FS: I would say that I was a little surprised that they had such turnover, even after the way the season ended. Once they got Ilya Bryzgalov, a goaltender that wanted top dollar, I knew one of either Jeff Carter or Mike Richards had to go. But I wasn't sure it'd be both. I was much more surprised with the Richards trade, especially with how quickly it all went down, within a matter of minutes. But the Flyers say they were two strong "hockey trades." That's fine. They made a few nice pick-ups on the open market and I really believe their shot-in-the-dark signing of Jaromir Jagr will pay huge dividends, especially on the power play.
SD: Nine years for a 31 year old goalie seems like a lot? Do you think that towards years six, seven, eight and nine the Flyers are going to be kicking themselves for the $5.67 million cap hit for Ilya Bryzgalov?
FS: Yes, I believe the Flyers seriously overpaid by giving Bryzgalov not just the amount of money but the term. The real kicker for me, though, is what Tomas Vokoun signed for in Washington. Bryzgalov is 4 years younger than Vokoun, but they still are within hundreds of percentage points of each other in career save percentage at even strength. And Vokoun signed for $4 million less than Bryzgalov on just a one-year deal. They are both similar goalies. It could have been an experiment. And they wouldn't be kicking themselves toward the end of it when Bryzgalov is long retired.
FS: I believe Peter Laviolette surely spoke his peace during the offseason, when the Flyers were trying to come up with a gameplan on how to proceed. Do I believe he was the end reason that the Flyers no longer have Richards and Carter? No, I don't believe that to be the case. Statistically, he had a much better chance of remaining with the Flyers longer if those guys stayed. They are known commodities. Now he has a tougher job as a coach to make sure that this team is well prepared and playing as one cohesive unit, even with so many new faces, when they open the season.
SD: The team got significantly younger (excluding Jagr and Lilja) with the acquisitions of Voracek, Simmonds, and Schenn. The fans want to win now. Do you think there are going to be a lot of growing pains? And how patient do you see the fan base being with these growing pains?
FS: I do see a little bit of growing pains with this team. I think it could be an especially rough start of the season, but if they can hang close in the standings by December or so, they will be in a really strong position come March and April. That said, they could also be a better team in the long-run if Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn produce the way the Flyers expect.
FS: It's tough to say, right now, whether Sean Couturier will make this team. He has had a solid preseason and has not looked out of place, bu the preseason is obviously different than the regular season. That said, the Flyers lose nothing by keeping him through the first 10 games of the season before making a judgment. He will get to work with the team, get an extended tryout, and the Flyers could still opt to send him back to junior hockey without his contract counting against the 50 contract limit. It's a no-lose situation for both sides.
SD: Wayne Simmonds has had quite a week. From the looks of the game last Monday, he appears to be the type of player Flyers fans love. How well is he fitting in with the rest of the players? Is this the type of thing we can expect from him all year?
FS: Yes, I believe Wayne Simmonds is a player Flyers fans will grow to love. He plays a hard-nosed style and he hates to lose. I also believe his offensive upside is understated. Playing with the right guys in the right situation, he could be a 25 to 30 goal scorer in the NHL. He has that kind of potential.
SD: Rumors surfaced that the Flyers traded Scott Hartnell to Nashville for Sergei Kostitsyn. Obviously those were not true, but are the Flyers shopping Hartnell to give them some cap space before the season starts?
FS: I cannot specifically comment on Scott Hartnell rumors, as I'm not entirely sure, but I do believe that the Flyers would like to move some veteran salary before the season starts. That's for two reasons: 1) they are entirely to close to the $64.3 million cap and have little wiggle room, but 2) they have been so impressed with the way these young players have played in training camp. I just don't know if trading Hartnell, even with his consistency, is the right thing for a team that is already missing so many goals from last season.
SD: Finally, what is your prediction for this year? Do the Flyers defend the Atlantic Division title? Win the East? Do you see a parade down Broad Street next June?
FS: I think the Flyers will go into one of two lulls this year when they need to figure out their identity. Ultimately, they will be a competitive team but not nearly as good as last year. I think they will finish with around 94 or 95 points and be a 5th or 6th place team in the Eastern Conference. I just don't think they have all of the goods to win the Atlantic division, whether or not Sidney Crosby plays. The Penguins tied the Flyers last season in the division - and they did it without Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for the final four months of the season. That says something.
Our thanks to Frank for taking the time to talk with us and we look forward to another great season of Flyers hockey!