2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers season preview: Emery or Mason?

Welcome back to Puck Drop: NHL Preview 2013-14, where our hockey department gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of his hockey season.  Check back often as new teams are added to our Puck Drop page.  Today we take a look at the 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers:



Last Year

To say that last season was a disappointment would be an understatement for the Philadelphia Flyers fans. Missing the playoffs was not something anyone expected.

What went wrong?

Well, first let us start with the good and the emergence of Jakub Voracek, who was a point per game player playing next to Claude Giroux. Wayne Simmonds also had a breakout year and was on pace to hit 30 goals in a full length season. We also saw Steve Mason put up very good numbers in the seven starts he got with the Flyers at the end of the year. The power play was very effective and was ranked 3rd in the league with 21.6 percent conversion rate. Penalty kill was excellent as well with 85.9 percent and good for 5th in the league. Flyers also finished the season with a nice record of six wins in the last seven games. Big wins against playoff teams like the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators.

So, the good was good, as in there is a lot offensive upside in this team with its young talent. The bad? Well, there was a lot more of it than the good. We had Scott Hartnell score only 8 goals, Danny Briere looked like he completely ran out of gas and only scored 6 goals with a horrid minus 13. There was also the defensive corps that was torched for 139 goals as only seven other teams let in more goals. Well, whomever fault that was, it sure did not help that the Flyers 51 million dollar goalie had a save percentage of .900 and with that kind of a number you will be hard pressed to win games.

Really, it all came down to five on five play for the Flyers last season, something that they might of straightened out over a long season, but during 48 game season every mistake is magnified. When you expect to be a playoff team and you finish outside, there tends to be collateral damage. This year for the Flyers the collateral damage ended up being two buyouts. Danny Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov were bought out with Briere signing in Montreal while Ilya still a UFA. Flyers pretty much labeled Bryzgalov as the scapegoat for the lost season and his stats really did not help argue otherwise.



Offseason is a busy time for the Flyer fans as they certainly, by now, expect big moves by their GM Paul Holmgren. He sets the tone with big signings and big trades and surely is starting to get a reputation for being fairly ruthless guy. The Shea Weber offer sheet as well as Mike Richards and Jeff Carter trades come to mind. This offseason was no different.

Besides the two amnesty buyouts that were used on Bryzgalov and Briere, Mr. Holmgren brought in an aging and recently a buyout himself superstar at a reasonable price, especially after his previous contract in Vincent Lecavalier. Vinny has a cup under his belt, has the talent and is very good at the faceoff dot. What he could not do though is be the offensive powerhouse he once was and that is exactly why he got bought out.

The addition of Ray Emery is a nice one as well. Ray posted spectacular numbers while playing for the Hawks and really wants a starting job but he simply could not steal it away from Corey Crawford. The addition of Steve Mason at the trade deadline has created a two goalie rotation system that will be fun to watch and monitor. It is clear that Emery can thrive under this system and Mason really needs to prove himself all over again.

Mark Streit decided to walk away from Long Island, but did not have to travel very far. Flyers were in desperate need of another solid defenseman that has high offensive upside. Streit is that guy. Pronger will no longer play and Timonen is really really old.

Other Free Agent signings:

JUL 10 D Oliver Lauridsen Philadelphia
JUL 9 D Erik Gustafsson Philadelphia
JUL 5 G Yann Danis Philadelphia


Story Lines To Watch

The goaltending situation is the number one story any Flyers fan really cares about. Having two goalies is great but the issue here is that both are unproven over an 82 game season. The Steve Mason saga continues as the ex Calder Trophy winner has not been able to stay consistent and shore up his game. Many suggested a change of a scene and that is exactly what happen. Now on the Flyers, Mason will enjoy a bit more offense but I am not so sure on better defense. He has posted an impressive save percentage in the short time with Philly last year, but it will be interesting to watch if he can finally get back to the high level of play that he started his NHL career with.

Ray Emery on the other hand had an epic season with the Hawks. He only lost once in 19 games and had 1.94 GAA with .908 SV%. That is impressive, but some suggest that it was more of the team that was in front of him than his skill. He has a chance to prove the naysayers wrong. While this will not be the first time Emery is playing for the Flyers, the 30-year-old journey man will be competing for the number one spot instead of being more of a back up goalie that is suppose to push the other goalie to play better as he was in Chicago. This is his real chance to become the numero uno as they say, something that he has not been able to do in a long time.

Both goalies career stats seem fairly identical, but Emery does have this Tim Thomas late bloomer vibe about him. Mason will have to rely on his size and youthful exuberance  to become a number one goalie, but my bet is that both goalies will play as they win. There might not be an even 50/50 split between the pipes, but the hot goalie will ride it out as long as he can.


Players To Watch

Matt Read is itching to become a 30 goal scorer. He has shined at times but would find insane cold streaks. The fact that he is 27 years old may suggest that he has reached his peak, but if you watch him play you would think otherwise. The injury slowed him down last season and while his shooting percentage was on pace from a year ago with 15% he can definitely pop in a few more. With locked in top six minutes and more power play this year, he may be able to bump Vincent Lecavalier from the spot playing with Giroux and this will surely guarantee a career best year.


Andrej Meszaros is another player to watch for the Flyers as he had a bad injury that sidelined him for almost an entire short season (11 games played). He has shown offensive upside and has in him to put up 30/35 points with a good plus/minus rating to boot. This guy does not get much power play time, but makes up for it with solid defensive minutes that he turns into decent offense. Another upside to him is that he is not afraid to shoot the puck.


Jakub Voracek exploded offensively for the Flyers once placed on a line with Claude Giroux. He finished the season with 43 points in the last 40 games and that would make him a great bargain for the salary cap strapped Flyers. There is doubt that he will continue to play this well. His shooting percentage went from eight percent average to 17 percent this year. That is an awfully high number to carry over a full season. Playing with Giroux does have its benefits but I just do not see Voracek as a 40 goal scorer. Time will tell, but this young guy is 24 years old with five years under his belt. He could ripe in time for the Flyers to reap the benefits and with Giroux in the middle it is a perfect storm.


Final Word

Flyers are facing a very tough Atlantic..errr Metropolitan division. In my eyes the Division and Conference only got harder with addition of Red Wings to the East and Columbus Blue Jackets to the Metropolitan. There is uncertainly in net and can Streit and Timonen stay healthy for an entire season? There might not be enough offense to make up for goals they let in, but if they can improve just a bit in that department while carrying over last seasons special teams, playoffs might be in sight again. I see this team fighting for the last wild card spot in the East and probably missing it by a few points.



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