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Flyers come up short again

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Flyers started their summer vacations much earlier than expected.

For just the ninth time in franchise history, the Flyers aren't going to the playoffs. They finished 23-22-3 in the lockout-shortened NHL season, and are facing an interesting offseason.

A team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals just three years ago fell short of expectations once again. They haven't hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup since 1975, extending their championship drought to 38 years.

"At the beginning of the season, for sure, I thought we had a team that was going to be in the playoffs, a team that was going to do some damage," center Danny Briere said. "We got out of the gate slow and then we were playing catch-up hockey. I like the way we played the last two-to-three weeks, but we just ran out of time.

"You see teams that got off to a great start and are now starting to struggle lately -- Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Islanders -- and I really believe if we still had another 30 games to play, we would be in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we didn't have the luxury and it's our own fault for putting us in that situation to begin with."

Briere is one of the big-name players who may have played his last game for Philadelphia. He has a huge $6.5 million salary cap hit and his declining production makes him a candidate for an amnesty buyout.

"I have no clue what's going to happen; it's out of my control," said Briere, who scored six goals in 34 games. "I have a contract and I hope to be back. That's all I can say."

Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is in the same position. He has seven years and $34.5 million left on his contract and was benched down the stretch for new acquisition Steve Mason.

Bryzgalov wasn't the problem for the Flyers this season, but his contract and quirky personality make him another possible amnesty candidate.

"For me, it's always been my philosophy that everyone has to take care of his own business," Bryzgalov said. "You have to prepare yourself and be responsible. You can't look for someone else, just be responsible for yourself and everything else will take care of itself. If you do your job well then everyone does their job well; things will be much better."

Coach Peter Laviolette came under fire for the team's performance, but he's not going anywhere. General manager Paul Holmgren said Laviolette did a good job under the circumstances.

"I think Peter is a strong motivator," Holmgren said. "I think he's a strong tactician and I expect him to lead our team back into the playoffs next year."

Philadelphia dealt with several injuries throughout the season. The defense was decimated, losing four of the six players that began the year on the blue line.

Captain Claude Giroux was inconsistent at times, but still finished with a team-high 48 points. Youngsters Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn were up and down.

One of the bright spots was the emergence of forward Jakub Voracek. He led the team with 22 goals and finished with 46 points.

"It was a tough season. It was a short season with 48 games," Voracek said. "We knew it was going to take a little bit more to make it to the playoffs this year. We just didn't have it. We were struggling a lot. There were some very good teams that said, 'Yeah, I'm ready to push when I needed to' and I think that's why we lost our season. When we needed to win some games, we kind of hit an offensive scoring kind of slump."
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