When you play with it, however, it’s clear that the feel and usage of the high-end twig matches it’s stellar appearance.
The news of Brayden Schenn’s recall from the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms on Wednesday, sent a shockwave of excitement and confusion through the Flyers’ faithful, who have become smitten with the current make of their squad, fourth-liners and all.
Coming off a dominating 7-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday and running their overall record to 4-0-1, the fun-to-watch Flyers have abruptly shuffled their lineup, sending the impressive Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk down to the Phantoms and inserting Schenn, a high-profile center, into the pivot-heavy fray.
But regardless of where Schenn plays, the minutes he receives, the line combinations it causes or whether the decision to tinker with the roster was the correct one, there is something to note here that shouldn’t get lost in the roster shuffle.
What a nice problem to have.
For one night, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren can relax.
With a defensive-minded and perfectly-executed 2-1 road win against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins on Thursday at TD Garden, the young Flyers made the mad scientist GM look like a genius.
His plan came together.
“It’s a new team and like I said, it was pretty exciting to see everybody working hard and everybody working together,” said Claude Giroux, who scored the team’s first goal. “The attitude was great out there.”
Since acquiring Wayne Simmonds this offseason, the Flyers’ eyes have been wide with optimistic hope that the lanky energy and power winger will see an offensive renaissance and make a small departure from the grind-only role he had assumed with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Flyers, most notably general manager Paul Holmgren, think Simmonds, whose previous career high is 40 points, has more to his game than what he’s shown in his young career. And this preseason, the organization has handed the 23-year-old every chance possible to prove them right.
With four goals and an assist in four preseason games, he’s doing just that.
Well, that didn’t take long.
Painted into the salary cap corner thanks to the eye-opening play of Matt Read and Sean Couturier and the five-game stays-on-the-cap suspension of enforcer Jody Shelley, the Flyers and general manager Paul Holmgren are in a roster jam.
Ratcheted up against the cap wall the Flyers were playing with fire to begin with, even without injuries or suspensions to start the preseason. And even before the season starts with the high salary of Brayden Schenn, the injury to Andreas Nodl and the weighing suspension to Shelley, they are paying for their financial decisions.
He may not appear like much on paper, but unsigned tryout Michael Nylander will be a welcomed sight at Flyers training camp beginning in late September.
Sure, at 38, his best years are clearly behind him. Having been pushed out of the NHL since 2008-09 isn’t ideal and the broken neck he suffered in October of 2010 doesn’t typically spell a recipe for future success.
However, what the veteran center does bring to training camp is an interesting variable to the seemingly set Flyers roster equation. Nylander represents possibilities, options and at worst, free competition.
Easily the most detested, scathed and ridiculed player the Flyers have faced since 2005, Sidney Crosby has played the part of shining white knight to Philadelphia’s dark side bullies with perfection.
With his nice-boy image and his sparkling reputation around the league, the 24-year-old is everything the Flyers aren’t. As the poster-child for the new NHL, he is the Flyers’ antithesis. He is their most recognizable nemesis.
So when the news broke on Monday that Crosby’s concussion symptoms have continued to haunt him and that he might not be cleared to participate by the start of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ training camp, it isn’t just the NHL and the Penguins who should groan, Flyers fans should be there too.
It was unexpected and certainly not a selection of need, but with the eighth pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota on Friday, the Flyers choose the best player available in center Sean Couturier.
And despite the surprise, it was the correct decision.
With Chris Pronger, turning 37 in October, and Kimmo Timonen, 36, hitting the twilight of their careers, it would have made sense for general manager Paul Holmgren to re-stock his team’s defensive cabinet and pull the trigger on 6-foot-4 blueliner Dougie Hamilton or 5-10 defensive waterbug Ryan Murphy. In fact, many experts believed that the two talented rear guards to be the best players available when the Flyers hit the podium to make their selection.
But when Winnipeg reached off the board to grab Mark Scheifele with the seventh pick, suddenly, and to their pleasant surprise, the Flyers had a top-five forward talent in Couturier fall right into their lap. Throw in the fact that when selecting in the top 10, avoiding need and grabbing the best player available is really the only choice, making the decision to steal Couturier was the right one.
It will go down in Flyers history as the Day of Reckoning.
General manager Paul Holmgren took his organization across the hockey Rubicon and with guts made of iron, changing the course of the Flyers’ future for the next decade.
The afternoon of June 23, one day before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Holmgren ripped the spine out of the Flyers by trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter less than an hour apart, and replaced it with a younger, more talented but less-proven set of discs and cords.
The Flyers needed salary cap space to sign goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. They just needed a minor shuffle of the deck and to re-load for a run at the Stanley Cup next season. Instead, they wiped the slate clean.
As he grabbed the Stanley Cup from the hands of teammate Mark Recchi on Wednesday and raised it to the rafters in celebration at Rogers Arena, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas made a statement.
The Conn Smythe winner, who almost single-handedly toppled the President’s Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks in seven games, sent a message that rang throughout the NHL.
That message was, “Yeah, you do need goaltending to win a Stanley Cup.”