Sunday, August 29, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series (The Noobs)

New winger, Nikolai Zherdev. Yep, he's on the Flyers.
Jody Shelley
Because I think this was one of the worst signings in recent Flyers history, I'm going to include his games played as well as point production predictions. Shelley will suck. Plain and simple. You thought Riley Cote was a waste? Ha! Just wait for this guy.
2010/2011 Predictions: 31GP 0G 2A -4

Nikolay Zherdev
I really can't decide what the hell this Cosmonaut's going to do this year. He was great at times with the Rangers and Blue Jackets, there's no doubt about that. But the fact that the Flyers don't have another Russian on the team to hang with Zherdev (which is apparently what these young Russian players need in order to thrive) scares me a little. If he did, like he says he did, improve his play in the defensive zone, he could be huge. Holmgren took another risk on a player from Russia again this year (Ray Emery), and hopefully it ends better than the last.
2010/2011 Predictions: 24G 36A -9

Andrej Meszaros
Which Andrej Meszaros will appear this year? Will it be the 39, 35 and 36 point man with the Senators? Or the 16 and 17 point man with the Lightning? Could it have possibly been the fact that he was playing on a poor defensive team in Tampa that his stats were so down? Or could his first few years in the league been a fluke? Do I have any idea? Why is this entire player preview written with questions? Who knows?
2010/2011 Predictions: 9G 22A +14
Sean O'Donnell
Probably my favorite Flyers signing of the offseason. He's going to be a tremendous 6th defensemen and about a million times better than whomever the Flyers threw out there last year (Ryan Parent, Lukas Krajicek, O.K. Tollefsen, Danny Syvret). And plus another veteran presence on a team never hurt anybody.
2010/2011 Predictions: 2G 12A +2

Matt Walker
Well, Matt Walker...Matt Walker, Matt Walker, Matt Walker. Referred to by many as the "bag of pucks" we got for The Departed (Simon Gagne). The highest amount of games Walker ever played in a season was 66, and the most points he has ever gotten is 14. Not expecting a lot from this guy this year. He'll most likely be the team's 7th D-man.
2010/2011 Predictions: 0G 4A -4

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Brian Boucher
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 33GP, 9W, .899 SV%, 2.76 GAA
2010 Playoff stats: 12GP, 6W, .909 SV%, 2.47 GAA
Grade: B+

Boucher was brought back to Philadelphia for his second go around with the team to be the back-up to Ray Emery. Yea, that's right. You may have forgotten it, but Razor Ray was once the starting goalie for this team. Well, Emery went down with what now looks like a career-ending injury and Boosh was the one who came in to replace him.

When Boucher took over for Emery, the Flyers were in the midst of a 3-13-1 losing stretch. On the nights in which the offense scored, the goalies were sieves. On the nights in which the netminders would let up one goal, the offense would put up a goose egg. Nothing seemed to work for the team, and when Boosh went down with a finger injury, the Flyers were left searching for answers.

Well they got their answer (and no, it wasn't Allen Iverson). It was Michael Leighton. But then he went down with an injury and Boucher had to come back into the lineup and played the Flyers right into the playoffs on the regular season's final game. He then clearly outplayed future hall-of-famer Marty Brodeur in the conference quarterfinals en route to a 4-1 series win and everything looked good for Philadelphia.

But the semifinals series with Boston was a different story. The Flyers went down three games to none and were on the verge of extinction when in game four, Boucher went down with a double knee injury. And had Michael Leighton not come off of injury the day before game four, the Flyers most likely wouldn't have made sports history.

All-in-all it was kind of tough to grade Boosh. I pretty much added his regular season and his series against the Devils together and divided it by two. I think Boucher will get a number of starts this season, especially if Leighton struggles...if he's even on the Flyers.

2010/2011 Predictions: 20GP, 8W, .914 SV%, 2.54 GAA

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Michael Leighton
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 27GP (with Flyers), 16W, .918 SV%, 2.48 GAA
2010 Playoff stats: 14GP, 8W, .916 SV%, 2.46 GAA
Grade: B+

Let's see, which Mike Leighton do we want to look at? Well, I guess we'll ignore the Carolina Hurricane Leighton (who had an .848 SV% and a 4.29 GAA) and start with the Flyers regular season Leighton. He had a .918 SV% and a 2.48 GAA and was nothing short of Stonewall Jackson. He was on fire until he had an ankle injury that forced him to miss the final two months of the season and the first series and a half of the postseason. And then there's postseason Leighton.

