Friday, July 30, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Jeff Carter
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 33G 28A +2
2010 Playoff stats: 5G 2A -5
Grade: B-

It's tough to give a guy a grade of a B- when he scored 33 regular season goals. But when he scored 46 goals the previous year and would continually go on scoring droughts where it was difficult to even know if he was even dressed or not, a B- is a very fair grade. It also didn't help Carter's grade that he was a no-show in the Cup Final. Sure he had just come off of injury, but if you score 33 regular season goals and are taking up a spot on the roster, you better produce in the Finals.

It didn't help this past season that Carter spent the majority of the time away from his natural position at center. He was playing mostly on the wing with Mike Richards at center. It does look as though Carter is going to be out of position again this year with the Flyers having an abundance of other centermen (Richards, Briere, Giroux, Betts). This is a contract year for Carter, so he's going to want to show the Flyers management that he wants to and deserves to be a Flyer with a large contract.

Flyers management and fans alike are looking for a big rebound year in 2010/11 from Carter, but with him playing out of position again, I'm not sure it's going to be there.

2010/2011 Predictions: 36G 32A -1

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Blair Betts
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 8G 10A +7
2010 Playoff stats: 1G 1A -4
Grade: A-

Last summer Blair Betts was at the Flyers Skate Zone on a tryout invitation. He had played no less than 66 games for the Rangers for four straight years before 2009, yet no one would guarantee him a contract. He later signed a one year deal with the Flyers worth $550,000 (Riley Cote made $525,000 last season by the way).

Betts turned out to be an enormous contributor on the Flyers penalty kill last season. If the Flyers needed a defensive zone faceoff win, Betts was the guy to take it. If the Flyers needed a blocked shot or an energy shift, Betts was the guy to give it. For what he was paid and what the team thought he would give them, Betts exceeded all expectations.

He's going to miss possibly up to the end of November this season and his faceoff percentage and PK expertise will be missed.

2010/2011 Predictions: 5G 8A +5

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Kimmo Timonen
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 6G 33A -2
2010 Playoff stats: 1G 10A +6
Grade: B+

Timonen was, as he has been throughout his entire career as a Flyer, a very reliable and versatile defenseman. He was a main contributor along Chris Pronger on both the power play and penalty kill this past season and would more often than not have to bail out his defensive partner, Braydon Coburn, during even strength play. And the fact that he was paired with Coburn was a big reason his plus/minus went from +19 in 08/09 to -2 in 09/10. Timonen also had a stellar postseason in 2010 and even though he turned 35 in March, he proved that he is the least of the Flyers worries this coming season.

2010/2011 Predictions: 8G 32A +7

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Scott Hartnell
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 14G 30A -6
2010 Playoff stats: 8G 9A +4
Grade: C-

If Hartnell didn't have the playoffs that he had, his grade would have been a D at best.  The 2010 season was a huge drop off not only in points and plus/minus for Hartnell, but in quality penalty minutes as well. During the 2008/2009 season, Hartnell had 30 goals and 30 assists and was a +14. In 09/10, he was second in the league in minor penalties with 54, compared to 08/09 when he was first in the league with...54. Yea, he had the exact same amount of minor penalties in back to back years. But the thing this past season with Hartnell was that since he netted only 14 goals compared to last years' 30, the team (and the fans) were less reluctant to overlook each hook, trip, or hold. It seemed as if No. 19 was hurting the team this year more than he was helping. He not only took a lot of minor penalties, but he took them at the most inopportune times and usually for no reason at all.

But much of that changed in the postseason; Hartnell was a completely different player. He was scoring big goals when the team needed them and not going in and out of the penalty box every ten minutes. He had very good chemistry with his playoff linemates--Danny Briere and Ville Leino. We can only assume that same trio will be the Flyers' second line in 2010/11, and I expect a nice rebound year for Scotty starting in October.

2010/2011 Predictions: 24G 31A +8

Monday, July 26, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Darroll Powe
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 9G 6A +0
2010 Playoff stats: 0G 1A -2
Grade: B+

Powe had a fairly average regular season for a fourth liner. He did however come up big in the playoffs. His point totals may not show it, but when Ian Laperriere went down with an injury in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal, Darroll Powe logged some huge penalty kill minutes. He was blocking shots, clearing pucks and giving players like Mike Richards and Blair Betts a much deserved break.

There's not much more to expect from Powe in 2010/2011. He's still going to be a fourth line player and log some good minutes on the second PK unit.

2010/2011 Predictions: 8G 10A +1

Monday, July 19, 2010


Well it's officially the end of an era in Philadelphia Flyers hockey and Philadelphia sports in general. Simon Gagne has been traded out of Philadelphia to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Matt Walker and a 4th-round pick. Gagne was the longest tenured Philadelphia sports athlete, followed closely by Eagles kicker David Akers (by one month).

Walker is a large, tough, gritty defenseman who will bring a good amount of size to the Flyers blue line. He has had health problems though--he has never played more than 66 regular season games in a season. And he's not someone who's going to add a lot of scoring to the team either--his career high in points is 14 (1G, 13A). But to trade a bona fide 30-40 goal scorer (albeit with injury problems as well) for a guy who will probably be a 6th defenseman on this Flyers team and a 4th-round pick, doesn't make much sense. Now I know as well as anybody that this was a pure salary dump, but it's hard to believe that this is all Philly's most tenured athlete was worth.The Flyers got worse with this move, not better.

