Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Flyers Preview: Bob Froese Autographed Card

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: 2020 is a different beast and requires adaptability; in my case, it means the joint posts with my "main/personal" blog will not be in the "player here/analysis there" format but rather the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written. Caveats: at this point, despite the season being set to start in Mid-January, several impact players haven't found a team yet and quite a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

After slowly building themselves up to get to this point, the Philadelphia Flyers have finally reached "Stanley Cup contender" status and merely require tweaks for a run each season; technically, this summer, they replaced second-pair defenseman Matt Niskanen - who retired - with Erik Gustafsson, and they could make a surprise run at Zdeno Chara who would fit right in going from the Big Bad Bruins to the Broad Street Bullies, but apart from that they only lost depth players (Nate Thompson, Tyler Pitlick and Derek Grant) who can be replaced at the trade deadline.

And while I feel that the team has technically taken steps back in each of the off-seasons since GM Ron Hextall - who built this impressive lineup from the ground up save for second-line center Kevin Hayes - was axed and replaced with Chuck Fletcher, it remains a team that's so deep it can afford to lose a piece per year and still remain in the mix.

What makes their odds look good:
Captain Claude Giroux is no longer the got-go buy for offense: that's now Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny's jobs, and Giroux can "coast" on 0.75 points per game without the pressure of facing the opposition's top players all the time, although he often joins the two young stars when he's not sharing the ice with his old compadre Jakub Voracek. James Van Riemsdyk is still good for 25-30 prorated goals (he had 21 in 66 games last year and some fans were still dissatisfied!), Scott Laughton looks solid in the middle of the lineup, and budding youngs stars Joel Farabee, Oskar Lindblom, Morgan Frost and Cameron York will also fight for some serious ice time, so even if Nolan Patrick isn't ready to come back from his concussion issues, it won't necessarily harm the team.

The defense is solid with the likes of Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers, so much so that once-highly-touted prospects like Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg may never get a true shot at making the regular roster.

Question marks:
None, really. If Fletcher can stop subtracting talent and adding to the salary cap, this team will be a yearly tweak from contending for the next decade. Acquiring Justin Braun on defense looks like a smart move right now, we'll just have to see how the deal looks long-term.

The Washington Capitals have been winning their division in the regular season for over a decade at this point, and they now have serious competition. Look for the two teams to exchange the lead all season long.

First in the Metropolitan/East Division.

Star goalie Carter Hart is not immune to suffering a setback in his progression, but not having the Philly crowd around will certainly help ease a lot of the pressure. After all, playing net in the City of Brotherly Love is a near-guarantee to fail; apart from Bernie Parent who retired due to injury and Pelle Lindbergh who died in a car crash, even Vezina and Conn Smythe winners and nominees have been run out of town, and that includes Hextall, but also Sean Burke, Sergei Bobrovsky and Ilya Bryzgalov.

One goalie who lost his job to both Lindbergh and Hextall yet still won the Jennings, was a Second Team All-Star and a Vezina runner-up in-between is Bob Froese, but a lack of patience with his playoff perfromances saw him get traded to the New York Rangers after Hextall came along. He was part of a formidable tandem with John Vanbiesbrouck until he retired to help groom their successor, Mike Richter, as the team's goaltending coach.

After a short stint in player development for the New York Islanders in the mid-1990s, he retired from the game permanently to become an ordained minister, a position he held until last year.

This is what he looked like wearing the Flyers' orange (away) uniform in the 1980s:
It's a picture I've been looking at regularly for the past 35 years, although I had the O-Pee-Chee version as a child and this is card #55 from Topps' 1986-87 Topps collection. I bought it on Ebay for $5. It seems every time I lay my eyes on the card, I see new details emerge, like the thin orange stripe on the sleeve, I'm not sure I had noticed it before today. What weird patterns everywhere on this jersey from my youth, I love it!

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