Flyers Faithful is pleased to have Dave Isaac from the Courier-Post, Matt Brigidi from SB Nation, David Strehle from The Fourth Period, Anthony Mingioni from Center Ice Philly, and our very own Steve Jacot participate in the current iteration of Five Questions. This is the final installment of a five-part series focusing on the 2013-2014 preseason. (Please keep in mind that these questions were answered last week, so some of our questions may already have been resolved by the team.)
At this time, does it seem like the Flyers have the pieces in place to have a successful season?
Dave Isaac: I suppose that depends on the definition of “successful.” I think this squad will make the playoffs, but unless everyone catches fire at just the right time, I don’t see a Stanley Cup parade in the near future.
Matt Brigidi: If everybody stays healthy, I project them as a playoff team.
David Strehle: I guess it depends on the definition of the word “successful”. If successful means winning more games than losing and maybe winning a playoff round, I guess that is a possibility. This organization’s definition of the word has always been whether it wins the Stanley Cup at year’s end, so they’ve been rather unsuccessful for the past 38 years. They have a good core with which to build around, and what management does in the next couple of years will determine whether or not this group can take their games to the next level and consistently become a regular contender for Lord Stanley.
With all things being equal and the forward ranks expected to return to their much more balanced production of 2011/12, much of Philly’s success will depend on a couple key factors:
1) How well the health of the defensive corp holds up, because that really triggered a tremendous amount of upheaval for much of the abbreviated 2012/13 campaign. The positives are that some of the younger guys that normally wouldn’t have had a look got a chance to show what they can do, and it just may end up benefitting the organization in the long run.
As for the present, two of the defenders that stand to log a ton of ice time within the unit’s top-four are Kimmo Timonen, who turns 39 next March and whose body has been wearing down over the past couple of years, and Mark Streit, who will be 36 in December. Streit has been extremely durable — other than missing all of 2010/11 with a shoulder injury, he has missed only 15 of a 506 regular season NHL games — and the Flyers had better hope that Streit’s good fortune continues for not only this season but also over the course of the next four years.
2) How the goaltending tandem of Ray Emery and Steve Mason fares. Both are coming off very positive seasons and have the potential to have excellent years. Laviolette looks to go with the hot hand rather than name a starter and backup, which should be good for competition between the two friends. It would be best for the club’s chances if that competitiveness spurs both on to play the absolute best that they possibly can. Any kind of breakdown by either should pave the way for more playing time for the other. This will be one of the most interesting positions to keep an eye on this season, which is only natural when talking about who occupies the Flyers’ spot in the blue paint. It’s unfortunately become a generational tradition throughout the last couple of decades.
If the netminders are solid and the key defenders hold up to the grind, the Flyers should be ready for a return to the postseason dance come April.
Anthony Mingioni: That depends on how you define successful. Making it back to the postseason? The Eastern Conference Final? A Stanley Cup? The acquisition of Vincent Lecavalier is one that greatly improves their chance achieve the first goal. Since the loss of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the most iteration of the club has had difficulties in matching up with teams who are strong down the middle. Lecavalier with his 6’4, 218 lb frame and years of experience being a focal point of a team’s offense fits the team’s bill for strengthening themselves at the pivot. On paper the move has a nice domino effect on the rest of the roster, allowing Brayden Schenn to move to the wing. In my opinion, I believe Schenn’s style of play is better suited there.
Mark Streit provides experience and offensive savvy to a defense that was in dire need of it last season. His addition also has a ripple effect on the rest of the blueline, allowing the Flyers options in giving Kimmo Timonen a spell off of the prodigious ice time he’s garnered over his career and another bonafide power play weapon. He is an average at best on defense, so it would behoove the Flyers to put him with a partner who has more of an “own zone” focus. That’s could make a pairing with Braydon Coburn a smart one.
The key factor though will be the partnership between Ray Emery and Steve Mason. Emery had great numbers in 21 games for the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and took a very Flyers-friendly one year deal to return to Philadelphia. Mason had a nice short spot of games after his acquisition from Columbus but expectations are that he can replicate that performance over a full season. It’s not unfair to say that if both don’t provide credible goaltending then the Flyers face the same unpleasant conclusion as last year.
I believe that the Flyers have the pieces in place to end up in one of the top three “guaranteed playoff” spots in the newly formed Metropolitan Division. That stated, the key to their success is as much about scheme and execution as it is about their personnel. It’s about what their young core learned from their experience last season. Too many times the Flyers were easy to counter because their forwards got too far ahead of the play, while their defense couldn’t get the puck out of their zone. Their five on five play numbers back this up. If that area of play improves then they’ll be that much tougher to play against.
Steve Jacot: That really depends on your definition of successful. Can this team compete and make the playoffs? Absolutely. Can they win the Stanley Cup with this roster? Probably not, unless Steve Mason and/or Ray Emery play well over their heads.
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