 At times, No. 49 was "Leights out" and then at other times the opposition lit the red "Leight" behind his net like a pinball machine. In the conference quarterfinals, except for the first period of game seven, Leighton was dominant. In the Eastern Conference Finals, except for game 3, Leighton was dominant. But in the Stanley Cup finals he was, simply put, bad. All you need to do is look at the game winning goal in game six to see how ineffective Leighton was. He was letting in softies left and right (and down the middle). He just wasn't the same goalie that had been in net for the Flyers before the Finals.

It's hard to tell which Leighton will be playing for Philadelphia in 2010. Maybe a full offseason with Jeff Reese will shore up his 5-hole troubles, or maybe it won't and he'll be the netminder we saw against the Blackhawks. Who knows?...but I'll take my best guess.

2010/2011 Predictions: 60GP, 35W, .909 SV%, 2.61 GAA

Monday, August 23, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Ville Leino
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 6G 5A -8
2010 Playoff stats: 7G 14A +10
Grade: B+

From Heaven to Hell and back again.

Ville Leino went from Finnish League MVP, to a Detroit Red Wings healthy scratch, to a Philadelphia Flyers healthy scratch, back to Master of Puppets in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. He went from "the guy the Flyers got for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen" to "Silly Ville--the guy we got from Detroit for that crappy defenseman."

After the Flyers acquired Leino from the Red Wings, very few knew what to expect from him. OKT was more-or-less a bust for the Flyers and the fact they got anything for him was great. The Flyers really didn't know where to put him when he first got to Philadelphia, as he ended up being a healthy scratch for his first month in the organization.

Many heard a rumor that Leino was at one time (2008) the MVP of the Finnish hockey league, but very few believed it. How could the MVP of respectable European hockey league be such a failure in the NHL?

A failure? Ha! Silly Ville does not speak, hear or even comprehend that word. He was the biggest surprise of this year's playoffs and set the franchise record for points and goals by a Flyers rookie, though he hardly fits the bill of a "rookie."

The chemistry of the Briere, Leino, Hartnell line was unbelievable. According to Peter Laviolette, that is the only line that is set in stone going into training camp. And if that trio performs anything like it did in the 2010 postseason, they will go from being known as "the long-haired guy," "the short guy," and "that Finnish guy," to some incredibly clever name that hasn't even been thought of yet.

2010/2011 Predictions: 22G 31A +12

Friday, August 20, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Matt Carle
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 6G 29A +19
2010 Playoff stats: 1G 12A +6
Grade: A

The winner of this season's Pelle Lindbergh Memorial Trophy, Matt Carle was without a doubt 2010's most improved Flyer (although having Chris Pronger as your defensive partner improves just about anyone).

A force on the power play and penalty kill, Carle was a very versatile defenseman for the Flyers. He was rarely out of position on a play (which once again can be attributed to having Pronger as a D partner), and scored one of the biggest goals of the season for the Flyers.

With the Flyers down 1-0 to the Rangers with a little over 12 minutes left in the season's final game, Carle scored on a rebound to knot the game at one and send it into overtime and eventually a shootout. And after that, you can probably remember what happened.

We can only assume that Pronger and Carle will be the Flyers' No.1 defensive pair again in 2010/11. And because of that, I expect another stellar season from Carle.

2010/2011 Predictions: 9G 31A +18

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Mike Richards
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 31G 31A -2
2010 Playoff stats: 7G 16A -1
Grade: A-

"El Capitan" went from 80 points and a plus-22 in 08/09 to 62 points and a minus-2 rating last season. An 18 point drop off (mostly in assists) is pretty significant, but Richards was still the Flyers Toyota Cup winner as the team's highest scorer. Very few would consider Richie's 09/10 season a "bad season," he simply didn't find himself on the score sheet as often.

As long as the Flyers Cup run was this past year, it's difficult to remember how much so-called turmoil there was in the Flyers locker room in the beginning of the season. At one point, Richards refused to talk to the media mostly because of a riff between him and defenseman Chris Pronger that the beat writers supposedly blew out of proportions. There were people talking of removing the "C" from No. 18's jersey and handing it over to the vocal leader of the team, Chris Pronger. But by mid-season and into the playoffs, all had been forgotten and Richards was showing why he wears the Flyers "C" and showing that he earns it every night.

I don't want to think of 2010/11 as a potential "rebound" year for Richards, but I do think that without having to worry about proving his captaincy, his assist totals will increase and he will be a more relaxed and energized Mike Richards.

