Saturday, April 25, 2009

What's Next: Philadelphia Flyers

For a second-straight season, the Philadelphia Flyers were eliminated by their cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's much quicker than the Flyers had hoped, but now an off-season of uncertainty will loom with the Flyers and many question will be asked heading into next season.

First off, the goaltending situation will be the first and foremost on the list for the Flyers. Both Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki are unrestricted free agents and the question on whether or not to keep one or the other or both is going to be the big debate. The numbers for both this season were pretty close when you project Niittymaki's stats compared to Biron. The Flyers could have to concede and re-sign both of them, especially due to the fact that there is not much coming down the pipe in terms of free agents and it's better to go with the devil you know rather than the one you don't.

Upfront, the Flyers were fairly solid with five players going over 50 points, and they were able to get back a healthy Simon Gagne, which definitely helped. The young guns in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter continued to show their maturity by going 1-2 in team points, while Scott Hartnell and his "Sideshow Bob" coif chipped in and gained a cult following in Philly. Mike Knuble is the only free agent for the front-line corp in Philly and could get re-signed if his asking price isn't too much and if the Flyers think they still need him around.

One forward who would want a mulligan is Daniel Briere, who was out most of the season with various hernia and groin issues throughout the season. However, the blessing in disguise was the play of Claude Giroux. Giroux wasn't able to make a big offensive impact, but has the stats, skills, and ability to make himself one of the top scorers for the Flyers if given an opportunity.

As far a defense, the Flyers finally get Derian Hatcher's paycheck off the books and the only one left to get off the books is Mike Rathje, who has been in long-term injury for the past two years. The defense headed by Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn stood pretty tall and should continue to grow, but will have to play a little more consistent in front of whomever is in net, as lapses at times have proven costly for the Flyers.

There have been many questions about the future of coach John Stevens and what happens come October remains to be seen, but it should be a very busy off-season regardless of what is the final word in the "City of Brotherly Love."

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