It appears the latest round of negotiations between the National Hockey League and the NHLPA to solve the lockout might lead to some positive results, finally giving the fans a team back to root for. But if the Flyers were to take the ice in the immediate future, would the fans even be happy with what they saw?
This has been a relatively disappointing offseason for the Flyers. The bread and butter of the Orange and Black last season was their offense, but it doesn’t appear on paper to have improved. Diving in deeper only causes more concern.
The Flyers were near the top of the league in both goals for (264, third in the Eastern Conference) and power-play percentage (19.7, tied for fifth-best in NHL with Pittsburgh).
The loss of both James van Riemsdyk and Jaromir Jagr is 30 goals left to be accounted for right off the bat, putting the Flyers suddenly in ninth place in the category versus their league counterparts. An additional concern that immediately comes to mind in losing those two players is their offensive prowess and size on the power play. Even a slight regression from the team’s efficiency last season puts them at an average pace versus their opponent.
The usual rebuttal to the loss of these two is the growth expected from this young core of forwards that still remains. The thing is, with so many Flyers hitting career highs in the goal category last season – eight to be specific (Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Max Talbot, Jake Voracek, plus the rookie crew) – can they all continue to do so while also accounting for an additional 30? Odds are against it, particularly at the top of the list.
Hartnell, Simmonds and Matt Read accounted for 89 of the 264 goals themselves with 37, 28 and 24 respectively (and not including assists). Hartnell in particular represents a huge piece of the Flyers equation up front. A large #hartnelldown from his 37 goals and 23 power-play points will put a major strain on the offensive output.
There is hope, residing in a small package down the middle. A better season from Danny Briere would go a long way in helping pace this offense. Finishing last year with just four power-play goals to his credit and 16 goals total thanks to a too-bad-to-be-true 23-game goal drought, an increase on those numbers would go a long way in helping subsidize the combination of subtraction and regression that could occur.
All of these factors mean the bottom half of the forward crew will need to contribute a bit more offensively if the Flyers hope to even slightly maintain their offensive advantage versus most of the league. Their role players were able to provide in spades last season, but as they age and climb the totem pole of the depth chart a new group of fresh faces will need to continue to provide a similar type of output if the Flyers wish to maintain their edge up front.
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