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Coach weighs in

by Joe Siville / Philadelphia Flyers
Finally getting a chance to relax and enjoy the summer after having spent the last six and a half months steering the Flyers roller coaster season and run to the Stanley Cup Final, head coach Peter Laviolette caught up with to comment on a few of the changes that took place to the Flyers roster this off season and what he looks forward to at training camp for the upcoming 2010-11 season.

“I have never worked with any of the new players that we got during the off-season,” said Laviolette. “I certainly have coached against them and have seen them enough in the league. I think they were good acquisitions because they add areas to our team that we can improve.”  

One of those areas he was referring to was Defense.

“To pick up three defensemen like [Andrej] Meszaros, [Sean] O’Donnell and [Matt] Walker on the back end really gives us depth. Every game from Christmas on last season was do-or-die for us. We ended up playing our best players so much. This will really give us some depth where maybe our top guys won’t have to play as much and we can get more of a consistent roll out there.”

Not to be overlooked, the Flyers did make a move on offense by picking up former fourth overall draft pick in 2003, Nikolai Zherdev from the Kontinental Hockey League.

“As far as Zherdev goes, everybody likes the way he plays the game because he has such a high skill level. I remember when he was with the Rangers he was their leading goal scorer. Getting him is exciting. When you can get a young player under 25 years old with a boat load of talent, those are the types of players you want to have on your team. He has the potential to be a highly skilled offensive player for us.”

One change that both he and the Flyers will have to get used to is the loss of left wing Simon Gagne, who was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning back on July 19. Even though he thinks highly of Gagne, Laviolette sees Zherdev as filling that role nicely.

“Simon is a very good player. He is a skilled guy. I know he has played in Philadelphia for a long time. He was well-liked by the organization and fans and myself,” added Laviolette. “It was one of those moves that is tough to take but hockey is the business we are in right now with salary cap issues. I wish Simon the best in Tampa, but we have to look at what we do have. I refer back to Zherdev. Here is an opportunity for a young kid to come in here who has put up a lot of points in his NHL career. We hope that he can get on track here and maybe help replace a guy like Simon.”

So now that the Flyers have a slightly new look for the upcoming season, the biggest question remaining is, how will they fit? That, as Laviolette explains, is what he looks forward to examining at training camp the most.

“I’m excited just to get back and to have a training camp. It is really beneficial when you have that opportunity during training camp to really work with your team and try to implement systems, push the pace and work on conditioning.” 

Currently at his Florida home, but preparing to move and settle into his permanent Philadelphia area residence, Laviolette admitted that he is more than eager to kick off a new year and take a little bit more a different approach than the situation he was thrust into last year, when taking over the bench on Dec. 4.

“When I first got hired by the Flyers we had eight games in 13 nights. There really wasn’t any time to do anything. Now there is the opportunity to work with everybody. You get to be more familiar with the depth players and the young players in the organization as well as getting back to working with the veteran players. I’m really excited and looking forward to it.”

Under Laviolette, the Flyers posted a 28-24-5 record in his 57 regular season games and led the club to its 34th playoff appearance in its 42nd season of play in the NHL. Not to mention he was the guiding force to one of the most improbable postseason runs in Philadelphia sports history, earning the Flyers their eighth trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

One can only wonder at this point what he can accomplish with a full season at his command, but they won’t have to for long as the official Flyers 2010 Training Camp is just around the corner, kicking off on Friday, Sept. 17.

Pronger has minor surgery
In addition to today's news, Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren gave a brief statement regarding Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, who had surgery last week:

"Chris Pronger had minor surgery on his right knee last week. He will be ready for the start of training camp."

Pronger had surgery on July 27 to remove "loose bodies" at Virtua outpatient in Voorhees, N.J. and he has already begun rehab. The surgery was performed by Dr. Peter DeLuca.

Flyers Ice Hockey School  

Before he takes his 2010-11 Flyers team to the ice, Laviolette will begin his coaching duties a little earlier than expected this fall, when he takes the ice to instruct children of all ages at the annual Flyers Ice Hockey School, which will take place from Aug. 16-20 at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.

At the Flyers Ice Hockey School, each player will go through a comprehensive process focusing on the development and maintenance of sound fundamentals, including Chalk Talk sessions that will reinforce the on-ice instructions. Off the ice, an extensive dry land conditioning program designed by Flyers Athletic Trainer/Strength & Conditioning coach Jim McCrossin will complement each players hockey skills. Instructors will teach sport-specific exercises.

To sign up or for more information, click here!

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