Previewing the East: Philadelphia Flyers
NOTE: Over the next several weeks, BlueJackets.com will take an extensive, in-depth look at the Jackets' new opponents in the Eastern Conference. Be on the lookout for photo galleries, analysis, video highlights and more!
Head coach: Peter Laviolette
Captain: Claude Giroux
LAST YEAR: 23-22-3 (49 points); 10th overall in the Eastern Conference
VS. CBJ in '13-14: 12/19, 12/21, 1/23, 4/3
OUTLOOK: Headlining the Flyers' offseason were compliance buyouts of two big-ticket players: Daniel Briere and goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. Two years into a nine-year, $51 million contract, the Flyers had seen enough of the inconsistent Russian netminder, who never found solid footing between the pipes in Philadelphia and was supplanted by a younger, cheaper option in Steve Mason at last year's trading deadline. Rather than stand pat (which is never the Flyers' M.O.), GM Paul Holmgren was aggressive in upgrading his roster and traded for the rights to UFA defenseman Mark Streit, and eventually signed the former Islanders captain to a four-year deal. Shortly before the free agency bell, the Flyers secured Vincent Lecavalier on a five-year deal and they added goaltending insurance with veteran Ray Emery. The Flyers struggled through a frustrating 2012-13 season and had to watch the playoffs from home, but their offseason moves should place them back in the postseason conversation. How can they make sure to avoid last year's disappointment? Well, for starters, better goaltending and a collective step forward from the defense are going to be essential if the Flyers have a successful 2013-14 campaign.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
This is sure to be a motivated player after being bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Lecavalier is a sure-fire bet to be on one of the top two lines for the Flyers. He can play center or wing, but may be a better fit as the No. 2 center behind Giroux. That's a rather formidable one-two punch down the middle, and of course, Lecavalier's been known to unleash wicked shots like the one we've featured below.
When you talk about players who fit Peter Laviolette's preferred style, Read seems to be in the ideal mold. He covers a lot of ice, can shoot the puck, and plays a pretty sound 200-foot game and has seen his game mature nicely since breaking into the NHL. He's got high-end skill and should be counted on for 20-25 goals every year provided he stays healthy.