Maybe if Flyers GM Paul Holmgren hadn't put himself in the position where he needed to dump salary, he could have gotten more for Gagne. Had he moved No. 12 before going over the cap, he may have been able to get Meszaros AND Walker without having to give up that 2nd rounder.

With the move, the Flyers get rid of Gagne's $5.25 million salary, and add Walker's $1.7 million cap hit. And since they were a little over $2 million over the cap, they now have $1.053 million in cap space to work with. That could be money the Flyers use to spend on a goaltender or save for possible wiggle room during the season.

With the addition of Walker, the Flyers now have eight defensemen under contract (Pronger, Timonen, Meszaros, Coburn, Carle, O'Donnell, Bartulis, Walker). It does seem a little unnecessary to have eight defenseman under contract considering that most teams only dress seven. Now, this means that the Flyers may need to send one of  the eight down to the minors and hope they clear waivers or try to trade one (or two) for some forward help.

Paul Holmgren has taken another huge gamble going into next season. He is hoping Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino can be the players they were during the postseason. He is hoping that Jeff Carter returns to form and doesn't have long stretches where scoring is like trying to fit the puck through a needle hole. (As of right now), he is hoping Michael Leighton is the goalie of the Montreal series, not the Chicago series. He is hoping Nikolai Zherdev is the scorer he says he is and not the pest in the locker room that others say he is.

Simon Gagne will surely be missed by nearly all Flyers fans. He scored two goals, including the OT game-winner, against the Lightning in game six of the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals to force a game seven. He scored the game-winner against the Bruins in OT of game 4 and in the 3rd period of game seven. He has scored 47 and 41 goals in back-to-back seasons and was a great leader on the ice as well as in the locker room. We will miss you Simon.

I don't believe the Flyers are done making moves this off season, though. I still think (or at least hope) they will get a goalie and some scoring talent either through a trade or free agent signing. The Flyers need help on the wing and trading one of their spare D-men or one of their highly skilled centers to improve it may be an option.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Turn and Face the Strain

It has been a little over a week since the NHL free agency period officially began, but Flyers fans are left with more questions than answers. I've tried to guess at what Paul Holmgren is thinking with the moves he has made and with the rumors I've been hearing and I simply can't figure it out. Instead of writing a long, extended column on what has already happened, I'll just hit each thought step-by-step.

1) The Jody Shelly signing
The Flyers signed Shelly to a 3-year, 3.3 million dollar deal. He had 9 points (2 goals) in 57 games last season with the Sharks and Rangers. Some are comparing him to Carcillo who had 12 goals and 22 points last season in 76 games and made just under 1 million. If anything, Shelly is half a step above Riley Cote, not Carcillo.
My initial reaction: Terrible.

2) The Andrej Meszaros deal
I've been following Meszaros since 06/07 and his days with the Senators. He averaged around 37 points per season with Ottawa, but his numbers have dropped dramatically since he moved to Tampa Bay. He has 33 points in TWO seasons with the Lightning and is a -18 over that span. That could be a result of being on a poor defensive team down south and the Flyers hope he can regain what he was north of the border, and I think he will.
My initial reaction: For a 2nd round pick, a very nice 5th D-man.

3) The Sean O'Donnell signing
At 1 million per, O'Donnell is a solid veteran who is going to be a nice 6th/7th D-man along with Oskars Bartulis. He had 15 points and was a respectable +14 last year with the Kings. He won a cup with Chris Pronger in Anaheim and should bring some leadership to the Flyers locker room.
My initial reaction: Solid. Makes our already incredible blue line even better.

4) Resigning Michael Leighton
Here's the thing with Mike Leighton. He was great during the regular season filling in for Brian Boucher. He was great in the series against the Canadiens and in every game he played against the Bruins (except the 1st period of game seven). But when the Final came around, he simply did not show up. He lets in too many soft goals. As a backup for this team he's great, but I don't want to see him between the pipes in Pittsburgh on October 7th.
My initial reaction: If he's a backup it's good. If he's going to be the starter--hell no.

More moves are certainly going to be made in the coming weeks. There are number of rumors and I'll make a quick comment on a few without going too far in depth on any.

1) Nik Zherdev - Has a reputation of being a pest in the locker room and not a very good team player. Was good before he went to Russia, he may cost too much and in my opinion, is not worth it.

2) Marty Turco - If they shed some salary I like it. Apparently, Turco's people have been calling the Flyers daily, and not the other way around.

3) Jose Theodore - Please no.

4) Tomas Kaberle - The rumors of Kaberle being moved have been around for years now and I really don't see how he fits in Philadelphia with all the defensemen they already have.

5) Ilya Kovalchuk (1 year deal) - Not a Kovy fan. A better Carter but even poorer defensively. Would cost way too much and doesn't fit under the cap, in the system, or on the team. Say "hi" to Nabokov in Russia for me Ilya.

6) Bill Guerin - If they could move some guys and fit him in, I like the veteran presence but it's a slim chance.

7) Jonathan Quick - This is probably the guy who would come to Philly if Gagne is moved out west. I'd like to see Quick in the orange and black, nice young talent.

If there are any more rumors I remember (or hear of) I'll add them. I'm very excited, but at the same time scared, to see what this team looks like in a couple months. We may or may not have seen the last of Simon Gagne in a Flyers jersey. We'll see what happens.

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