In 2007 the team that underwent the biggest transformation was Philadelphia – by a long shot. A lot of experts still picked them to miss the playoffs (for the record, in Dobber’s 2006-07 Fantasy Guide I picked the Flyers to get in), but we all saw what happened. Not only did they get in, but they also went to the semi-final.
This year the team that has made the biggest strides is the Tampa Bay Lightning. This team took Philadelphia’s formula for success and, well, they butchered it.
The Flyers landed goaltender Martin Biron and Scott Upshall towards the end of the 2006-07 season, while the Lightning landed Mike Smith and Jussi Jokinen. Good move, but that is where the similarity ends.
The Flyers added rookie Steve Downie, a talented, but somewhat undisciplined forward. TB will be adding Steven Stamkos – an all-world talent. So far so good…but then the bottom drops out.
Philadelphia acquired the best free agent on the market in Daniel Briere; they added a top defenseman in Kimmo Timonen and a power forward in Scott Hartnell. Then GM Paul Holmgren pushed the stop button. His team was set.
In Tampa however, somebody jabbed at the machine with a screwdriver and knocked that stop button all to hell. Sure, they added a power forward in Ryan Malone. Then they added a scoring winger in Radim Vrbata. Both were good moves, now where is that stop button?
Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi, Olaf Kolzig, Andrew Hutchinson, Brandon Bochenski, Janne Niskala, Evgeny Artyukhin comes back, ditto for Vinnie Prospal, Adam Hall and David Koci. Oh, and they traded their top defenseman and minute muncher Dan Boyle for Matt Carle and Ty Wishart.
Individually, each of these deals are sound. Adding a veteran in Recchi is smart. Adding a dressing room presence in Roberts is smart. They need Artyukhin’s toughness and hustle. Prospal clicks with Lecavalier. Hall has proven to be a good checker. Koci is the fighter that they lack. And so on…
But as a group, it’s just too much. It’s a mismatched patchwork of players. Look at these lines:
Vaclav Prospal - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Radim Vrbata - Steven Stamkos - Michel Ouellet
Jussi Jokinen - Ryan Malone - Mark Recchi
Nick Tarnasky - Chris Gratton - Evgeny Artyukhin
To me, this is a great lineup (lines one and four are in stone, by the way…the other two will see some juggling). So what’s the problem? Well, Roberts isn’t in there. Neither is Ryan Craig. What about when Jeff Halpern comes back? No sign of Jason Ward. And didn’t they bring in Hall? It’s funny that they told Bochenski that he would have a chance to crack the lineup. As what – the ninth-line right wing?
Looking at the forwards, it would seem that this team is going for it here and now. Then they do the Boyle trade. That’s a great trade for the future…but – and I see this all the time in fantasy hockey – you can’t yo-yo the direction of your team. You either go for it, or you rebuild. You can go for it with an eye on rebuilding…but this trade was bigger than that.
Anyway, it’s an improved team with no chemistry. As such, they’ll miss the playoffs this year. This is how I see things shaking out under coach Barry Melrose:
1) Only Lecavalier, St. Louis and Stamkos will clear 70 points (Stamkos barely).
2) Recchi will be a frequent scratch and will possibly retire.
3) Craig will get hurt.
4) Roberts will get hurt.
5) Hall will be the 13th forward. Ward will be dealt when Halpern returns.
6) Koci will be lucky to play 15 games. Ditto for Bochenski.
That’s how things will fall, but it won’t help the chemistry any. Nope, they certainly aren’t the Flyers.