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Philadelphia Flyers, 2013-14 (Puck Daddy Gold Medal Preview)

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

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(Ed. Note: It’s an Olympic year in the NHL. So, naturally, we decided to use the trappings of the Winter Games to preview all 30 teams for the 2013-14 NHL season. Who takes the gold? Who falls on their triple-axel? Read on and find out!)

What was supposed to be a season with potential turned into disaster for the Philadelphia Flyers. An 0-3 start was a sign of things to come as the team missed the playoffs for only the second time since 1994, finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference (23-22-3, 49 points).

While dealing with their own issues in goal, the Flyers had to watch Sergei Bobrovsky, who they traded to Columbus that off-season, win the Vezina Trophy. They tried to grab Shea Weber out of Nashville, but the Predators matched their offer sheet. Matt Carle left and a pursuit of Ryan Suter was fruitless. They would finish 23rd in goals allowed in 2013.

After sorting through holes in their lineup, the Flyers stocked up and got healthy. Can they bounce back and fight their way into the playoffs once again?

After a couple seasons away, Simon Gagne returned home and scored a power play goal in his first game back with the Flyers.

The revolving door in the Flyers' crease kept moving as the team bought out the final seven years of Ilya Bryzgalov's $51 million contract signed in 2011. In his place, Ray Emery returned to Philadelphia on a one-year deal. He'll share a platoon with Steve Mason.

The other compliance buyout used by the Flyers was on forward Danny Briere. The 35-year old would later sign with the Montreal Canadiens.

The summer was a busy one for GM Paul Holmgren. Taking advantage of another team's compliance buyout, the Flyers brought in former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier on a five-year, $22.5 million deal.

Joining the blue line was Mark Streit, whose rights were acquired in a June trade before signing a four-year, $21 million deal.

Andreas Lilja (Rogle, Sweden), Ruslan Fedotenko (Donbass, KHL), Brian Boucher (Zug, Swiss) all took their talents to Europe. Veteran Mike Knuble was not re-signed.

Forward: Injuries forced head coach Peter Laviolette to shuffle between 22 different forwards last season. The Flyers were third in the NHL with 371 total man games lost to injury. Claude Giroux led the way with 48 points in his first season as team captain, while Jakub Voracek had a breakout season recording 22 goals and 46 points during the shortened campaign. The pair also help boost the Philadelphia power play (21.6 percent) to third overall with 14 combined power play goals.

More was expected out of both Sean Couturier (4 goals, 15 points) and Brayden Schenn (8 goals, 26 points). With a better overall season for the team, those two should bounce back.

Newly extended Matt Read (11 goals, 24 points) has already come from nowhere to be a productive NHL player. Is there another level he can go after two solid seasons?

Before last season, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell both signed six-year extensions. Simmonds had a typical year (15 goals, 32 points), while Hartnell missed 16 games with a broken foot and was limited to only 11 points. Those two will be vitally important to help Giroux and Voracek as secondary scorers.

Entering the mix is the 33-year old Lecavalier who comes to Philadelphia with a chip on his shoulder wanting to prove to critics that he's not done as a hockey player.

Defense: Offensively, it was the Kimmo Timonen show from the blueline. His 29 points was well ahead of Luke Schenn (11), who was second in scoring among Flyers defensemen. The 38-year old Timonen is coming off a fractured foot and may be playing in his final season. Can he remain a dependable 20-plus minutes a night?

Helping in the offense department will be Mark Streit, who led the Islanders blueline in points last season with 27. He'll move the puck and pitch in on the power play.

Health will play a role if the Flyers' defense will improve in 2013-14. Nicklas Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros and Braydon Coburn missed 70 games between them, forcing some extra ice time for youngsters Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen.

Goalies: Ilya Bryzgalov is gone. It's up to the platoon of Ray Emery and Steve Mason to put to bed questions about the Flyers' net. Emery split time with Corey Crawford with the Chicago Blackhawks last season and finished with a 17-1-0 record, answering questions about whether or not his hip injury would affect him long-term. Mason was acquired in April and went 4-2-0, 1.90, .944 save-percentage, earning a one-year extension in the process. He's scheduled to become an RFA next summer.

General manager Paul Holmgren's seat hardly gets warm, even after expectations fail to be met year after year. There's no question he puts together teams with talent, which then comes down to whether or not his head coach can make it work. Peter Laviolette's seat, however, could get toasty should the Flyers experience a lull and dig a deep hole in the Metropolitan Division. Owner Ed Snider approved the Bryzgalov signing because he wanted a Stanley Cup now. Patience isn't a thing in high supply in Philadelphia.

There's something catchy about this Mac Miller tune that'll get you going. Knock knock!

The power play will continue to be one of the league's most dangerous. A healthy Hartnell will help even more.

Special teams were a strong point. The penalty kill was fifth (85.9 percent) in the NHL last season.

Claude Giroux may want to stay away from the golf course for a while, but should bounce back offensively now that he has a season of being captain under his belt.

Philadelphia had a tough time coming from behind in games. The Flyers were 1-12-0 when trailing after the first period and 2-14-0 when falling behind after two. No surprise then that they were 18-6-2 when scoring first.
The scoring will be there, but ultimately health and goaltending will decide the Flyers' fate in 2013-14. Whether Emery or Mason grab hold of the No. 1 reigns, they'll have to prove Holmgren correct that paying all that money to Ilya Bryzgalov to go away was worth it. The Metropolitan Division will be a dog fight, but the Flyers used to that. If they keep the man games lost to a minimum, they should find themselves having a chance to play beyond early April.

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