The Flyers season may have been a downer, but there were still positives to take out of it. Such positives were the strong play of Jakub Voracek, Luke Schenn, and the young kids on defense.
Now, we take a look at the Bad.
Braydon Coburn: Mistakenly, I chose Coburn as my dark-horse for the Norris trophy this year. Coburn has all the tools to be a top-tier defenseman. He has size, speed, offensive skills and awareness, as well as strong defensive prowess. Coburn plays all three phases of the game. Yet, this was not a good year for him. In fact, it was downright awful.
Prior to Coburn’s season-ending shoulder injury that cost him 15 games, he was leading the league in minor penalties. He not only struggled defensively, but offensively, where he needed to step up in place of the departed Matt Carle. Coburn managed only five points (one goal, four assists) this past season. He enters the second year of a four-year extension with much to improve.
Other Veteran Defensemen: Nicklas Grossman, Andrej Meszaros, and Kimmo Timonen followed in Coburn’s footsteps in not living up to expectations. The Flyers are a team desperate for young defense, but were unable to obtain any in the offseason. Instead, the goal was to rely on veterans. That goal backfired.
Ilya Bryzgalov: This is not to say that Bryz played bad, but that the Bryzgalov saga throughout the season was just bad (more on this later). Bryz kept the Flyers afloat early in the season, but exhaustion led to his downfall as he recorded a 19-17-3 record in 40 games with a 2.79 goals-against average and .900 save percentage, the latter two numbers falling below Bryzgalov’s career averages for the second straight season. Bryz finished year two of his nine-year deal sitting out six of the final ten games.
Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier: The two young guns of the team were expected to shoulder the offensive load. That did not happen. Couturier’s offensive game was slow out of the gate, and never really picked up traction throughout the season. Schenn dominated the AHL during the lockout, but was not able to become a reliable offensive threat once the lockout ended.
Coaching: I am a big Peter Laviolette fan. I believe that he has the best chance to lead the Flyers to their first Stanley Cup since 1976, but the man called Lavy pulled an “Andy Reid.” Laviolette failed to adjust mid-game and help his team in five-on-five play, and the Flyers were among the worst teams in the league (more on this later) in that category. Laviolette’s special teams were fantastic, both finishing in the top-10, but his coaching demands may have worn on his players. Next year, with a full season, I expect Laviolette to regain his stature of one of the elite coaches in the NHL and lead the Flyers to a playoff berth.
Next week, we attack the final installment of my year in review: the Ugly…