There were many things to hate about the lockout. One hundred and thirteen days later, the rest of the hockey world attuned only to the National Hockey League was suddenly asked to move along as if nothing happened, and pick up where it left off.
Wait; where did it leave off?
With the lockout dominating the conversation for so long, it is difficult to even remember what faces will be occupying the bench come January 19. Now training camp (you know, that one practice) is around the corner, and all eyes will be on the ice. The question is: what will you see?
If it all goes according to plan for the Flyers on the offensive side of things, it should be business as usual after their extended 2012 offseason.
As it stood last year, the Flyers were a solid offensive team without a wealth of tremendous star talent outside of Claude Giroux. To clarify, this is not a bad thing; it just makes them more of a sleeper when they match up against teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. There may be teams with sexier All-Stars in their top-six, but the Flyers are still above average in this category. They may not always be the favorites, but the the club should still be able to match up well with others offensively, especially those that call the Atlantic Division home.
The loss of Jaromir Jagr hurts, but at this point in his career he presented more value in his leadership than in his skill set, and thus will be replaced. In a similar sense, sending James van Riemsdyk to Toronto minimizes the Flyers already depleted wing depth with high-end skill, but since he was never truly able to establish himself amongst the wingers last year (albeit primarily due to injuries), he too can seemingly be erased from the whiteboard with relative comfort.
Instead of trading their youth for outside replacements, the Flyers pretty much held serve and re-signed some guys in house while mixing in a few familiar faces. First, the Flyers brought in Ruslan Fedotenko to round out the bottom half of their forward core. They followed this with a new contract for budding Jagr Jr. AKA Jake Voracek, then signed Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds to extensions as well.
With this, they put their faith in the young duo of Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, fresh off a stint with the Adirondack Phantoms against the men of the American Hockey League. The two lead the team in points at almost a point-per-game pace with 33 and 28 respectively, and represent the only two double-digit goal scorers on the Phantoms roster. Unfortunately for the Phantoms, the Flyers would like to bring this offense back to Philadelphia in the form of an expanded role with the big club in 2013.
Their expected increase in output — coupled with the hopeful changing of the guard to other less experienced players like Harry Z and Eric Wellwood in their place — seems to be the Flyers plan for 2013. Given Danny Briere’s recent injury developments, this particular group of young guys will be counted on now more than ever to elevate their respective games to the next level in order for this team to compete with its Atlantic Division foes for just 48-to-50 games.
The end result is a locker room full of familiar faces with six months worth of stories and plenty of history. Led by the illustrious Peter Laviolette and four months of built up jam, the offense seems poised to skip straight over the team building trust falls and straight to the season opener with a proven system that has been in place since the get-go.
Next week the focus will shift to the defensive side of the puck, where there is seemingly much more to be concerned about..
Until then, find me on twitter!