2010/2011 Predictions: 29G 49A +11

Monday, August 16, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Claude Giroux
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 16G 31A -9
2010 Playoff stats: 10G 11A +7
Grade: B

I think pretty much everyone in the Flyers realm knows how good Claude Giroux is going to be. He's going to be a stud in this league, there's very little doubt (at least in this writer's mind) about that. He's going to be the Peter Forsberg that the Flyers didn't trade away back in 1992. He makes plays that were thought to be physically impossible. He has moves in his bag of tricks that he hasn't even shown yet.

Yet his progress in the regular season wasn't as great as I thought it would be. And much of that can be attributed to the revolving door of linemates that he had this season. And those coming in and out of that revolving door aren't exactly the caliber of players that Giroux needs in order to be great. He was paired with a rookie in James van Riemsdyk and a variable. Giroux needs steady linemates with scoring talent like he had at times in the 2010 playoffs (and the results showed) in order to be the most productive.

If JVR progresses this offseason like the Flyers hope and the third linemate has the ability to put the puck in the net on a consistent basis, Giroux will flourish this year.

2010/2011 Predictions: 26G 38A +11

Friday, August 13, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Chris Pronger
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 10G 45A +22
2010 Playoff stats: 4G 14A +5
Grade: A+

To give the team's Bobby Clarke Trophy and Barry Ashbee Trophy award winner a grade of anything less than an A+ would be a little hard to conceive. He was voted by a panel of sportscasters and sportswriters as the MVP of the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers, and he was nothing less than spectacular this year. If you followed the Flyers at all this season you'd know why he won these awards and was the biggest Norris Trophy snub of 2010.

He blocks shots, clears the crease, ties up opponents, antagonizes opponents, dishes out the puck, (steals the puck), slaps it from the point, scores game winners with 2.1 seconds left...he does it all. Nothing seems to bother "Chrissy." The Flyers are counting on that with the quality and amount of defensemen they've acquired this offseason, Pronger's minutes will decrease, thus leaving him more energy for late in the game and late in the season.

On a side note, Pronger had knee surgery this summer and says that he probably won't be ready for the beginning of training camp. But as long as he's moderately healthy for the season's opener on October 7th in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia has little to worry about.

2010/2011 Predictions: 11G 43A +27

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Dan Carcillo
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 12G 10A +5
2010 Playoff stats: 2G 4A +1
Grade: B+

Dan Carcillo rode the elevator of the Flyers offensive lines this season. At times he saw action on the power play and on the 1st line with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, but then there were also times were he saw very limited minutes on both 5-on-5 and man advantage play. There were periods this season where "The Stache" was the ultimate pest--getting in players faces, trash talking and forechecking. And then there were times where he was once again the ultimate pest, but those times he was a pest to his own team. He had the huge highs in the postseason--scoring the OT winner in game three against the Devils, and the large lows--he was a healthy scratch in the final two series games against the Canadiens and only played in games two and three against Chicago.

Carcillo has the ability to notch 20 goals in a season, it just all depends on whether he can stay consistent or not. And that's just what the Flyers are hoping for this season...a little consistency.

2010/2011 Predictions: 14G 12A -2

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Danny Briere
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 26G 27A -2
2010 Playoff stats: 12G 18A +9
Grade: B

It's tough to argue with 30 points in 23 playoff games. Danny Briere shows up when it matters--in the postseason. Period. He is a playoff monster, no doubt about it. If only he could have that pace in the regular season...

Briere, like many Flyers this season, often played out of his natural position at center. He was sometimes stuck playing the wing where he couldn't exercise his full potential. But during the postseason he found himself at his natural position in center and developed some serious chemistry with his linemates--Ville Lieno and Scott Hartnell, thus resulting in some great offensive production. That line is going to stay the same this coming season and I think only good things will come from it. Barring injury, this will be Danny Briere's best season with the Flyers.

2010/2011 Predictions: 31G 49A -5

Friday, August 6, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Braydon Coburn
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 5G 14A -6
2010 Playoff stats: 1G 3A -1
Grade: C+

If someone wanted to count how many times Flyers fans uttered the words "Coburn," "idiot" and "stupid" in the same sentence during the regular season this year, it would take about two decades. I felt sorry for Kimmo Timonen most of the time this year because he would be the one who had to bail out Coburn because of his various and frequent defensive stumbles. Coburn went from 36 points in 07/08 and 28 points in 08/09 down to 19 points this past season. He had all the promise in the world after the 2007/2008 season and even influenced me to buy a Braydon Coburn jersey. And truth be told, I was embarrassed to wear it this year...until the playoffs.

Coburn was the player he was two years ago in the postseason this year. He was smart defensively and wasn't getting turned around over and over again like he had been. He was stopping the puck at the point in the offensive zone instead of letting it bounce over his stick and lead to an odd-man rush for the opposition. Coburn signed his contract to be in Philadelphia for the next three seasons due mostly to what he did in the 2010 playoffs. I see Coburn feeding off what he did in April and May and having a nice 2010/11 season.

