless, the team scores 3.34 goals per game (2nd overall). Just imagine how dangerous they would be if they could score on the power play.
1. The healthy, triumphant return of Ian Laperriere
It would be the feel-good story of the year; concussed Ian Laperriere defies all odds as his symptoms disappear and he is cleared to play again. Lappy gave his all to this team and it was heartbreaking to see his career cut short due to his post-concussion symptoms. Perhaps the only thing I want more than seeing the Flyers win the Stanley Cup would be to see Lappy on the ice with the team, hoisting the Cup over his head.