The Flyers season begins Wednesday in Toronto against the Maple Leafs. The Orange and Black will look to rebound after not making the playoffs in the lockout shortened season. Injuries and inconsistent play were too much to handle, and the Flyers never recovered. Now, with new faces and improvement on paper, the Flyers will look to make it back into the playoffs and ultimately hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. Here are my predictions on what will go right and wrong for this upcoming season.
Let’s take a look at what will go wrong.
1. Defensive Unit Struggles With Injuries and Inconsistent Play: Yes, unfortunately I predict the defensive corps will be bit by the injury bug again this year. Kimmo Timonen isn’t getting younger and has battled nagging injuries for years, albeit playing through them. Newly-acquired Marc Streit also missed an entire NHL season with injury not too long ago. Andrej Meszaros has also battled injuries throughout his career. Because of the inability to stay healthy, I just can’t see any rhythm being established, therefore causing inconsistent play.
2. Scott Laughton Struggles at the NHL Level: 2012 first-round pick Scott Laughton has a skill-set similar to that of Mike Richards. Although I do expect him to be a dependable NHL player eventually, I predict Laughton will struggle this year. First of all, he is playing a new position on the wing. Secondly, he will most likely be playing 4th line minutes with players that don’t have a strong skill set. Sorry, Jay Rosehill. Until Laughton moves to center and gets solid minutes, I can’t see him being that effective.
3. Flyers Will Trade a Young Player for Defensive Help: Depending on who you talk to, this may not be a surprise. The Flyers have a solid group of young forwards. They don’t have a solid group of young defensemen. Age and injuries showed how it can deplete a unit and that was evident in the lockout-shortened season last year. I predict that either Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier or Scott Laughton will be traded. Depending on who the Flyers will try and get, minor league players and or draft picks could be involved. Voracek, Simmonds and Read are locks not to be dealt.
4. The Flyers Will Struggle for the First Month of the Season: October will be a somewhat difficult month for the Flyers. The goalie situation isn’t solved, there are injury concerns to key players and the lines need to form chemistry playing together. So until all of this settles, the first month of the season may be a little uneasy to watch.
5. We Will See More Than Two Goalies This Year: Whether it is due to injury or poor play by either one or both goalies, the Flyers will have another goalie up with the big-league club at some point. Now don’t go crazy, this could just be one or two starts but I can see this happening. If Steve Mason plays more like his Columbus days rather than the end of last year, he could see time in the minors. Ray Emery also has been hurt throughout points of his career; this issue could come up again. If these issues arise, a new goalie filling in for one of them for a period of time is very realistic.
Here is what will go right.
1. Claude Giroux Will Finish in the Top 5 Scoring in the NHL, Surpassing 100 Points: Claude Giroux will have a bounce back year from an OK season last year. Even though the Captain was a point-per-game player, he didn’t have the same spark he had in previous years. Whether it was due to his surgically repaired wrists or the lockout, Giroux just never got on the roll he is capable of going on. Look for that to change this year.
2. Scott Hartnell Will Also Bounce Back: Scott Hartnell is one of few players who can make you love him one shift then leave you scratching your head the next. The pesty power-forward will rebound just like his fellow line mate Claude Giroux. History shows Hartnell will have a good year followed by a not-so-solid year afterward. That means he is due for a good year. Because of that and being on a line with Giroux and Jake Voracek, Hartnell will post 30 goals again.
3. Ray Emery Shines in Second Stint in Philly: Ray Emery will beat out fellow goalie Steve Mason and claim the starting job. Not only will Emery win the job, he will run and not look back with it. Emery has been a very solid and reliable goalie ever since he made a miraculous recovery from a career-threatening hip injury. He was a key component and helping Chicago go on that crazy point streak. And unlike Ilya Bryzgalov, he has the right mindset ti handle the pressures of being a goalie in Philadelphia. Emery will be a free agent steal.
4. Flyers will Lead The League in Scoring: With the forward depth the Flyers will be rolling out every night, they will lead the NHL in goals scored. If they all stay relatively healthy, players like Giroux, Hartnell, Voracek, Lecavalier, Simmonds and much more will be hard to stop from putting the puck in the back of the net. Besides Giroux and Voracek, the Flyers scoring will be balanced, coming from many different players.
5. The Flyers will Make the Playoffs: Yes Philadelphia, the Flyers will once again be competing in the playoffs this year. Key players offensively will stay relatively healthy and help this team rebound. They will finish with a 4-6 seed, and will be a tough out come postseason time.
I will check back in at certain points in the season to see how my predictions are turning out. Let’s hope for more bad than good. Go Flyers!