New Flyers arrive in Philly with big skates to fill


Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Posted: 4:09 p.m.
By Sarah
Jakub Voracek wasnt alone when he entered the packed press conference and stepped up onto the podium. The newly acquired winger, who came to Philadelphia from Columbus in exchange for Jeff Carter, wasnt even the only new Flyer meeting the media for the first time.

But still, he was a little intimidated.

After all, its different in Columbus, where the press corps is comparably small and the attendance at games is thousands less.

I sat down here at the press conference and I saw all you guys and I was like, Oh my God, Ive never done that before. Voracek said. I was kind of nervous in the beginning. Obviously its a little bit different. I cant say bad things about ColumbusI had three great years there and I really liked the city, really liked the guys there. But this is a good group of guys, I heard, and a great organization. So its very exciting to be here.

Voracek, along with the two forwards acquired from the L.A. Kings (Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn), arrived in Philadelphia Tuesday and formally began their tenures as part of the new-look Flyers, a team suddenly without Carter and ex-captain Mike Richards.

At 21 years old, and with just three NHL seasons under his belt, Voracek isnt exactly a Carter clone. The 14 goals he registered for the Blue Jackets last year put him in the teams top five, but theyre still a fraction of the 36 Carter netted for the Flyers.

The same can be said for Simmonds and Schenn, who were acquired in the deal that sent Richards to Los Angeles. Simmonds also scored 14, and Schennwhom general manager Paul Holmgren has repeatedly compared to a young Richardshas plenty of potential, but is only 19 and played in just eight NHL games last year.

For those who arent up to doing the math, thats a 31-goal deficit. Have the Flyers put themselves in a position in which theyre lacking goal-scoring ability?

I think people have said that the last few years, Holmgren said. Looking back over the last couple summers, we lost Joffrey Lupul, we lost Mike Knuble, we lost Simon Gagne. And weve continued to score goals and keep up in our conference.

Id be lying if I said I didnt think about it, butI think Jakub can score more than he scored in Columbus, and I think Wayne can score more than he scored in L.A., given a little more opportunity. Well see. I think people have been saying that for the last three summers about our team and were always right around the top of the conference in goal scoring.

Holmgren may not be concerned, but any way you look at it, those are some big skates to fill for three very young hockey playersSimmonds, at 22, is no veteran either.

Addressing the Philadelphia media Tuesday, however, all three said they were ready to make an impact.

So far, I dont feel any pressure, said Voracek. Im still enjoying it. Maybe its going to be a little different when we start playing, but when we start to win some games, its going to get even better. The fans and everybody are expecting us to win. Im sure were going to be good this year.

Simmonds shares the same mentality. The gritty, physical winger is, of the three, probably the one who most exemplifies Flyers hockey. At 6-foot-2 and with a reputation for playing tough, Simmonds was, perhaps, born to be a Flyer.

Ive been told that in the past, Simmonds said. Broad Street Bullies like to play physical and hit everything that moves. Thats the way I like to play. I feel if Im not playing physical, Im not playing well. I think I can help in that aspect.

Simmonds and Voracek will immediately make the jump onto the Flyers roster, but questions abound as to whether Schenn is truly Game 1 ready. The fifth overall pick of the 2009 draft has high expectations, but might require more time to completely develop.

His sights are now set simply on cracking the lineup in Philadelphia.

For me I think, I obviously got traded for a great player, the captain," Schenn said. "But I am going to come in and try and prove myself and compete for a spot. I cant look too far ahead of that. Thats what I am going to try to do.

The three young skaters will bring a lot to the Flyers, but there are certainly still gaps that Holmgren would ideally like to fill. The team could use a proven faceoff winner, for one, and would benefit from a veteran, goal-scoring center. Holmgren said again on Tuesday hed very much like to re-sign winger Ville Leino.

As the start of free agency approaches, and the Flyers locker room continues to take shape, Holmgren certainly has a lot to think about. But as of right now, he appears content with the way his team is coming together.

I like our team, he said. I think theres some things wed like to do now through free agency, but I think internally, we have a lot of good pieces right now.

E-mail Sarah Baicker at Follow her on Twitter at @SBaickerCSN.

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