2010/2011 Predictions: 8G 21A +3

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Ian Laperriere
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 3G 17A -1
2010 Playoff stats: 0G 1A -3
Grade: A

What more could anyone ask from Ian Laperriere in 09/10? Never in my hockey-watching life have I seen such a display of on-ice self-sacrifice than I saw in every game last season with Laperriere.

History was made when he blocked Paul Martin's power play slapshot in game five against the Devils. Video tributes were made and he was regarded as one of the toughest players in the NHL after that play. But those who don't watch (or listen to) the Flyers on a daily basis may have missed what he did October 27th against the Sabres. Lappy does whatever it takes on the penalty kill to prevent a point shot from getting to the Flyers goaltender. He blocks shots with his stick, legs, arms, midsection, and in multiple occasions this year, his face.

He played on the 4th line in 09/10 alongside Blair Betts and Darroll Powe, but it was his penalty kill presence that was indispensable to this Flyers team. I only hope that he blocks more shots this year with his shin pads rather than his right eye.

2010 Predictions: 3G 14A -2

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

James van Riemsdyk
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 15G 20A -1
2010 Playoff stats: 3G 3A -4
Grade: B

It would be a little unfair to compare JVR to his 2007 NHL Entry Draft counterpart, Patrick Kane (30G 58A +16). Sure the Flyers were the worst team in the league in 06/07 and very much deserved the 1st overall pick and to have Kane in the Orange & Black. But alas they received the 2nd pick in the draft and took James van Riemsdyk. And since this was JVR's rookie year, I was a little lenient with the grading.

Van Riemsdyk had hot and cold stretches this season. He started off the 2009 season looking like a Calder Trophy candidate. But then from January 30th to the end of the season he managed only 4 points a -6 rating. Van Riemsdyk showed in 09/10 that he needs a little more time in the NHL to mature as a productive player. Many have compared JVR to Columbus's Rick Nash, and if he even dreams of becoming nearly as good as Nash, van Riemsdyk needs to spend the majority of his time this offseason in the weight room putting on some serious muscle.

The Flyers are looking for a little more consistency out of JVR this season and if he plays alongside Claude Giroux, the goals will certainly come. And hopefully with a little more consistency.

2010/2011 Predictions: 21G 28A -2

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Predictions and "Grade-ictions" Series

Oskars Bartulis
2009/2010 Regular season stats: 1G 8A -12
2010 Playoff stats: 0G 0A -1
Grade: D+

The only good thing about Oskars this season was that he received a grade of a D+ instead of a D-. And the only reason for that is because he's only 23 years old, so I'll be a little more lenient. Bartulis had so much promise going into the season. The Flyers hoped that the 09/10 season would be his breakout year and that he would compete with Braydon Coburn to be in that 2nd defensive pairing, but that never happened.

In the Cup final Bartulis averaged 4:33 time on ice and every time he was on the ice it was an adventure. The Flyers had absolutely no faith that Bartulis wouldn't make a huge devensive mistake that would lead to a goal. It's quite possible that with the amount of defensemen that the Flyers have under the cap, Bartulis could spend the majority of the season with the Adirondack Phantoms in the AHL. I hope that a little more minor league seasoning will help Bartulis mature into the D-man the Flyers thought he would be.

2010/2011 Predictions: N/A

Monday, August 2, 2010

The $1.3 Million Man

This afternoon the Chicago Blackhawks signed veteran goaltender Marty Turco to a 1-year contract worth $1.3 million. He joins this year's Stanley Cup champions who have already done a complete team overhaul after winning the Cup for the first time since 1961.

This signing basically ends Antti Niemi's career as a Hawk. He won $2.75 million in arbitration and Chicago decided that their Cup-wining netminder was too pricey. Niemi now becomes an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with any team he wants.

Just to let you all know, Michael Leighton is signed for two years at a cap hit of $1.55 million per year. For anyone who doesn't quite understand what I'm getting at, I'm saying that Marty Turco makes around $250,000 less per year than Mike Leighton. If Paul Holmgren could have realized that Leighton isn't, won't, and will never be the goaltender to win the Flyers a Stanley Cup and he could have signed Marty Turco for less than Leighton.

Let me just say that I don't think Turco will be able to bring the revamped Blackhawks back to the Finals, but I certainly don't think Leighton will be able to do it with the Flyers either. Could Turco have done it with Philadelphia? I think there was a higher chance of that, yes.

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