Even we here at the DP4 Flyers page get tired of hearing ourselves talk, so we brought in a couple of the most knowledgeable hockey fans we know to answer eleven of the most pressing questions concerning the Flyers as they approach the regular season. (Yes, I answered them too.) These questions were sent to them separately; we each answered them before seeing the other’s answers so as not to influence each other’s responses. Here’s Kara and Dan; away we go!
Q: Will Claude Giroux have another slow start due to missing the pre-season?
Kara: It definitely worries me. He got hurt at camp, which makes me question what kind of shape he was in to begin with. You would think these guys would show up at camp conditioned and in shape, but that’s not always the case.
Dan: I don’t believe he will have a slow start due to his current injury. He is currently doing workouts off the ice to keep up with conditioning. I think he’ll be ready to go for the visit to Boston as long as he doesn’t agitate it any further. It will be nothing like last year when he injured his hand.
Jay: Even if he’s physically fine for the Boston opener, those couple weeks are pretty valuable in terms of getting timing down. I think G starts slowly yet again.
Q: Who spends the most time at LW1 this year?
Kara: As a personal preference, I’d like to see what (two-time Swedish league champion center) Pierre-Édouard Bellemare can offer; he’s a fast skater who has an excellent shot. If that doesn’t work, I’d go with Michael Raffl.
Dan: I think a fight will be between Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn will emerge. Simmonds has that gritty feel that will fight around the net to get those dirty goals from rebounds and deflections. Schenn has the speed that can match with Voracek and he can fit around defenders, especially if they tend to try and shutdown Giroux and Voracek. Michael Raffl I think can be a sleeper as well.
Jay: My guess is it’s Brayden Schenn, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see Simmonds and Raffl both spend a little time on the top line. The Flyers are simply too deep up the middle, meaning someone has to get moved to a wing; it won’t be Lecavalier (that was terrible last year) and Couturier is too valuable defensively to move out of the middle. I think Schenn gets bumped to the wing.
Q: Can Steve Mason repeat last year’s performance?
Kara: I think so. I’m typing this as I watch the game. His lateral movement has gotten quicker, as has his puck handling. My biggest concern isn’t him, it’s the defense in front of him. He can make big saves and bail out the defense, which they need.
Dan: Since coming here, he’s revived his career and produced numbers similar to his rookie season (.916 SV% past season, .917 SV% rookie year). He is a Calder Memorial Trophy winner. He’ll have his great saves and shutouts, but he needs help from the defense in front of him.
Jay: He’s capable of it. The big question really is the defense in front of him; if they can offer him some support, I think he’ll have a successful year. If they leave him out to dry though, or if he can’t match the quality of his play from last year, this will be a very long season.
Q: The biggest addition to the Flyers this year is? The biggest subtraction is?
Kara: Robert Hagg is spending his first full year in the AHL with the Phantoms this year, and he’s going to be huge when he’s NHL ready. The biggest loss? Kimmo. Despite his age, he’s a workhorse. He’s a great veteran presence who will be missed on and off the ice.
Dan: The Flyers couldn’t do much besides rid themselves of bad contracts. As much as the Hartnell trade was a surprise, I’m not extremely upset about it because it helps long term by freeing up cap space. I do somewhat like the Del Zotto signing because it’s a low risk high reward move. The biggest subtraction may be two more years of Zac Rinaldo, who I see as an agitator who takes bad penalties and nothing more.
Jay: Biggest addition is Del Zotto. Guys with that kind of potential just don’t grow on trees. He could be an enormous steal. The biggest subtraction is Kimmo; he’s just not replaceable, between his special teams work and overall steadiness and leadership. That one-year deal he signed was a bridge the Flyers erected to let them cross into next year and welcome the first one or two of the new crop of defensemen they have maturing on the farm now, but now that bridge is gone.
Q: Will we see any of the highly-touted defensemen in the system this year?
Kara: I don’t think it happens unless there’s an injury. If Hextall sticks to what he said, no one in the Flyers pipeline will be rushed.
Dan: With Grossman and Timonen already in question, I think Hagg and Gostisbehere are most NHL ready and will have their names brought up. Sam Morin has put on twenty pounds of muscle from the end of last year’s season. Our defense is older and I feel injury prone. Won’t take much to have a call up.
Jay: If Timonen was healthy I would say no. Now I’m not sure. It’s possible if a couple defensemen go out that we see one of the kids for a couple games, but I don’t think anyone will be promoted because the organization deems them “ready”.
Q: How does Michael Del Zotto fare?
Kara: I loved this signing. He’s a 3/4 defenseman and a good PP guy. He carried the Rangers PP while he was in NY and has an offensive upside. It’s a low-risk high-reward contract. I’m hoping a change of scenery will help him, too. People forget he’s only 24. Defensemen take time to develop. Del Zotto is at a perfect age, and I think he’ll fit in well.
Dan: I think Del Zotto will step it up. I think he could be a great addition to the power play. He has some speed and a big frame. He will be above Nick Schultz on the depth chart. He definitely has something to prove in the organization with Gostisbehere and Hagg showing promise too.
Jay: I’ve warmed to this signing (see above). Initially all I could remember was Rangers fans blaming him for everything from turning the puck over in their own zone again to the ice being cold (kind of like how we do Braydon Coburn). He was bad last year but it could just be an aberration. That, and I’m hoping he catches fire for us so he torments New York in the orange and black for the next decade, like so many ex-Flyers do to us.
Q: Who would be the player hardest to replace if they were lost for the year?
Kara: Mason. Emery can’t handle a starting role anymore; it’s just too much for him. He’s an average goalie at best.
Dan: Giroux, because of his playmaking abilities.
Jay: Mason. The other options are terrifying: Emery (old, slow laterally), Stolarz (needs time in the AHL), Zepp (signed as organizational depth), a free agent like Brodeur (yuck, just, yuck). If Mason goes down, what hope the Flyers have of making a run is most likely lost.
Q: The Flyers’ leading goal scorer is…
Kara: Voracek. He gets better every year. He has the potential to be a pure goal scorer. I think this season will be huge for him.
Dan: Voracek, with Simmonds and Giroux closely behind.
Jay: Simmonds. The league is all about deflecting pucks and screening the goalie and he excels at both. He can score on anyone.
Q: How many points do the Flyers have at the end of the year?
Kara: 90-94. They didn’t get better in the off-season; they made lateral moves and signings.
Dan: 91, due to a big March.
Jay: 92; they made lateral moves while other clubs got better but are more familiar with the system in which they play, which counts for something.
Q: Rank the teams in the Metro in the order you expect them to finish:
Kara: Penguins, Rangers, Blue Jackets, Flyers, Capitals, Devils, Islanders, Hurricanes
Dan: Penguins, Blue Jackets, Rangers, Flyers, Islanders, Capitals, Devils, Hurricanes
Jay: Penguins, Rangers, Blue Jackets, Flyers, Capitals, Islanders, Devils, Hurricanes
Q: Do the Flyers make the playoffs? If so, how far can they go?
Kara: They go as a Wild Card and get bumped in the first round. They’re a fringe playoff team and not a contender. The right now is scary but the future has me excited, as it should all Flyers fans.
Dan: The Flyers will sneak into the playoffs with a very good March push, but will not make it past the first round.
Jay: They go as a Wild Card but, like last year, get eliminated in the first round. Their time is not now; their time is then, and then will be now SOON. Just, not yet.