Generally speaking, the summer of 2012 was a failure for the Flyers.
Besides the storied attempt to acquire defenseman Shea Weber, the Flyers made just a handful of minor tweaks ahead of the lockout. We all know how those changes worked out.
On Tuesday, though, new additions center Vincent Lecavalier, defenseman Mark Streit and goalie Ray Emery sat on a stage at the Wells Fargo Center alongside team chairman Ed Snider, Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko and GM Paul Holmgren.
For those keeping track at home, sitting next to the Flyers’ brass were two players who wore the “C” for their teams last year, as well as a goalie who helped his to win the Stanley Cup.
There’s still a long way to go until training camp, but it’s already very clear those at the helm of the Flyers are feeling good about how the team has shaped up so far.
“I go into every season optimistic and excited,” Snider said. “But this is very unique, to have three outstanding players on the podium at the same time that we recently signed. You don’t add three terrific players like that without getting better. We’re better, no question about it.”
Holmgren had a plan heading into this summer to make sure the issues that arose in 2013 would not occur again come fall. As he’s said for a few seasons now, he wanted to do as much as possible without disrupting the Flyers “good young core,” which consists of players like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek.
He managed to do that – and surpassed the team’s expectations in the process. Only weeks ago, the Flyers had no idea the Tampa Bay Lightning would buy out Lecavalier and weren’t convinced Emery would want to leave Chicago.
"Paul put together the plan, and quite frankly, he put it together and it even worked out better than we thought," Snider said. "We didn’t know that Lecavalier was going to be available when we put the plan together. Very exciting. We didn’t know that Ray would leave Chicago to come with us. We knew we wanted another goalie, we’re thrilled – [Emery] would have been the No. 1 on our list without question.
"Mark Streit, the same thing. We just think that we’re got three great veteran players here to go with our kids. We didn’t have to give up any kids, any draft picks, anything, which to me is spectacular."
There are arguments to be made that the Flyers do still have some areas that require improvement. After the moves made during free agency, defense, still, seems only moderately improved compared to last year’s model. Holmgren has left the door open for further moves as the summer progresses (the team eventually needs to clear some cap space), but has also indicated he would be happy with his current defense if the season were to start tomorrow.
“I feel great,” Holmgren said. “We added Mark, a type of defenseman that we need, a guy that can play on the power play, a guy that can provide offense 5 on 5, a defenseman that gets up in the rush and joins the rush and at times can lead the rush and make plays coming out of our end – we’ve needed that.”
Despite losing a centerman in Danny Briere, the Flyers – if they forgo further change – will enter 2013-14 with a plethora of centers, something that seemed to make the Lecavalier addition a bit puzzling at first. With Claude Giroux, Max Talbot, Couturier, Schenn and even Matt Read, it felt as if center was the one position the Flyers definitely didn't need to put effort into bolstering.
Holmgren saw it differently.
“Adding Vinny,” Holmgren said, “I said this, we have Claude, we have a couple young centers, we have Max that can play center, and Matt Read. Depth at center is huge. I’m a big believer in the more centers you have, the better off you’ll be. We just added a guy who can play ahead of Claude, behind Claude.
“With Giroux, Lecavalier and Couturier as your three centers, you’re pretty good. That’s pretty good.”
Add those to guys to Emery, a guy who "all he does is win," Holmgren says, and you can begin to see why the two men are so excited about next season's club.
The last time the Flyers held a large press conference at the Center was to welcome Schenn, Couturier and Wayne Simmonds to the club in 2011. That represented a new beginning.
But asked to compare how he felt Tuesday with how he felt in summers past, Snider smiled.
“I feel better than I have in years," Snider said. "I feel very good about this team."