NHL Pre-season Predictions: Metropolitan Division – No. 3 Philadelphia Flyers

THN’s PRE-SEASON PREDICTION: Third in Metropolitan Division.

2013: 23-22-3. 10th in East.

KEY DEPARTURES: Jody Shelly, Kurtis Foster, Brian Boucher, Daniel Briere, Ruslan Fedotenko, Andreas Lilja.

KEY ADDITIONS: Vincent Lecavalier, Ray emery, Kris Newbury, Mark Streit.

THN’s TOP PROJECTED SCORERS: Claude Giroux (83), Jakub Voracek (70), Brayden Schenn (63).

PROS: Offense shouldn’t be a problem for the Flyers, who had a top 10 scoring team even though key contributors such as Scott Hartnell and Matt Read fell off. By bringing in Vincent Lecavalier, the Flyers get a capable and productive big-bodied center who won’t be crushed by expectations of an overvalued contract anymore. The Claude Giroux-Lecavalier-Schenn trio of centers has the potential to be one of the most balanced sets in the league – if all elite teams have one thing in common, it’s a solid collection of pivots. Both sides of special teams were excellent for the Flyers in 2013 and could even see improvement this season with puck-moving blueliner Mark Streit added to the up-tempo offense. And though the defense took some hard knocks last season, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros and Nicklas Grossman missed significant time with injury and any team would have trouble dealing with three opening day defenseman playing less than 70 percent of its games.

CONS: The team bought out Ilya Bryzgalov because his play was as unpredictable as his personality. But does the answer really lie with a Steve Mason-Ray Emery tandem? Sure, Mason finished strong in seven games with the Flyers, but he also had a .899 SP before the trade and had a Calder Trophy start to his career with Columbus. We all know how that turned out. Ray Emery was brought in as the safety net, we guess, because his .922 SP and 17-1 record with Chicago last season opened a lot of eyes – and the bargain $1.65 million price tag is worth the gamble. But at what point are the Flyers gambling too much on their last line of defense? And despite being one of the league’s top-scoring teams, the Flyers were one of the worst even strength offenses in the league.

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X-FACTOR: It was awfully expensive for the Flyers to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov and if the new tandem doesn’t play any better, it would have been a huge waste. Mason and Emery have as much of a chance to lift this team back into the playoffs as they do to crash and burn and keep the Flyers goalie curse intact.

PERIPHERAL PREDICTION: For no apparent reason at all, GM Paul Holmgren trades away half his roster by the deadline.