They had a huge lead in the Eastern Conference standings at the beginning of 2011.
Chris Pronger got hurt. Again.
Three goaltenders shared net minding duties as they barely survived Round One against the Sabres. They were swept away in Round Two by the Bruins.
General Manager Paul Holmgren blew up the roster in a way Philadelphia had never, ever seen before. For that matter, most of the NHL collectively dropped its jaw at all the departures…the top of the list finding veteran centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Carter apparently was even reassured he was going nowhere else one week before he did exactly that…hello, Columbus. Richards, the guy wearing their “C”…sent to L.A.
They signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a contract which pretty much demands he turns out to be the best goalie in their history.
They brought Jaromir Jagr back after being out of the NHL for three seasons.
In three weeks time they will watch those Bruins raise their Stanley Cup Champions banner to the rafters…and then drop the puck on a new season.
Between now and then, many introductions will be made in Flyerland.
The defense remains intact…as long as Pronger is healthy. He’ll be 37 in October and just got clearance to resume skating after two offseason surgeries. He’s had FIVE over the last calendar year. If he is no better now than he was in his lame yet game attempt to play in the playoffs earlier in 2011…Ilya gets busier… and so does Holmgren.
Many, many line combinations will be experimented with in front of that defense. Head Coach Peter Laviolette has to figure out not only who works best, but who works best together…and who gets sent down to the minors.
For a franchise not used to change it is truly a training camp unlike any other. Perhaps only Flyer fans can truly understand what personnel carnage took place back in June and July.
By the time that banner gets to the end of its rope in Boston, Laviolette may already feel he’s reached the end of his. If this doesn’t work, Philly fans will quickly want symbolic rope brought out…for both he and Holmgren.
There is a lot of work to be accomplished by these two men between now and then as they work towards formulating a squad that will require scheduling a banner ceremony here come next October.
We ask for nothing less in Philadelphia.