2010 Stanley Cup: Philadelphia Flyers Cup Run Falls Short, So Now What?

June 10th, 2010 No Comments

For the Philadelphia Flyers, their game six Stanley Cup Final loss to the Chicago Blackhawks ended what many have called a “Cinderella” run for the Orange and Black.

And, as is the case with any team that falls short of their goals, the re-tooling process will begin immediately, with plenty of question marks surrounding the Flyers.

As good as Daniel Briere was throughout the playoffs, will he ever be able to duplicate that drive, determination and vigor that he showed all playoff long for an entire regular season?

Briere, who has struggled for much of his time with the Flyers, still has five years left on his contract that goes through the 2015-16 season, the bulk of which will be paid in the next three seasons at a salary of $7 million per.

Another question the Flyers will have to entertain is the future of Jeff Carter, a player who was the polar opposite of Briere—decent in the regular season, but nothing more than a passenger throughout much of the playoffs.

Carter will earn a salary of $5 million next season and then will become a restricted free agent in 2011-12. Could the Flyers possibly consider trading one of their biggest assets in an effort to save Cap space and/or upgrade the club in other areas?

Simon Gagne, a player who once looked to be a budding super-star, has struggled since the 2006-07 season (mostly due to injuries). Gagne is another player that needs to start to demonstrate far more consistency—which, admittedly, good health will go a long way in helping his numbers out. Like Carter, Gagne’s contract runs out after next season, at which point he will become an unrestricted free agent.

While Briere (and his massive contract) looks to be all but impossible to move, Carter and Gagne could be legitimate targets of NHL teams and, given their spotty play, could likely be had for the right price.

Arron Asham, an afterthought for most of the regular season, demonstrated his worth throughout the playoffs as a tremendous secondary player. He has better hands than most people give him credit for, although I am not so sure that earns him a larger/more offensive role with the Flyers next season.

That said, Asham is a must-sign for the Flyers and will likely accept a short-term low money contract to stay in Philly.

Pugilist Daniel Carcillo, who is well liked in the locker room, is also a restricted free agent this summer and may get some interest from other teams on the trade market. Would the Flyers consider trading Carcillo—who, despite some decent games, spent much of his time on the bench and/or the sidelines in the playoffs?

Flyers captain Mike Richards, who had a very tough Cup Final, has demonstrated that, despite his struggles, he is the heart and soul of the Flyers and will no doubt be a major contributor for the Orange and Black for years to come.

I mention this not to overstate the obvious, rather to head-off any stupid, “Flyers need to trade Richards” rumors, which I have already heard some morons talking about. It’s not happening, end of story!

Defensemen Ryan Parent and Braydon Coburn—two players that many Flyers fans showed some hate for during the regular season—are restricted free agents this summer and in need of new contracts.

While the verdict is yet to come out on either player, it’s safe to assume that Coburn (who averaged 25:09 in playing time throughout the playoffs) has acquitted himself well and, as such, will likely be tendered a new contract by the Flyers this summer.

As for Parent? There are still plenty of questions surrounding his future as Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette showed very little confidence in the 22-year-old defenseman, allotting Parent an average of just 7:28 in ice-time throughout the playoffs, in what can only be called “garbage time”.

Defensive centre Darroll Powe (a restricted free agent) and defenseman Lukas Krajicek (a unrestricted free agent) are both on the bubble in my opinion, with Krajicek likely on his way out.

Powe, who demonstrated tremendous grit and passion throughout the playoffs, will likely sign a low-budget contract with the Flyers, but could easily be let go as well. Truth be told, his future is very much up in the air with the Flyers.

In between the pipes there are also questions.

Let’s put one thing to rest…Ray Emery will not be back with the Flyers as there are far too many questions surrounding his abilities and his injuries—which may be career ending.

Another question for the Flyers is just how bad is/was Brian Boucher (who has one year left on his contract at a salary of $925,000 before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2011-12) hurt and will he be able to start the 2010-11 season at 100 percent?

Further, and more importantly, what to do with Michael Leighton?

Leighton, who came to the Flyers via the waiver wire, has done nothing but play well for the Orange and Black, as demonstrated by his 17-9 record in the regular season and his up and down playoff performance that saw him pulled three times, yet also saw him post a 8-3 record, three shutouts, the top goals against average amongst playoff goalies at 2.46 and the second best save percentage at .916.

Question is, does anyone really believe in Leighton as the Flyers go-to guy? Can he lead an NHL team for an entire season after failing to do so for so many years with other NHL clubs? After being passed over by 29 NHL Gm’s time after time, is Leighton “the real deal” or is/was he just a flash in the pan this playoff season?

One thing is for sure, do not expect wholesale changes by the Flyers. I have said all along that, while a re-tooling may be needed, the Flyers are far from needing a rebuilding as this team is built to win today, not five years from now.

So, what can we expect?

Look for the Flyers to spend a lot of time this summer looking at their goaltending options. That could mean re-signing Leighton, it could also mean looking at unrestricted free agents Marty Turco, Evgeni Nabokov or Dan Ellis, or it could also mean looking for a potential trading partner, such as the Montreal Canadiens who may look to deal one of Carey Price or Jaroslav Halak—both of whom the Flyers would be interested in acquiring.

The Flyers do not own a first round draft pick (traded to Anaheim in the Chris Pronger deal). While this will hardly effect next years team, it will handcuff the Flyers from getting a shot at drafting highly touted American goaltender Jack Cambell—who is expected to go anywhere from 10th to 20th in the draft—and would be a perfect fit for the Flyers long-term.

The good news is, despite the Flyers underachieving in the regular season they showed a lot of heart in the playoffs—serving notice that they are for real and will give the likes of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals all they can handle for the next few seasons.

Many suspect that late night partying and immaturity was the evil behind the Flyers regular season struggles.  That and the numerous injuries to the likes of Ray Emery, Michael Leighton, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne and Daniel Briere—to name a few.

Highly-touted rookie forward James Van Riemsdyk showed glimpses of his offensive powers, but is still far from a polished product. His struggles down the stretch are well documented, as were his struggles throughout the playoffs, simply put, the kid ran out of gas and will have to work on his conditioning this off-season.

Overall the Flyers have approximately $37.9 million allocated to seven players next season, which leaves them little to no room for free agent shopping.

Youngsters JVR, whose struggles are well documented and Claude Giroux—who had an incredible run in the playoffs—are going to be counted on to not only raise their games, but to play much larger roles on the Flyers going forward.

Look for both of these players to be given every opportunity to play on the first two lines next season, with an emphasis on giving them more playing time and expanding their roles to more power play time.

Despite their overall success, there is plenty of “tweaking” to be done to the Flyers lineup. It will be an interesting off-season for the Flyers and their fans, hopefully they can right the ship and get back to the Final where they could earn a shot at finishing up their unfinished business—winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.

For more NHL news and notes check out my website at www.theslapshot.com

Until next time,

Peace!

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