Flyers Prepared to Play if NHL, NHLPA Reach AgreementBREAKING NEWS, Flyers, News, NHL Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
On Sunday, I referred to the meetings that were being scheduled starting Tuesday between the NHL and the NHLPA as “gimmicky.” The idea of putting a handful of professional athletes in a room with six billionaires and without NHL commissioner Gary Bettman or NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr present seemed like a PR stunt more than a legitimate means of negotiations.
By all accounts, though, the two parties have gained more traction in talks this week than after any previous meetings to date. What that says about the usefulness (or lack thereof) of Bettman and Fehr can be read between the lines.
There have been rumblings that the two parties could reach an agreement as early as Friday. I am still very skeptical that this can be achieved, with so many philosophical divisions lingering between the two, but I will keep my fingers crossed anyway.
Should the NHL return by January 1, many teams will be in a bind with a significant amount of their players unprepared for the rigors of a “four games per week” condensed schedule.
Due to the amount of Flyers active in leagues around the world, though, the team should be in better shape than the rest of the Eastern Conference (in a condensed schedule, the Flyers would not play any teams in the Western Conference during the regular season).
Danny Briere is still in Germany, playing with Eisbären Berlin of the DEL. He has scored 6 goals and 26 points in 16 games with the Polar Bears.
Claude Giroux returned to North America recently following a neck injury, but it was reported today by Ian Mendes of Sportsnet East that he has begun skating in Ottawa again. Giroux had 4 goals and 19 points in 9 games played.
Matt Read returned to the U.S. today following a break in the Allsvenskan (Swedish second tier) schedule. He will likely return to SSK Sodertälje if the lockout continues, as he has become a fan favorite in Sweden. From the team’s press release today (via Google Translate):
“Read has shown a fantastic attitude to hockey, to his friend Emil Billberg and the club by playing for a replacement that does not even cover his expenses. If it is the case that the lockout ends and he does not come back, we want to express our utmost gratitude and respect to Matt that we did not even know a few months ago. We hope also that all fans will to show our collective appreciation tomorrow against Oskarshamn, we know it would mean a lot to Matt when he really appreciates SSK fans.”
Wayne Simmonds returned a few weeks ago, but stayed active in Germany and the Czech Republic. Between both teams, Simmonds tallied 8 goals and 20 points in 15 games played.
Jake Voracek hasn’t had a particularly standout time with Lev of the KHL, including a month lost with a knee sprain, but he is averaging nearly 17 minutes of ice time per game and has earned 13 points in 17 games.
Ruslan Fedotenko has been averaging even more ice time than Voracek, and has been thrust into a shutdown role on Donbass. He is more than ready for third line duties.
Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier have both been active with the Adirondack Phantoms in the AHL. Schenn has accounted for nearly a quarter of the team’s production (9 goals, 22 points in 20 games played) while Couturier has followed closely behind (6 goals, 17 points in 18 games played).
Max Talbot and Tom Sestito have also been playing abroad, though Sestito recently wrapped up his stint with the Sheffield Steelers of the EIHL. My gut instinct is that Sestito would start the season with the Flyers over Rinaldo if it took place, as Rinaldo has not been making a lot of strides in scoring or reducing the amount of penalties he takes. It’s not that Sestito is better in that department… he’s just not waiver exempt.
On offense, Scott Hartnell is really the only player who is going to hit the ice cold.
Defense is another story. Bruno Gervais is the only defenseman who has seen ample playing time (over in Germany’s Bundesliga) while Niklas Grossmann skated for just four games with Read on SSK. Luke Schenn, Brayden Coburn, and Kimmo Timonen have just been practicing while Andrej Meszaros is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.
Andreas Lilja has begun practicing with the Phantoms following hip surgery in the summer and should be healthy enough to start the season. One of Marc-Andre Bourdon or Erik Gustafsson would probably earn the 7th defenseman position.
Ilya Bryzgalov has finally begun turning his game around in the KHL, winning consecutive games and raising his save percentage to 0.907. There aren’t many positives to take from his time in Russia, where he feuded with the local media.
Michael Leighton has not played in any leagues, though he has participated in a handful of charity games.
Joe Yerdon of Pro Hockey Talk suggested that a number of players may follow the path that NHLer Colby Armstrong took today- signing short-term contracts with ECHL teams to get back into shape. A two week stint in Trenton for Leighton, Hartnell and some of the defensemen could ease the transition back into an NHL season, should (God willing) the two sides finally put pen to paper.
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