With Claude Giroux’s most recent injury, the Flyers are as thin as the ice at a community hockey rink. Without a leader to help them prepare for the season, the team needs to brace itself for a prolonged captain’s absence.
Though most leadership responsibility falls on the assistant captains, the missing production falls ion the promising Brayden Schenn. Originally the first line left winger, Schenn has been moved to the top line center position and must encumber the load that comes with it.
Surprisingly, Craig Berube elected not to promote veteran Vinny Lecavalier to the top line. Lecavalier carried a heavy load for Tampa Bay in his heyday, but severely underperformed last year. Most notably, Leecavalier was removed from the rotation in favor of a three-line strategy in last year’s game seven at the Garden. Schenn spoke with the media and said, “It’s time for me to step up.” His line couldn’t be more precise.
In late June, the Flyers agreed to a two-year extension with Schenn. The deal followed Ron Hextall trading Scott Hartnell to Columbus. The deal can be viewed as a reward, but the reality is that the contract is very expendable. Two-year deals in the NHL are typically the easiest to trade, striking a balance between experiment and flexibility.
Whether Schenn is playing center or wing, he needs to charge the first line and add significant production. With Hartnell gone, Schenn assumes the role Hartnell was supposed to play last year. This year will either be Schenn’s claim to fame or blame for shame.
Additionally, the second line is asking a great deal out of youngster Sean Couturier. With Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read flanking him, Couturier must rack up points as a prime contributor to the offense. With a struggling defense, the Flyers are counting on Couturier to help them outscore the opposition.
Time will tell if Berube’s lines can carry the Flyers to success. If not, the orange and black may slip into a period of darkness this year.
Photo: Philadelphia Flyers