Point/Counterpoint: Expectations on offense

couts

Image courtesy of Jeremy Eye

Welcome to the newest edition of “Point/Counterpoint,” where a pair of Flyers Faithful scribes present both sides of one particular issue with their own unique view and flair.

This week Nina G and Kevin C debate on what to expect from the Flyers offense next season.

Point: The offense has taken a step backwards
By Nina G

The Flyers offensive depth went from a strength to a possible question mark with their moves this offseason. The Flyers lost a potential  30 goals from last year’s total when they traded James van Riemsdyk and let Jaromir Jagr walk. If you remove 30 goals from last year’s team they would have finished tenth in the league rather than tied for second.

The loss of van Riemsdyk and Jagr’s output isn’t the only concern. Last season’s team featured multiple forwards that had the best offensive performances of their careers. Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, and Max Talbot all saw career bests. It’s not likely that all will match or better their performances from last season. In fact, there’s a greater chance that all four will experience a decrease in their offensive totals next season.

On top of those four, Danny Briere and Matt Read are also potential candidates for a regression. Briere will turn 35 at the start of the season. He has shown a decline in points in almost every season as a Flyer. It’s possible the trend may continue and he’ll see another drop in points. Read had a fantastic rookie season, but he scored on nearly 16 percent of his shots last season. Will he be able to score at such a rate or will he go through a “sophomore slump?”

When you combine the loss of Jagr and van Riemsdyk with the potential candidates for regression and the injuries that are inevitable it’s hard to see the Flyers scoring nearly as many goals. It’s possible they could go from one of the very best to an offense that is middle of the pack.

Counterpoint: It’s time to pass the baton
By Kevin C 

While at first glance it’s easy to say the Flyers’ offense will take a step back next season; I’m not so sure. How big of a loss were Jagr and JVR? I don’t think it’s as big as many think. While Jagr was fantastic, his biggest contribution was probably what he did off the ice, and that contribution should pay continual dividends. Racking up 54 points in 73 games is pretty impressive for a 40 year old, but by the end of the season, he was pretty much worn out. He had 31 of his 54 points before January. Placing a younger player, like say Jake Voracek, on Giroux’s line could pay off in the long run as the remaining Czech forward is less likely to physically wear down like Jagr did over the second half of the season.

As for JVR, or as I like to call him, “the Ghost”, I won’t even attempt to hide my distaste. He seems like a great guy, and he’s always been nothing but respectful, even in his departure, but I truly don’t think he’s hard to replace. Forgive me if I can live without his one game out of every 15 where he displays all of his God-given talent in a game, only to disappear for the next 20. His career high 40 points — even with a reasonable increase — isn’t some insurmountable number. Additionally, he only had 24 points last year in an injury riddled season; so there really isn’t much to replace anyway.

The larger concern, as you pointed out, are the career years from Giroux, Simmonds, Hartnell and Talbot. It is unreasonable to expect the same results from them all. However, I see no reason to think Giroux isn’t capable of repeating his performance.

I would expect reasonable declines from Hartnell and Simmonds, but it isn’t as if the guys are scrubs. Hartnell has scored 30 before and is now playing alongside one of the best players in the league. Simmonds is still only 23 and was finally graced with a larger role and substantial power play time. I don’t expect either player’s production to fall off a cliff.

Talbot, well, yea. I don’t expect another 19 goals from a guy who currently projects to be the 4th line Center.

So who is going to replace the lost offense?

I expect big things from Voracek as, at this point, it appears as if he will play alongside Giroux, replacing his countryman. There were times last year where, to me, Voracek resembled Jagr in the way he protected the puck along the boards. As I alluded to earlier, Voracek’s top end skill isn’t that of Jagr, but it isn’t as if he is lacking. He is young and where Jagr tired towards the end of the season, I would not expect Voracek to do so.

I actually would expect Briere to improve upon last year’s numbers after what was a fairly abysmal regular season for him. Only 49 points and a shooting percentage that was far below what the rest of his career projects to be normal. He only managed to shoot 9.2% while his career average sits at 14.7%. There’s some bad luck in there; it’s not just age. He had the worst single season scoreless drought of his career at 23 games. I don’t expect a guaranteed 30 goals and 70-plus points from him anymore; but I do expect more than 16 and 49.

I personally, see no reason to expect a decline from Read. As Mr. Bill Meltzer put it, I tend to believe that what we see is what we get with Read. He’s 26, so even though he was a rookie, it’s unreasonable to expect the typical jump in production from a first year to second yer player. He is, however, an extremely solid player. He plays in all situations, and  I would think he can replicate his solid, if not unspectular numbers.

Entering last season, Schenn was expected to play a major role on the Flyers as he was the main piece coming the other way in return for Mike Richards. In fact, he was rated the best prospect in the NHL before the season. After starting the year in the AHL due to cap reasons, and battling some injuries, he only managed 18 points in 54 games. At times, it was even difficult to find him an appropriate spot in the lineup. That isn’t the case this season. I would expect him to see increased minutes on the second line, probably on Briere’s wing. Additionally, he had a great showing in the playoffs potting nine points in 11 games. (Let’s just not reward him with 6 year $4.25 per contract for an 11-game showing like someone else…)

Sean Couturier spent the entire season playing sheltered minutes on the fourth line where he didn’t even have to think about offense. It eased his transition into the NHL, and led to a fantastic playoffs (predominantly defensively) and what should be a significantly increased role in 2012-13. He only had 13 goals and 27 points in a modest 14 minutes a night. He’s flashed his offensive ability with a 5 game goal scoring streak last season; so a lack of talent isn’t the issue. He’s shown the ability to score “goal scorer’s goals”.

Lastly, wasn’t this the same question we had last year? How in the world were we going to replace Jeff Carter and Mike Richards with a bunch of kids?

They lost 59 goals and 132 points between those two. They replaced them with minimal contributions from the two highest profile youngsters they had (Schenn and Couturier). I’m not overly worried about replacing a 40 year old (albeit a 40 year old virg…I mean legend), and a ghost who managed 24 points last year.