When the Philadelphia Flyers shocked the hockey world with the signing of Vinny Lecavalier, many questioned why the team would invest more money in a forward when the roster is already stocked with elite offensive talent. However, the addition of the skilled center might be exactly what the Flyers need to return to playoff prominence.
In last year’s shortened season, the Flyers offense took a step back. After averaging over three goals per game in 2010 and 2011 and finishing second only to Pittsburgh two years ago, the offense just barely cracked the top-ten in goals per game with 2.75 – good for ninth in the league. By all means, this is a respectable number. For comparisons sake, the Boston Bruins finished 14th in the league and yet still managed to fight for Lord Stanley’s Cup. However, the Flyers were much closer to mediocrity than they were to the offensive elite.
In order for the Flyers to keep pace with their higher scoring opponents, they would have to produce at a significantly higher rate. The Toronto Maple Leafs finished just three spots ahead of Philadelphia while averaging .27 more goals per contest. Adversely, if the Flyers were to average .27 fewer goals per game, they would find themselves sitting in the basement with only eight teams behind them.
While the offense may have taken a step back, their output hasn’t necessarily been deemed detrimental to the team. This might be why all the questions this offseason seem focused on the blue line and the blue paint in the Flyers zone. However, the biggest difference between the two personnel groups over the past two seasons would be the absence of Matt Carle – otherwise, the two units are quite similar. Though the puck moving ability of #25 was surely missed, is this one player really the difference between challenging for the Stanley Cup and challenging for a lottery pick? I’m hard pressed to think so.
This brings us back to the borderline-average offense, playing under a notoriously offensive bench boss in Peter Laviolette. Adding Lecavalier immediately puts the Flyers into the upper-echelon of scoring where they have found their success in the past. He has scored 20-plus goals in every season but his rookie year, giving the Flyers an additional .25 goals per game.
Couple this with a potential bounce-back year from Scott Hartnell – the most likely candidate to do so with just eight goals in 32 games last season after 37 the year before – and the Flyers are suddenly an offensive powerhouse again. These are the types of teams Laviolette has found success with most recently in the past, which gives you ample reason to believe a significant offensive addition can help them rediscover that success in the future.
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