And there is a whole bunch of overpaid shit at the NHL level standing in their way.
Here was Volume 1 of the lineup, from about a month ago before we really saw anything:
And now onto Volume 2, after a lot of time spend watching and even more time spent on Twitter.
Forwards 1: Raffl - Giroux - Voracek
Forwards 4: Vandevelde - Bellemare - White
Nothing has changed on my first and fourth lines, because nothing needs to change. The first is one of the best lines in the NHL, and the fourth is one of the best fourth lines in the league. These two are simple. I wrote about them in my "Six Lines I Want To See" post, and they met or exceeded my expectations. Get well soon, Raf.
Forwards 2: Gagner - Couturier - Simmonds
I like the playmaking ability of Gagner (I hope the nickname Sammer holds), the physicality of Coots, and the gritty goalscoring of Simmer on a line together. And keep this in your back pocket: Sammer is 26, Simmer is 27, and Coots is 22. If the plan is to move the huge contracts of Lecavalier/Umberger/Streit/MacDonald/Schenn, there's going to be a lot of money to go around. If this line clicks and becomes a productive second line, let's lock Sam up long term and let him pick up where his older brother Simon left off. I think we're more likely to see Read or Brayden in that spot, but I'd rather stack two lines than let Coots dwindle as a tweener again.
Forwards 3: Porter - Schenn - Read
This line is clearly a notch below the top two in terms of talent and experience. But you will see all three of these names later on when we get to the special teams lines. For a team that isn't expected to contend this season (we lost twice to the Devils last night), it's not the end of the world to have a line who can defend and also create plays and maybe pot a few goals. However, there is a larger prize that I expect Hextall to force Hakstoll to look for...
Forwards 3: Schenn - Lecavalier - Umberger
There is SO much to be gained this year by having Lecavalier (35 years old) and Umberger (33) look decent enough to trade their huge contracts. Here's how we do that. If another line is nearing the end of a shift, chip the puck on goal and crash the net. Get an offensive zone faceoff. Then in come these three losers with a D-pair that can score, and we try to design some plays that put the puck in the net. I don't care if we don't get anything in return for Vinny or RJ. I just want them gone so we can start to build around players that actually belong here for the future.
One quick note on forwards: I think the first and fourth lines are untouchable. But you can pretty easily swap Gagner for Read (and mix Porter in when he gets called up), and you can rotate Simmonds/Schenn/Umberger. And even at Center, you can move Schenn, Lecavalier, and Umberger all into that 3C spot without messing too much up. There is a lot of flexibility in the middle lines, and it's Hakstoll's job to find combinations that work.
Another note: one name you will not see in the preview is Scott Laughton. I don't know if I'm only seeing the negatives because I have this idea in my head, but I think he stinks. I have never seem him win a 1-on-1 battle, and I've seen him turn the puck over about a thousand times. If Ghost and Hagg aren't ready for the big leagues, there is no way Laughton belongs on the Flyers this year. (Konecny also looked a lot better than Laughton, but the ability to bury him to keep a year off his entry level contract meant he would have had to be a lock for the top six.)
Defensemen 1: Streit - Schultz
Somehow I have convinced myself that these two make a significantly-above-average pair.
Defensemen 2: Del Zotto - Medvedev
Somehow I have convinced myself that we are solid on defense.
Defensemen 3: God Nevermind - Forget Those Last Two Comments
We are so fucked on defense. Our options here are MacDonald ($5 million until 2020), Luke ($3.6, expires after the season), Gudas and Manning (both under $1, and then RFA after this year). I'd love to see Luke Schenn and Radko Gudas create and old-time hockey "fourth line" kind of D-pair. That would be my favorite defensive pairing since Chris Therien and Dan McGillis accidentally got put on the ice together.
Defenseman 4: MacDonald - Manning
Curve ball! We're going with 8 defensemen, and we're dressing all 8 so nobody has to play too much and we can keep their shitty old legs healthy.
Goalie: Mason - Neuvirth
I don't expect a whole lot of arguments here.
Forwards (13): 10, 12, 14, 17, 20, 24, 25, 28, 40, 76, 78, 89, 93
Defensemen (8): 3, 15, 22, 23, 32, 47, 55, 82
Goalies (2): 35, 30
PECO Power Play 1: Giroux - Voracek - Simmonds - White - Streit
The best power play unit in the NHL, quarterbacked by the best power play playmaker in the NHL. There are players that shoot the puck everytime they get it that are also fun to watch on the power play, but (especially in the preseason), Claude is an extension of assistant coach Joe Mullen on the ice. You can see him barking out directions and pointing out instructions. Love you, Claude. As for Ryan White over Schenn, White was impressive when he got minutes last season and Brayden is of more use down here:
PECO Power Play 2: Gagner - Schenn - Couturier - Del Zotto - Medvedev
PECO decided to also sponsor the second unit this year, because we're all hoping for a pretty huge improvement. Sam and Brayden will take on the Giroux/Voracek playmaker roles from the circles, Coots will bang in front of the net, and MDZ/MDV are both offensive enough to justify two defensemen on the power play.
Eastern State Penitentiary Penalty Kill 1: Couturier - Read - Schultz - Schenn
Reader and Coots at the top of the PK unit makes carving out a roster spot for 24 and absolute must. Nick Schultz is the only defensemen that I really think is qualified to kill penalties, but I think Luke's size and ability to learn from Hakstoll (he's shown that already guys, I swear) will be beneficial.
Eastern State Penitentiary Penalty Kill 2: Bellemare - Vandevelde - Medvedev - ????
I hate the "Giroux killing penalties" strategy so goddamn much. He's the best offensive player on the team, and he shouldn't be wasting his energy chasing around penalties or (gulp) risking his body to block shots from the point. PEB and CVV are both solid penalty killers, but I'd also mix Porter in when he gets called up after we trade Vinny and RJ. As for that second defenseman spot, I don't even fucking know. Streit and MDZ both fall under the Giroux logic. MacDonald stinks. Gudas kind of stinks. Manning might stink? Ultimately I think I would put Gudas in there.
Microsoft Windows 3 Tablet 3-on-3 Overtime 1: Giroux - Voracek - Streit
Other Players Good Enough For Overtime: Couturier, B. Schenn, Simmonds, Raffl, Gagner, Bellemare, White, Read, Del Zotto, Medvedev
We have so much garbage on our defensive roster that it seems like we're going to be better off mixing in combinations of three forwards (and one of them, Giroux/Couturier primarily) serving a defensive role. There is a logical rotation here that I am not going to figure out, but basically you need to have at least one of Streit/MDZ/MDV/Giroux/Coots on the ice at all times. But really, it doesn't matter, because we always lose these anyway.