In order to make sense of the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Holmgren, we need to compare these roster changes to a version of the 2010 Flyers and see how those parts changed. Here is a look at that the forwards from team:
Gagne – Richards – Carter
Hartnell – Briere – Leino
JvR – Giroux – Asham
Carcillo/Powe – Betts – Laperriere
So, what’s different? A lot, on paper. Here’s my attempt at projecting the 2012 offensive lines, barring any other changes:
JvR – Giroux – Voracek
Hartnell – Briere – Jagr
Nodl – Schenn – Simmonds
Holmstrom/Betts – Talbot – Sestito
Let’s compare age and size (using current numbers):
’12: 6’1″, 205.2lb.
’10: 6’0″, 200.8lb.
Schenn becomes Richards
Schenn: 6’0″, 195lb., 19
Richards 5’11″, 195lb., 26
This is an easy one. Brayden Schenn modeled his game after Mike Richards and projects to become the same type of forward. Of course, he won’t step into the lineup and automatically become Richards but the fact that he’s considered NHL ready at the age of 19 — he’ll be 20 when the season starts, the age Richards was when he joined the Flyers — is a good start.
Jagr becomes Leino
Jagr: 6’3″, 242lb., 39
Leino: 6’1″, 183lb., 27
Jaromir Jagr may be 39 but he performed at a high level in the KHL, during the Olympics, and at Worlds in recent years. Jagr is not a great skater at this point but neither is Ville Leino. Both players can control the puck and the pace of the game well. I expect Jagr to put up comparable numbers to what Leino did on a line with Hartnell and Briere. Considering that he cost $1.2M in cap space less than Leino, we can even consider it to be a bargain, as long as he doesn’t implode.
Talbot becomes Laperriere
Talbot: 5’11″, 191lb., 27
Laperriere: 6’1″, 200lb., 37
When Maxime Talbot signed a 5 year deal, I immediately questioned whether the Flyers believed they found their next Ian Laperriere. Sure enough, Holmgren confirmed this later in the day, stating that both players shared similar qualities. In my opinion, it’s not that easy to replace Lappy.
Yesterday, I asked Puck Daddy associate editor and Pens fan, Sean Leahy, for his feedback on Tablot.
“Good PKer who’s disappeared since Gm 7 of 09 SCF,” Said Leahy, via Twitter. “Good guy in room, but don’t expect consistency.”
Talbot is a question mark at this point but I’ve heard others suggest that he played better under Michel Therrien than he did under Dan Bylsma. Perhaps a change of scenery will do him some good.
Voracek becomes Carter
Voracek: 6’1″, 205lb., 21
Carter: 6’3″, 200lb., 26
After Jeff Carter was traded to Columbus, many people pointed out that, through their first three seasons, Jakub Voracek and Carter put up very similar numbers. It’s possible that he could have a breakout season next year. Since the Flyers only signed him to a one-year deal, I’m questioning how convinced they are that he will breakout.
Simmonds becomes Asham
Simmonds: 6’2″, 183lb., 22
Asham: 5’11″, 210lb., 33
Both players are pests who can score and aren’t afraid to be physical or drop the gloves. Through three NHL seasons, Wayne Simmonds has 15 fights and 93 points. He still needs to put on some weight but his 0.3875 point per game average is much more attractive than Arron Asham’s 0.274 PPG. He’ll add a good balance of scoring and physicality to the third line.
The big question is whether or not Simmonds can play on the penalty kill. After seeing some time on the PK through his first two seasons, he only played a total of 6:40 when shorthanded during the ’11 season.
Nodl becomes Gagne
Nodl: 6’1″, 196lb., 24
Gagne: 6’1″ 193lb., 31
We have a romantic view of Simon Gagne, picturing him playing alongside Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble on a line that dominated most teams in the league. In the last two seasons, though, Gagne has produced the exact same numbers: 17G, 23A, 40P. Andreas Nodl has the tools to put up similar numbers to that.
I believe Nodl can pick up the defensive forward and penalty killing slack Gagne left behind when he was traded to Tampa Bay, while still chipping in occasionally on offense.
Holmstrom may become Betts
Holmstrom: 6’1″, 197lb., 24
Betts: 6’3″, 210lb., 31
Blair Betts is a fragile player who took a step backwards at the center position last season. Ben Holmstrom is an up-and-coming player who should develop into a nice defensive forward and face off guy for the Flyers. I agree with Mark Trible’s view that Betts may be best used on the wing at this point but I don’t think Holmstrom will step in to fill his shoes unless Betts suffers an injury.
Betts may become Powe
Betts: 6’3″, 210lb., 31
Powe: 5’11″, 212lb., 26
If Betts is moved to the wing, he can still take face offs if the center gets kicked out of the dot. If Holmstrom usurps the role of Betts on the team, I expect Betts will play the second highest minutes while shorthanded, losing the top penalty killing slot to Holmstrom.
Sestito may become Carcillo
Sestito: 6’5″, 228lb., 23
Carcillo: 5’11″, 205lb., 26
Tom Sestito adds more size to the Flyers than Jody Shelley does and he has similar scoring abilities to Dan Carcillo. Sestito is a pest who can get under the skin of other players and can play more minutes than Shelley. I anticipate that he will also be less of a liability on the ice than either player as well.
What does it mean?
In the 2011 playoffs, the Flyers barely beat the Buffalo Sabres and looked entirely lifeless against the Boston Bruins. We can speculate that there are a number of different reasons this happened. Maybe they were out of gas or maybe they just assumed they deserved to win. We don’t know for certain. One thing we can say, though, is that the Bruins outmatched the Flyers physically and it was this physicality that helped Boston to win their first Stanley Cup in 39 years.
Paul Holmgren did not overlook this fact, as he made an aggressive and overwhelming effort to put together a bigger, grittier team. The team that hits the ice next season should be a much tougher one to play against from a physical standpoint than the 2011 team was.
Due to the age of the players and the cap restrictions, the Flyers had a limited window where they could reasonably be considered Stanley Cup contenders. Although Jagr is 39, the Flyers primarily got younger up front this offseason. They also took a step back on paper to compete for the Cup in 2012 but that window opened up quite a bit too. Bryzgalov provides some much-needed stability in net, Schenn and Sean Couturier have a bright future ahead of them, and the team added some needed depth in guys like Simmonds and Voracek who are not near reaching their peak yet.
A lot of people predict that the Flyers will add another winger. At this point in time, I don’t see an overwhelming need for it. The Flyers already have six capable wingers for the top three lines and, if it turns out that both Schenn and Couturier are ready, Briere or Giroux can be moved to the wing, if that needs to happen.
There’s no harm in the Flyers trying to see if they can add a guy like Simon Gagne at a low price but I believe they’re just feeling out his situation right now.
If there’s any truth to the rumor that the Flyers are working on “something big”, I believe they should be looking to add a defender. They need to add a player who is at or near his prime on the blue line, due to the ages of Pronger and Timonen and the question of whether the team can re-sign both Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle when they become unrestricted free agents after this season.
Last night, Bob McKenzie said that the Phoenix Coyotes were dangling defenseman, Keith Yandle, out there. He said they might not trade him but they were at least trying to gauge what sort of return they could get for him. The 24-year-old, 6’2″ defender, who put up 59 points last season, would be a terrific addition to the Flyers and the immediate heir apparent to the #1 defenseman spot. I hope that, at a bare minimum, Holmgren called Don Maloney to see if they could work out a deal. Yandle is an impact player who, depending upon the other players moved in the deal, could conceivably help the Flyers move back into the category of Cup contenders.