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Just Close Your Eyes And Pray For The Best. It's Your 2015-16 Philadelphia Flyers Season Preview

Edmonton Oilers v Philadelphia Flyers

After a brutally long offseason, the Philadelphia Flyers finally kick off their 2015-16 campaign later this week against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Since April 11, the Flyers have fired head coach Craig Berube, hired former North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol as his replacement, brought in Sam Gagner, inked up Jake Voracek and Sean Couturier to long-term deals, have failed to ship guys like Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn away and …. well I guess that was about it. Aside from the Hakstol hiring, it was a rather quiet offseason for the Flyers. Which, when compared to the Penguins bringing in Kessel and the Blue Jackets bringing in Saad, might mean the Flyers will be on the outside looking in again in the Metro Division. But there’s still always a little reason to hold out hope (mainly because Philly sports fans love to get our hopes up only to be let down later) so let’s talk about what we have to look forward to this season.

Forwards

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Obviously everything this year and for the next 8 years to come runs through Captain Claude and Voracek. Combined, the two put up over 150 points last season and there are very very very few duos in the league that are as dynamic as G and Jake (think Seguin/Benn and Ovi/Backstrom, that might be it). So we know what we should get out of those two again this season and hopefully Raffl will be able to stay at that LW slot on that line for the whole season. It would be great to finally have a little bit of stability there. But one of the biggest downfall to the Flyers last year was secondary scoring after that top line and if the Flyers have any  chance of being a playoff team this season, that obviously needs to change.

I wrote a whole piece on Brayden Schenn last week and how he’s quickly running out of a spot on the roster here. Neither Hextall or Hakstol are huge on him right now and it’ll be very interesting to see where he ends up in this line up. But most likely, that 2nd line is going to look like Read/Couturier/Simmonds. You can always count on Simmer to provide around 30 goals a year (give or take) and you know what you’re going to get out of him night in and night out. Read and Couturier, however, are much more hit or miss. Consistency is the thing that I think this offense is lacking the most but hopefully Couturier’s new contract gives him the confidence boost he needs to be the full-blown Selke guy we all think he is and we’ll just wait to find out what Read can bring to the table this year.

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Honestly, I’m most excited to see what the 3rd line can bring to the table this year. Whether it’s the redemption line of Umberger/Vinny/Gagner or if Brayden slides in that line at any point, this is the line that has the most to prove. Umberger and Lecavalier are almost certainly getting bought out at the end of this season so they should be treating this like a contract year. I’ve asid it a million times last year but with a guy like Lecavalier, there’s still gotta be a little something left in the tank. But Berube wasted it by burying him on the 4th line all year. You can’t expect a guy like that to be able to produce while playing with nobody around him. I don’t really have anything to base this on but I feel like playing under Hakstol is going to be HUGE for a little late renaissance of Vinny’s game.

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Defense

I really, really, reallllllllly would rather not even talk about the defense right now. Because the blue line is the biggest thing holding this Flyers team back from being legitimate contenders and it drives me absolutely ape shit. In just a couple short seasons, Ghost Morin Sanheim Provorov and Hagg will all be up with the big boys and then that’s when Flyers fans everywhere can finally be able to really look forward to October every year. But for now, you’ve got Andrew MacDonald and his shitty fucking contract getting blown by like a turnstyle every night, Luke Schenn who is trade bait at best, an aging Mark Streit, Nick Schultz who is as vanilla as they come and Radko Fucking Gudas clogging up those roster spots. Someone get me a shot of bleach ASAP.

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The only thing to really look forward to this year on the blueline will be the Michael Del Zotto and Evgeny Medvedev pairing. MDZ/MDV. I didn’t really know what to expect out of Medvedev coming out of Russia but through preseason this year he’s shown a lot of promising signs. He has great awareness in the defensive zone (which will compensate for Del Zotto thinking he’s a forward) and he moves real well on the smaller ice here as opposed to the larger European ice. These two should be fun to watch this season, the rest of them…..? Ehhhh maybe not so much.

Goalies

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Steve Mason will never get the respect he deserves until the blue line that plays in front of him cleans up their shit. But I have no problem at all with calling Mase a top 10 goaltender in the NHL. Like I don’t even think that there should be a debate about that. Just look up his numbers from last season and see what he was able to do with virtually no help at all. And that’s the biggest problem. We are wasting valuable years of Steve Mason with this shitty shitty defense. Regardless, Steve Mason is a top tier goalie in this league and if there is any shot in hell that the Flyers make the playoffs this year, well you can bet your sweet ass that this man will have plenty to do with that.

Flyers also brought in Michal Neuvirth over the summer. Neuvirth is known to be a bit of a head case and things can go very wrong very quickly with him. And if there’s one city in the world that is the absolute worst place for a goalie like that, it’s Philly. I guess the only thing we can do though is just sit back and see what happens. Mason is a tad bit injury prone so I’m sure we’ll see our fair share of Neuvirth this season. I wish I had more to say other than it’ll either go really well or it’ll go really bad, but that’s all there is to it.

Prediction

I think this season is going to be pretty similar to last season. There are going to be times when this team just looks so outmatched and not ready to take that next step. And then there are going to be times when they look like they finally figured it out and they’re going to actually make that final push for the playoffs. But come April 9 when the Flyers end their regular season against the Penguins, I think they’re 8-10 points out of that wild card spot and miss the playoffs for the 2nd consecutive year. Which disgusts me but whatever. The future is bright and the future is almost here.

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