Flyers fans will continue to use the 2011-12 season's goal production as an example for why they're not worrying about the offense next season. Scott Hartnell closed in on almost 40-goals, Wayne Simmonds almost potted 30-pucks himself, and even Max Talbot was just shy of 20.
One thing all three of those forwards had in common was that the 2011-12 season was a career year for each of them in the goals-scored department.
Leading into the schedule, we were all worried about where the goals were going to come from. The mentioned trio above certainly came to the call, and who could forget about our rookies who lifted the twine a combined 64-times during the regular schedule.
The depth was there. In fact, Philadelphia scored the 2nd most PPG's in the League and held on to the most goals-scored (in both Conferences) for the majority of the season.
So I can see why none of you are too worried about next year's lit lamps.
It needs to be addressed this off-season. You know it, Paul Holmgren knows it. We'll either hammer away at our blue line woes by trade(s) or free agency signings, or both. It's our off-season's #1 priority.
But once Homer solidifies the buttress pairings, I firmly believe it'd behoove the organization to begin looking for a pure goal-scoring forward out there. One who possesses all the traits (and not just most of them) of a pure goal-scorer.
Hartnell, Simmonds and Talbot will more than likely not repeat the goal totals from the 2011-12 season. They may not even come close to it, actually. Their career years were paid dividends. A welcomed surprise. But overall, it's just out of their character.
You argue our rookies -- with their successful freshman seasons under their belts -- will return in their sophomore years more experienced, prepared to take on what opponents throw at them, and deliver just as they did (if not, better) last October through May.
Hey, I hope so as well! And I won't argue that our rooks don't look to be potential super stars. Because that's exactly what they are.
However, if sophomore seasons have proven anything over the 100+ years of the NHL's existence.....it's that you don't know what to expect from your players after their familiarizing period. There is no assurance there whatsoever. One 82-game schedule is not enough sample size to establish a firm rate of consistency. I pray to the hockey gods that Matt Read returns next year and scores 30, or Couturier grows more physically monstrous during the summer months and returns an even better two-way, defensive center than he is today. Or even Brayden Schenn; the kid bangs like a one-ton pendulum, and has shown us he goes to the net like a veteran.
The promise is there. The potential's been proven. Although it's the regularity that's still up in the air.
I'm not here to be a downer, or to inflict second-guessing with our players and/or management's recent roster decisions. I absolutely have fallen in love with this team, and it's the strongest it's ever been than I can remember.
But this is a business. It's got to evolve to get better. And right now, this Flyers team's evolution is a few defensive key pieces and a pure goal-scorer away from becoming what we've been praying for since the Spring of 1975.
Jaromir Jagr is still a walking, talking question-mark at this stage of the off-season. No one knows if he's returning to the Flyers, or the NHL at all. I believe Jagr's not even sure himself.
Regardless of this, it's pretty obvious that his production tailed off by the Playoffs. He was a ghost on the ice in virtually both Series. When you see this from a 40yr old forward, you tend to blame it on his age. And when this player is only bound to a 1yr contract, more questions and concerns loom around his re-signing than anything else.
Considering the pre-season expectations, Jagr had an absolutely fantastic year with the Flyers. He amazed us on the front line with Giroux, and his leadership in the locker room could never have a price tag. I appreciated the man's work ethic, which was far and beyond any other skater I've seen this year.
Jagr, simply, deserves success.
But I'm not too sure about an extension here in Philadelphia. Jaromir could become an odd man out. Though there are contracts coming off the books (Laperriere, Betts), cap space is opening up and the salary's ceiling is being raised to (rumored) $69MM, it's the team's priorities that could push Jagr's chances at dressing in orange & black again off the table. And with both Matt Carle and Jake Voracek up for re-signing and pay increases, Jagr's clamp in Philly is lessened even more.
Where am I going with all of this?
Well, like I said, the depth on our forward combinations is unquestionably present. But assuming we'll see the same (or more) goal production from our current players like we did in 2011-12 is a tad naive.
Claude Giroux is a playmaker. One of the best in the world. Any mate skating with Giroux will profit tenfold,and Scott Hartnell is certainly a product of that fact. Some may argue that Hartnell is the pure goal-scorer that Claude needs, but Hartsy's playing history would beg to differ.
Scott possesses many traits, but is simply not the pure goal-scorer our front line's looking for. This needed linemate stockpiles structures such as hockey sense, passing skills, the ability to get open, drives to the net, has quick and accurate releases, hockey ingenuity, flawless puck handling and possession skills, and a knack to get into an opposing netminder's head.
I know, it sounds a lot like a 2011-12 Scott Hartnell. Bear with me.
First off, if for whatever reason you believe I'm about to conduct an argument for picking up soon-to-be UFA Alexander Semin, then please.....poison that thought dead. That's the last thing this team needs, another Nikolai Zherdev; A player who harnesses as much work ethic as a pestering pimple on our ass.
Semin will get his money, but it won't be from Ed Snider's pocket. Thank the Lord.
Now, you really wanna know who I have my hopes up for?
Soon-to-be-UFA, LW Zach Parise.
There, I said it.
Sure, it's wishful thinking. Zach's already closing off on his 1yr/$6M contract with the New Jersey Devils, and with Philadelphia constantly flirting with the cap ceiling, it'd be quite a challenge to fit his inevitable high-grade salary in our books. Especially once Holmgren takes care of our defensive anguish.
But for the sake of argument, I wanted to give you an example of what a pure goal-scorer is. Parise's just the whole ball of wax wrapped into one mighty 5'11", 190lbs frame.
Excusing his rookie year, and 2010-11 which he spent most of on the IR, Zach hasn't gone a single season without scoring less than 31-goals. In 2008-09, Parise had a career high 45-lit lamps.
Again, excusing the aforementioned two seasons, Parise averages 35.4 (177 G / 5yrs) goals per regular schedule. Imagine what a player like him would do with Claude Giroux centering his line? Imagine the line combo's total in points?
Yea, mine moved a little too.
To give you a reference, here is the list of upcoming UFA Forwards, and here's the list of upcoming RFA Forwards. Free Agency Frenzy Day, this year, will live up to its name; it'll be a frenzy. There's really no depth talent-wise in this FA pool, so Clubs all over the League will be going after the cream of the crop like wild animals.
Philadelphia snagging and signing Parise is a stretch, but it's a key player like him that our front line is missing. Could the Flyers try to obtain a talent like Parise via trade? Sure. And the Flyers have enough up front to sacrifice a little depth. You've got to give a little to gain what you want.
The youth is here in Philly. The leadership is spread thick and wide throughout our dressing room. Talent drips from our players' nameplates like nectar off a honeycomb. If we build and strengthen around Bryzgalov then capture the final piece of the puzzle upfront, then we'll be tasting silver and nickel alloy in our near future.
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