Although the rookies have been practicing for a couple days now, all the Flyers officially return for training camp starting tomorrow. With the disappointment of missing the playoffs last season still fresh in fans’ minds, there are a couple of things to watch for during camp this year.
1. What role will Vinny Lecavalier play on the team?
It seems obvious that Lecavalier would play on the first line with Flyers’ captain, Claude Giroux. However, that will cause a bit of restructuring among the current Flyers’ lines. Giroux and Vorachek have had great chemistry on the first line, but if Lecavalier wants to get in on that, Vorachek may be forced to play left-wing or move down a line. It will be interesting to see what gets greater weighting, the experience of an NHL veteran or the success last season of two teammates? With Giroux’s appearance at camp still questionable (see #3 below), the competition could be even more intriguing. I would be interested in seeing how Lecavalier, Giroux, and Vorachek (although he has never played left-wing before) play together because if they can work it out, I think it would be a tough line. Training camp will hopefully give the Flyers some opportunities to test that out though.
2. Who will start as the Flyers’ goaltender?
Although Mason did a terrific job for the Fly Guys last season, Emery certainly has some talent as well. I think Mason has proven himself with 1.90 goals-against average and 0.944 save percentage in seven games for the Flyers after being traded from Columbus last year. He has some experience with the team on the ice, and I think the Flyers will start with him in the net, at least in the first game of the season against the Maple Leafs. Emery will add great depth for the Flyers at the position. He went 17-1 with the Blackhawks last season, averaging 1.94 goals-against and a 0.922 save percentage. However, the Flyers have a relatively weaker defense than the Blackhawks, so it will be interesting to see if Emery can perform as well in Philadelphia this year. Both goalies will have to prove their consistency to earn the starting job throughout the season. All in all, I think Mason will start for the Flyers’ opener, but both he and Emery will probably see their fair share of starts this season.
3. Will Giroux be ready for the season opener?
After an unexpected wrist injury while playing golf this summer, Giroux’s appearance at training camp is still up in the air. Although he has skated with the team, it would obviously be great to get in some stick work and shoot some pucks before the Flyers’ season starts. As mentioned earlier, it would also be beneficial to run some plays with Vorachek and Lecavalier to firm up the lines. I will be looking to see if Giroux gets any practice in during training camp, but I definitely expect to see him back in time for the opener.
4. Who will get signed from the PTOs?
There are three players in particular that are coming to training camp for a professional try-out (PTO). One is former Flyer, Simon Gagne, who is speculated to make the team after the Flyers make clear some space in the salary cap. Former Red Wing, Dan Cleary, is also expected to arrive at training camp tomorrow on a try-out basis after an apparent conflict with the salary cap as well. Hal Gill, a veteran defenseman, has also been signed for a PTO during training camp. I think the Flyers will definitely reach an agreement with Gagne, and will most likely sign Cleary. Interestingly enough, both of these players are left-wings. I am not too certain about Gill. Although he has 15 years experience in the NHL and has played in 110 playoff games, he may be past his prime. I think the Flyers should save their money and invest in a bit younger defenseman.
Training camp starts tomorrow morning, September 12, at 8 am. Flyers will be on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center from 8:30 am to 3 pm from Thursday until Saturday. Tickets are free and there will be a ton of fan activities at XFINITY Live! as well. Let’s hope this is the start of a great season for the Flyers!