Missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons hasn’t dampened Flyers owner Ed Snider’s enthusiasm when it comes to the 2015-16 campaign.
“Quite frankly, I’m looking for big things,” Sniders said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think we’re going to turn things around. I think we’re going to be a playoff team this year.”
Aside from replacing bench boss Craig Berube with new head coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers have made some noteworthy, but not major moves this summer. However, the complimentary players that Philadelphia did bring in, like backup goaltender Michal Neuvirth and defenseman Evgeni Medvedev, do help address some areas of concern from the 2014-15 campaign. More importantly though, Snider thinks they already have the core to compete.
“That same team last year that did not make the playoffs, made the playoff the year before,” he said. “It’s not like they’re chopped liver. We have a good team. We have some good stars with (Claude) Giroux and (Jake) Voracek. We have second-level guys that are getting older and more mature … (Sean) Couturier and (Wayne) Simmonds. I expect a lot from these players.”
Couturier in particular is a player they need more from — at least from an offensive perspective. While he’s earned a lot of praise for his defensive work, the 22-year-old has yet to reach the 40-point mark in a single season despite appearing to have a substantial amount of offensive upside when he was drafted. Along with Brayden Schenn, Couturier could be the difference between Philadelphia being a mediocre and good team offensively this season.
Bryan Bickell has been participating in the Chicago Blackhawks’ training camp, but that unfortunately doesn’t mean he’s completely over the vertigo symptoms that plagued him during the Stanley Cup Final.
“There [are] still symptoms over the course of different situations but I’m working on it every day to get better and better and hopefully it leaves sooner than later,” Bickell told CSN Chicago. “You just want to be out there. Then [over] the course of the summer you think things are getting better, then you kind of take a couple steps backwards. But I think these last couple weeks we’re taking the right steps and just need to stick with the system that’s working and hopefully it doesn’t have to take a couple steps backwards. Just keep moving forward.”
Bickell’s an important part of the Blackhawks’ supporting cast, especially after Chicago parted ways with forwards Daniel Carcillo, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad over the summer. That being said, Bickell also left something to be desired last season.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville thinks the 29-year-old can be “that power forward every team craves,” but he still needs to become more consistent. We did see a glimpse of what he’s capable of during the 2013 playoffs when he had 17 points in 23 contests. That didn’t carry forward into the 2013-14 campaign though and it remains the high water mark of his career.
Darren Helm might not be ready for the start of the season after colliding into 21-year-old prospect Jerome Verrier during the first day of training camp on Friday.
Helm sustained a Grade 1 slight shoulder separation, per MLive.com writer Ansar Khan. He’s also going through the concussion protocol, but the 28-year-old forward feels good as far as that goes, according to the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan.
Even if his possible concussion proves to be a non-factor though, he’s still projected to miss the next two-to-four weeks just due to the shoulder injury. So even in a best case scenario, it seems unlikely that he’ll play in any preseason games. The mid-point of his timetable is close to Detroit’s season opener on Oct. 9.
Helm’s dealt with more than his fair share of injury problems in the past as a variety of ailments resulted in him only playing in 43 games over the 2013 and 2013-14 campaigns. He was able to participate in 75 contests last season though.
Verrier’s right leg was broken due to the same incident.
After patiently waiting all summer, Michal Rozsival finally has a new contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks announced that they have signed the 37-year-old defenseman to a one-year deal. Because he didn’t have a contract in time for the start of training camp, he initially reported to the team on a tryout basis.
The financial terms of his contract weren’t immediately known, but Chicago had a little less than $1 million in available cap space, per General Fanager.
Update: His new deal comes with a $600K cap hit, although he can earn up to $200K extra in bonuses tied to games played, according to ESPN’s Scott Powers.
This signing gives Chicago six defensemen inked to one-way deals, including Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor Daley, and David Rundblad. Given that Trevor van Riemsdyk is also likely to make the team, the odds of PTO blueliners Lubomir Visnovsky or Jan Hejda playing for Chicago now appears remote unless the team opts to go with eight defensemen.
While Rozsival will likely be used as a third pairing defenseman this season and might even be listed as a healthy scratch a decent amount of time, the veteran does provide Chicago with some important depth.
That being said, he still hasn’t completely recovered from the ankle injury that knocked him out of Chicago’s 2015 Stanley Cup run on May 7, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
Vincent Lecavalier said back in July that he just wanted to get his chance. Looks like new bench boss Dave Hakstol is giving it to him.
While the lines in the first day of training camp have to be taken with a grain of salt, it was nevertheless noteworthy to see Lecavalier playing up the middle with two other veterans going into this season with a lot to prove — R.J. Umberger and Sam Gagner — serving as his wingers.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol told CSN Philly. “You don’t have a lot of time to try multiple, different things. We’ll try some different things and look at some different things knowing we have limited opportunity to do that.”
In other words, Lecavalier might not get a lot of chances to prove that he’s still capable of playing in his traditional position of center. Former bench boss Craig Berube often used Lecavalier as a winger and defended his decision by stating, “In the middle of the ice in our system, it’s a lot of work. You have to skate and get back and play both ends of the ice.”
And keep in mind, around this time last year we were writing about Lecavalier’s relief to start the season at center after being used as a winger in 2013-14.
So perhaps this is a matter of history repeating itself, but at least Lecavalier is getting another chance.