Philadelphia Flyers 2013-14 Season Preview

Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek
Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek
Apr 13 2013 Buffalo NY USA Philadelphia Flyers right wing Jakub Voracek 93 during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center Sabres beat the Flyers 1 0 Kevin Hoffman USA TODAY Sports

A summer of madness in Philadelphia has made the Flyers a must watch team in 2013-14, but Philly fans might find their eyes glued to a train wreck rather than a contender. Despite buying out Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov, GM Paul Holmgren has put his team more than $2 million over the salary cap. The Flyers haul of accomplished free agents could put them back on track, but the costly veterans have placed the franchise on very unstable footing.

After finishing second to last in the Atlantic Division, the Flyers quickly got to work on their rebound attempt. In mid-June, they dealt for Mark Streit‘s negotiating rights, and they quickly secured the former New York Islanders captain to a four-year deal worth $21 million.

The move suggests that Chris Pronger‘s career is over. According to USA Today’s Dave Isaac, Pronger is still reeling from the ocular concussion that has kept him from suiting up since November of 2011. The 38-year-old future hall of famer now joins Bruins center Marc Savard in concussion limbo. If he doesn’t play this season, the  Flyers will be entitled to place him on the long-term injured reserve list. That means that his $4.9 million cap hit will disappear.

It seems that much of that money has already been spent. Tampa Bay cap casualty Vincent Lecavalier had plenty of suitors in early July, but the Flyers won the bidding war and inked the 33-year-old star to a five-year deal worth $22.5 million. Lecavalier’s production has declined steadily since his 52 goal, 108 point 2006-07 season, but he is still a legitimate top six center.

The big pivot-man could be flanked by Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn on Philly’s second line, and the imposing trio projects to be a major asset for the club.

Jakub Voracek broke out last season with 46 points playing alongside superstar Claude Giroux, but he’ll be hard-pressed to match that success this season. However, Scott Hartnell should return to form after a season hampered by a broken foot.

If Sean Couturier can finally get his act together, the Flyers could have a truly elite offense. Since being chosen eighth overall in the 2011 NHL draft, Couturier has produced just 42 points in 123 games. No longer a teenager, the center is starting to run out of excuses. He deserves the benefit of the doubt for now, but if he doesn’t step up soon, he’ll be tacked with the bust label.

As usual, the Flyers’ real questions come in goal. The carousel in the Flyers’ crease continues to turn as a result of Ilya Bryzgalov’s exile. Midseason trade acquisition Steve Mason and bargain free agent Ray Emery are now tasked with ending Philly’s perennial nightmare in net.

Following a virtuoso rookie season in 2008-09, Mason more or less disappeared. After being replaced by Vezina winner and former-Flyer Sergei Bobrovsky in 2013, he was given a fresh start in orange. He went 4-2-0 for the Flyers late last season with a stunning .944 save-percentage. The masterful audition has made him the favorite to be the number one.

However, Emery could quite easily snatch the job in his return to Philadelphia. Playing behind Corey Crawford in Chicago last season, Emery was a beast. He went 17-1-0. His only loss of the season came against the Anaheim Ducks, who scored just twice on 24 shots. Had he played a bit more, he could have been the first backup goalie to earn Vezina Trophy consideration.

Both goalies are supremely talented, but questions remain about their ability to carry the load on a nightly basis. An even split could be wise. It’s important to remember that numerous quality netminders have imploded with a Flyers logo on their chest. So the success of Mason and Emery is far from guaranteed.

The leaky Flyers defensive corps continues to be suspect. Mark Streit is a decent piece, but he is hardly a shutdown player. The offensively focused Streit had a minus-14 rating last season.

The 2013 top-pairing of Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn will face tons of pressure to perform, and they may not be up to the task.

In a division with Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares, the Flyers lack the necessary depth to majorly improve their 22nd ranked goals-against average from a year ago.

The new Metropolitan Division has a fascinating mix of teams that could duke it out for playoff spots this season. The Penguins, Capitals, Rangers and Islanders should remain in the postseason mix while the Devils, Hurricanes and Blue Jackets have enough talent to make things interesting.

While every season brings a new surprise contender, it also offers up a shocking dud. The Flyers may have the necessary ingredients for a playoff run, but something seems off. They look like a team on the brink right now. Desperately trying to be relevant in a league that is starting to be dominated by stable franchises like the Blackhawks, Bruins, Kings and Penguins, the Flyers’ frantic decision-making could come back to bite them.

A lack of proper leadership in the front office could trickle down to the ice and contribute to another underwhelming season. Though a playoff spot is certainly possible, a last place finish in the Metropolitan seems nearly as likely. The unpredictable should be the theme of the season in Philadelphia.

author avatar
Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard is a Boston, MA native and a student at Davidson College. He began writing about hockey as a Boston Bruins featured columnist for Bleacher Report in the fall of 2012. He has been covering the NHL for XN Sports since May of 2013. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');