You don't have to have been a Flyers fan since the mid-80s to know that hockey off seasons in Philadelphia almost always include waves of speculation and conjecture as to who will be in net the next season. After the team rode three goalies to an early playoff exit that included a sweep, we are in for quite a storm this spring and summer, with even more information to sift through than ever.
Fans and media alike have never been more tapped in than they are now (although not always with correct information). With a multitude of blogs, twitter, and easier access to player information than ever—including international players—we're bound to see the Flyers linked to more than a few trades and signings in the coming months, and people want to know more about that possible next #1 out there.
Making Sense (and Nonsense) of the Unknown
Some of the stories we'll cover, others we won't. Some we'll take seriously, while others we may poke fun at. As we've said in previous off-seasons and trade periods, it's always a time filled with misinformation. Even some of the stuff that means well ends up being off-the-mark, but a lot of it really seems to be written just to get a click or some cheap links. When the team actually does make the big move and/or the FA period ends, if you look back at all the names that were electronically stitched onto the back of a Flyers jersey, you will probably have enough guys to play against the actual team.
This was certainly true last year, when the Flyers reminded us that we won't always know what to expect from them. The other thing we learned (hopefully) is that we can't predict what many goalies will do from one season to the next.
We spent last FA period going through names of guys who ran the gamut of productivity in 2010-2011. Evgeni Nabokov went to Russia, then... the Islanders. Dan Ellis' biggest headlines were that he was a twitter phenomenon-turned-fiasco (and then he got traded). Tim Thomas, as it turns out, is not washed up or "the second best goalie on his team." Antii Niemi is actually alive and trying to make his second Stanley Cup run in as many seasons. I won't keep trotting out all the names that were linked to the Flyers last season, mostly because there are too many to remember and I don't feel like looking them all up.
Point is, I don't remember many (any?) stories that predicted Sergei Bobrovsky would start the majority of the Flyers' games on their way to being a first-place team for most of the season. From the experts to the fans, no one pegged the actual outcome of Goalie Watch 2010 until it was already happening. Part of that was due to the Michael Leighton injury, but "the unknown" is a big part of all of this—for GMs and fans alike.
Goalie Watch will be intense this year. The Bruins are barely into their third round series with the Lightning after dispatching the Flyers, and we've already witnessed a very busy week of The Next Flyers Goalie coverage. It kinda feels like seeing Christmas commercials the day after Halloween or back-to-school savings in early August.
But it's understandable. People want to know where this Flyers team is headed.
And it's not just media, fans, bloggers, and the chatter on Twitter. The Flyers' own Chairman made the rounds and expressed his own displeasure at the current goaltending situation, officially ushering in goalie hunting season. He did say that Bob is still the goalie of the future, but the bell had been rung. Ed Snider obviously wants more success than we saw this season, but he also doesn't want his organization publicly flogged the way it was in the wake of trotting out three goalies in a single series, then getting swept in the next.
Ship 'Em Out!
Dovetailing with the always well-fueled goalie talk is quite a bit of speculation over which players might be traded in order to create space under the salary cap. If the team is to add a new mask to the ranks, he likely won't come cheap, requiring the team to free up some money. How much, we don't yet know. If they are truly after a big name goalie, the market will be high. We'll probably steer clear of this topic for the most part until there is actually something to report.
But with the warmer weather here and shore houses booked for the summer, Goalie Watch 2011 is underway in Philly. As usual.