Are Flyers better now than they were last year?
Are the Flyers better off now than they were in May, when they were eliminated from the postseason by the underdog New Jersey Devils?
That’s the question we posted on Twitter Wednesday, curious to see fans’ takes. And just like the last time we posted a topic to debate (see story)
, we got a ton of responses. This time, however, the answers were actually somewhat different from what was expected.
So … let’s get to it: Are the Flyers a better team after losing a few pieces and adding some new ones? Here are some thoughts and the arguments that support them:
No, the Flyers are worse
This was the most dominant answer, but wasn’t the runaway winner as was anticipated. I have to say, it’s the one I agree with. Let’s consider the facts.
The Flyers lost their No. 2 defenseman in Matt Carle, who signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent. While Carle did make some mistakes (some very, very noticeable) he was a puck-moving defenseman unlike any other currently on the Flyers’ roster. It’s likely they’ll miss that.
On offense, the absence of Jaromir Jagr will undoubtedly be felt. Jagr made Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell better players – if you don’t agree, ask them – and he’ll be missed on that top line. His 54 points last season were only five fewer than Rick Nash accumulated. James van Riemsdyk wasn’t able to contribute much last season because of injury, but the Flyers sure could have used the version of JVR that appeared in the ’11 postseason. Both players were 6-foot-3 – and without them, the Flyers did lose size on the wing.Yes, the Flyers are a better team
I was somewhat surprised by how many fans held an optimistic view of the Flyers’ off-season moves. Of course, there were definitely some changes that, without question, helped the team.
Luke Schenn, first of all, is a solid addition to the defense. And considering the Flyers only had to give up van Riemsdyk – who barely had a presence in 2011-12 – this move alone improved the team to some extent. Schenn hasn’t yet played up to his potential, but I like the idea of his playing on a team with younger brother Brayden – perhaps sibling rivalry will push both players to have strong seasons.
The return of Ruslan Fedotenko can’t exactly make up for Jagr, but "Rusty" is already familiar with the Flyers organization, and he brings a lot of experience (including Stanley Cup victories) to the team. Fedotenko also has the added benefit of being able to play on any line, a versatility that will come in handy as coach Peter Laviolette pieces together his new puzzle.
Also, it must be noted that the Flyers have about $11 million in cap space right now. That’s something that sets them up very well ahead of the impressive free agent class of 2013.
Actually, the Flyers are the same
This answer popped up fairly frequently, as well, but it also tended to come along with a caveat: Yes, the Flyers are the same. But no, that’s not good enough. After all, they didn't win the Cup.
The school of thought here is that, while the Flyers are a changed squad, the moves seem to even out. Yes, they lost Jagr and JVR – but they brought in Fedotenko, and Jakub Voracek should fit in easily on the top line (note: Voracek, a restricted free agent, remains un-signed). Yes, Carle is gone – but Schenn and Bruno Gervais (along with young players like Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon) make up for his absence.
No matter what, though, we won’t really know ‘til the team hits the ice this fall.
What do you think? Are they better, worse or about the same? Leave your opinions in the comments – let’s keep the hockey talk strong through the dog days of summer.E-mail Sarah Baicker at email@example.com