Questions about No. 1 goalie linger into off-season

Questions about No. 1 goalie linger into off-season
May 10, 2011, 7:27 pm
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Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Posted: 3:34 p.m.

By Tim Panaccio
CSNPhilly.com

The single most debated topic in the history of the Flyers, post Bernie Parent Era, has been whos the next No. 1 in goal?

Outside of Ron Hextall, who hasnt played here since last century (1998-99), the Flyers have not had a true No. 1 that they could point to as their everyday starter in net.

Sergei Bobrovsky, who is all of 22 years old, won 28 games for the Flyers this season. He was their No. 1 at the start, lost his spot, then regained it and, well, you know the rest.

So, going into a rather distasteful off-season in which the Flyers were vanquished fairly easily by the Boston Bruins, the question facing general manager Paul Holmgren seems to be whether its feasible for the Flyers to get an established, veteran No. 1 next season for Bobrovsky to back up?

Thats a good question, Holmgren replied. I dont have an answer for that. If you ask Sergei, hell say, I want to play every game.I dont want to say hes a work in progress because he's a young kid, who came into the league and won 28 games. But its part of things that will be discussed over the summer.

While Holmgren said he did not foresee major changes to his roster, and while he remains keen on Bobrovsky, he did concede there is no guarantee that the Russian is ready to assume the No. 1 spot full-time.

I like Sergei a lot, Holmgren said. Hes a good kid and tremendous young goalie in our league. How that plays out down the road in terms of when he becomes a No. 1 goalie, I dont know. Could it be next year? He was, at times, this year for us. We just have to see how things play out over the summer.

That right there, Flyer fans, is about as close as you are going to get to having Holmgren admit publicly that the club will be in the market for a goalie.

Given the Flyers have less than 450,000 in cap space for next season at the present 59.4 million ceiling, the only way to do this would be to trade for a goalie and lose substantial salary.

Unfortunately, time seems to have expired on Brian Boucher, who was as loyal a soldier in goal here as you could ask under coach Peter Laviolette. Boucher seemed to acknowledge the writing on the wall this week.

Asked about Bouchers return, Holmgren said Boucher had a strong regular season, struggled in the playoffs, and then added, Well see how it plays out.

The impetus for getting a proven goalie in a Flyers sweater now is that this team was built to win the Stanley Cup in 2010, not to mention this year, as well and looking forward.

With Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen each turning 37 next season, there is a limited window here for the Flyers to win the Stanley Cup before it closes.

How many more chances will Pronger get? And given Prongers list of injuries this year, it adds to the concern of winning now.

How many does Mark Recchi have? Holmgren asked. He is 42. I dont know. You are talking about an elite player that takes care of himself. This is the first year in quite a long time that Chris has dealt with some injuries.

I dont know how you protect yourself from a broken hand or a broken foot. This latest thing is a little bit different, but he has never had an issue in his career with his back, prior to this. Does that mean it is going to reoccur? I dont know.

It could I guess, but it could just as easily be a one time thing from the information that I get from our doctors. I think Chris can play the game for a long time at a high level. I think he is a special player, and I think that there are other special players in the league doing the same thing because they take care of themselves and are exceptional athletes.

On Mike Richards
Holmgren was asked about team captain Mike Richards and his relationship with Laviolette.

I dont know where this stuff is coming from, Holmgren replied. I dont know where its coming from. You guys all know Mike. Hes a quiet kid; hes a reserved kid. I think we all in our own way, I dont want to say have communication issues, but hes a hard guy to talk to sometimes for anyone, probably even his closest friends.

Hes just a quiet guy, but there is no issue in terms of Mikes relationship with Peter, or Mikes relationship with any of his teammates. Thats all a bunch of crap. I dont know why it keeps coming up, but its ridiculous.

Holmgren said because a coach is working with so many players, its difficult to develop a great relationship with every one of them.

I think you can say the same thing about Blair Betts if you want, Holmgren said. Thats the way it is, working with a group of 22 or 23 players. Its ongoing. Some days you come in and its good because the team won a game and maybe youre playing good.

Then theres days when its not so good. Thats the nature of our sport, the nature of the business.

Free agents
The Flyers have some difficult decisions to make this off-season with re-signing players. There simply is not enough cap space for the eight players who are free agents.

Holmgren did say he wanted to re-sign Ville Leino, and talked with Nikolay Zherdev, as well. Hes an interesting guy. Whether he fits in or not, I dont know, Holmgren said of Zherdev.

Darroll Powes work on the penalty kill and his light salary gives him an edge over others, though the club appreciates the snarl Dan Carcillo brings.

Still, theres too many here to re-sign. Holmgren wants to re-sign defenseman Sean ODonnell, but hes being pushed by young Erik Gustafsson.

E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net

Related: Greenberg: Flyers in trouble if Pronger on downside Off-season surgery for Richards, four other Flyers