For more information regarding our move, please read the two last post published below.

09 April 2007

Finally. It's Over.

Fans of the Philadelphia Flyers went into this season with cautious optimism, such as I did. At the start of the season, I pegged them to be 6th, but only after acquiring Geoff Sanderson for a "cheap" US$1.5M, and trading fan favorite Michal Handzus for the budding Kyle Calder. Both plays by then- GM Bob Clarke were complete busts, as was the entire summer was for the Flyers. To replace Kim Johnsson, Clarke pegged Nolan Baumgartner, who was nothing more than a glorified AHL player. This was Clarke's big spash early in free agency, but he did outdo himself. He threw darts at a thumbtack hole when he signed Randy Robitalle, Lars Jonsson and Mark Cullen. The gyst of the Flyers offseason plan was "Were already a good team, we just need to stay healthy." Anyone with an open mind could clearly see that after being whitewashed by Buffalo in last year's playoffs, the last thing the Flyers needed to do was stand pat.

A heartbreaking 4-3 shootout loss to New Jersey on December 2 is what really signaled the end to the Flyers season. Mike Knuble scored a goal early in the 3rd period and the Flyers twarted any attempts the Devils made at tying the game, leaving to a rare later Devils penalty. Lo and behold the Devils score shorthanded goal, the first of the season for Brad Lukowich (3 of his 4 goals this season came in Philadelphia), the game is tied and the Flyers played like zombies in overtime before a weak attempt in the shootout. The Flyers before that point had shown signs of putting it together despite crucial mistakes leading to losses against Ottawa and Nashville in then-recent games. That loss against the Devils was the beginning of the end and the Flyers only won 4 of their next 24 games.

Also dissapointing, was the Flyers heralded sophomores. Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and R.J. Umberger were massive disappointments offensively. Carter and Richards both spent a significant time on the injured list, and Umberger was missing in action for more than half of the season. Antero Niittymaki left much to be desired after a 2005-06 season that left some promise that he would emerge as the #1 goalie we hoped to have. And while not a sophomore, but in his 3rd year, Joni Pitkanen was thrown into a sink-or-swim situation, and he sank despite career highs in points and assists. He left this season with more questions than answers, and hopefully he can do well in the World Championships as he has committed to playing for the Finnish National team. However, a sophomore who shined bright for the Flyers was superpest Ben Eager, who with a strong work ethic, determination and attitude has had fans being endearing to him, with numerous fans now sporting his name and #55 on their jerseys. Alex Picard has also made strides in his rookie season.

The shining bright spot for the Flyers, this season, was certainly their penalty kill. The Flyers PK was dreadful last season. With players coming in and out all season this year, the Flyers penalty kill was ranked #3 in the league at one point, led with a top unit featuring Derian Hatcher and Denis Gauthier, with Richard and Umberger seeing a large amount of time, along with Sami Kapanen and Mike Knuble who were both signed to two-year contract extensions and will probably end their careers with the Flyers.

And after the trade deadline, the Flyers found themselves stockpiled with many young assets and a new #1 goalie. Gone was Superstar Peter Forsberg, Kyle Calder, Alex Zhitnik and Petr Nedved (sent off through waivers earlier in the season). In are Scottie Upshall, who has quickly established himself as a fan favorite, scoring goals and creating scoring chances, highlighted with his overtime winning goal in Boston, with 9.9 seconds left. Braydon Coburn and Ryan Parent are two promising defensemen. Coburn will definitely find himself in the lineup next season, and Ryan Parent will see some time as well, he has already played one game vs. New Jersey last week. Lasse Kukkonen has been a solid find, he was brought in for Kyle Calder. Kukkonen was the runaway leader in blocked shots among rookie defensemen. Kukkonen's play has made himself part of the future of this team and has shown to be a valuable player.

For next season though, the player who has been responsible for Flyer fans having hope for next season is Martin Biron. Once the enemy for so many years in Buffalo, New Flyers GM Paul Holmgren made a bold move giving up a valuable 2nd round pick to ensure that this team had a #1 goalie. Biron was recently signed to a two-year contract extension, and if everything goes as planned, both sides know it will be longer than that. With a positive attitude and stellar play, Biron helped shine optimism on a hopeless season. By himself, he has drawn excitement and anxiousness for next season.

The Flyers have over $20M in cap space for next season, and will absolutely make a big splash in free agency and at the very least the Flyers will be far more competitive and hopefully make the playoffs next season.

As for a personal highlight for the Flyers this year...well, there was only 10 home wins, but A February pasting of the Detroit Red Wings is one of two shining moments I have. The Flyers were tied 1-1 after 3, but in the 3rd period, Peter Forsberg led off a 5-goal onslaught capped off with Todd Fedoruk's breakaway goal in a 6-1 win. It turned out to be Peter Forsberg's final game with the Flyers as he was traded three days later. Another would be yesterday's season ending win against Buffalo. The game meant nothing to either team in the standings, but it meant a lot to the Flyers and the fans in that building. At the very least, Flyers fans wanted just one more time to cheer and feel good about the team, and celebrate the future of the team.

I'll be back in a day or two with a Kings season review too.

1 fanatics have replied:

Bleu, Blanc et Rouge said...

You know what, I actually feel kind of sorry for the Flyers and I also feel grateful they've learned the hard way.

At the beginning of the year, at a glance, the roster looks like a contending one, one that belongs up in the standings.

But, if you remember the Rangers in their nasty pre-lockout years, people wanted to hang Glen Sather and take his head and put it on a stick! I think that after a bad start the Flyers just weren't used to, maybe it just got to them that they weren't going to be a good team this season and that dragged their morale down?

That's my two cents.

I hope next year's better! :)

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