The Flyers will open training camp at the Wells Fargo Center on Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. (AP)
Vinny Lecavalier is excited.
“Great guys and some great players here,” said the Flyers' tallest centerman. “That is what is so exciting. This is a really good team. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here.
“I looked at the roster and really liked this team. That is why I am excited to start here.”
There’s always excitement and anticipation around the start of a hockey training camp. This fall, there truly is a difference as the Flyers open camp this morning at Wells Fargo Center.
“For me, it was exciting knowing guys are coming back healthy from where we were last year,” head coach Peter Laviolette said.
“The man games we lost, it’s exciting guys are coming back full health for the most part. It wasn’t that way last year. Claude [Giroux] went down and he’ll back. I hope it’s not a problem and I don’t think it will be from everything that I have heard.”
Giroux will be here but until his right hand is fully healed, he won’t be playing games, shooting pucks or taking contact.
The Flyers fell into the great abyss last season with a 2-6 start from which they never recovered and failed to make the playoffs.
They didn’t fire the coach or general manager Paul Holmgren, but they did fire the goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (buyout) and had an emotional farewell presser for class guy Danny Briere (buyout).
Then came a long, tortuous offseason.
“It doesn’t have the same meaning on the outside as when you are inside and competing [in the playoffs],” Laviolette said. “I think I found late spring and early summer to be hard to handle.”
All the while, plans were unfolding to restock the roster.
It began with the trade for Islanders captain Mark Streit on defense; then the signing of goalie Ray Emery; finally, the addition of Lecavalier.
Not a lot of moves, but critical ones.
Everyone in and around the Flyers seem primed for this camp. Fresh start.
“I’m ready,” veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen said. “I feel like I’ve been off a really long time. Too long. To have a year like that last year, sometimes, it’s good to settle down and see what we did wrong together -- everybody. Coaches, players, management, everybody.
“I hate to say it was good that we didn’t make the playoffs, but at least now everybody realizes we have to work even harder and make better decisions. Sometimes, you need [as a team] to go down to come back up again.”
There are a few job openings to be sorted out in this camp, the biggest of which is whether Emery wins the starter’s job over Steve Mason, who was nothing short of superb in just seven games at season’s end.
When was the last time the Flyers had genuine competition for the starter’s job in goal? Maybe 2005, when Robert Esche and Antero Niittymaki fought it out?
“You certainly hope so,” Laviolette said of the competition. “You hope that’s the case. That they push each other and they do it in a competitive way that best benefits the team.
“You’re talking about somebody [Mason] who came in here at the end of the year and played well for us and someone who had a terrific season ... I haven’t talked to them or seen them yet. Those conversations will come.”
It’s a camp where some older players have something to prove.
Lecavalier wants people to know there’s a decent number of goals still left in his stick after his buyout.
“Not to prove Tampa wrong or anything,” Lecavalier said. “For me, it’s another challenge the way the year went last year with injuries and not winning, that is more the part of me saying I want to have a good year and help this team out as much as I can.
“Everybody has something to prove every year. We’re all going to push forward.”
Mason wants to prove his gaudy 1.90 goals-against average was genuine. Emery wants to prove his 17-1 record and Stanley Cup was no fluke, either.
Then there’s Hal Gill and Dan Cleary. Gill is on a tryout and says he can “show” the Flyers what he possesses is something this club needs.
Cleary has a tryout deal, plus a promise of a three-year contract waiting in the wings but may have gotten a firm offer from Detroit right now. He may or may not be here, though the club expects he will.
“[Cleary] and Hal are in the same situation where it’s an opportunity to come into camp and get on the ice and show what they can do,” Laviolette said.
“These are veteran players who have been proven to be successful in the roles they served on teams.”
The hardest decisions in camp will be who the starting six defensemen are -- yeah the Flyers are actually deep for once -- and who sits as No. 7.
Right now, oft-injured Andrej Meszaros could be No. 7. It has to be sorted out in camp.
Then there’s the matter of where Lecavalier plays. First line? Second line?
Maybe he goes between Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds?
“I talked to both of them,” Lecavlier said. “I don’t know who I will play with. I played few shifts with Simmer and Schenn [in the player scrimmages]. Both are great players, great hockey sense. ... Whoever I play with, I am happy to be here.”