Flyers: Five Players Who Must Thrive
These guys need to step up
1. Scott Hartnell: Seems strange to label a guy who plays on the No. 1 line and led the 2012 Flyers in goal scoring (37) needing to up his game, but Hartnell’s struggles last year were one of many reasons the Flyers missed the playoffs. Yes, he was hampered by injuries, but still managed just eight goals in 32 games. Was that a fluke or is the 31-year-old Hartnell beginning to decline?
2. The Schenn Brothers: We’ll group them together, though their styles and games are completely different. Luke took a while to get going in his new digs last year, before emerging as a steadying force on the defense. Now he needs to assert himself from Day One. Little brother Brayden, expected to be a force upfront, managed just eight goals. Flyers will need more from him than that if they seriously expect to contend.
3. Sean Couturier: The Flyers keep turning down all trade packages involving a player who once scored a playoff hat trick yet has managed just 17 goals (four last year) in two seasons. While his checking and defensive mindset belie his age (20), the Flyers wouldn’t have drafted him No. 8 overall in 2012 if they didn’t think he could be more like the 96-point scorer he was in Juniors. Better do it soon or next time they may be willing to pull the trigger.
4. Andrej Meszaros: Coming off two injury-plagued seasons, it’s an upset to many he’s still here. But the $4 million salary cap hit was apparently too steep for others to risk. Meszaros says he’s healthy now and ready to prove he can be the player who led the NHL in plus-minus much of the 2011 season. Even if he does he’s still a candidate to be traded at some point.
5. Max Talbot: The premier checking center, Talbot was coming off a career-best, 19-goal season before a broken leg cut short his 2012-13 campaign after 36 games. Before that, he had slumped to five goals and even his defensive game wasn’t as sharp. Only 29-years-old, he’s a good candidate to bounce back.