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Dear John - Part 2

by Staff Writer / Philadelphia Flyers
Philadelphia Flyers head coach John Stevens has often been described as one of the bright young minds in the game of hockey, helping to lead his club to the Eastern Conference Final in his first full season behind the bench. Now, he's taking time out from his summer schedule to answer questions from you, the fans, right here exclusively on

To submit your question to John for consideration in an upcoming mailbag, click here. For Part 1, click here.

Ossi Vaananen didn't play in the NHL last year and it seems Steve Eminger seems to have unbelievable potential. What do you expect from both players this upcoming season?
Mike Alloy
Wynnewood, PA

: “Steve Eminger is a young player who is just coming into his own. He’s a right-handed shot, has good size, and I think he’s capable of being a good player at both ends of the rink. Once we get more familiar with him, we’ll put him in situations that he can prosper in, but I think he’s a great addition to our blue line.

“Vaananen is a big guy, is physical, and is capable of playing against the top players on the other team. You might term him as more of a shut-down guy. He has experience in the league, although he went back overseas for last year. I think both of those guys are going to be valuable additions to our blue line.”

Do you like the Flyers’ schedule this year in that they play every team at least once?
Brian Gelman
Philadelphia, PA

: “I guess we won’t know until we get through it, but for one thing, it’s going to include a lot more travel which will be a little more taxing. But, I think it will be great for the fans to see some more teams they don’t often get to see.

"I think it might change the dynamics of the standings. Last year, with everybody playing so many games within the division, we had a big bulk moving along together in the standings. I think you might see some separation this year with the different format.”

How will Simon Gagne fit into the roster this season after being out for so long with concussions?
Marianne Godfrey
Philadelphia, PA

: “Very well. I think we forget sometimes that we were missing a guy like Gagne for most of the year. He only played a handful of games, but he is a world class player that’s great at both ends of the rink. He will help us in every situation, and we’re just hopeful that he continues to progress the way he has. He’s getting back into great shape, and he has no signs of any symptoms that he had before.”

What do you find to be your biggest challenges and/or major differences coaching at the AHL and NHL levels?
Calvin Jacocks
Philadelphia, PA

: “For me, the biggest challenge and biggest difference was the schedule. In the American League, you play primarily around the weekends, and in the NHL it just never ends. You play every other day, it seems like, all year long. You really have to manage your time to work and time to rest.

"Also, just the level of the players here. You’re dealing with the best players in the world, and you really have to pay attention to matchups. If you get the wrong matchups, you can get hurt in a hurry. Those two things stand out the most.”

How are you going to replace R.J. Umberger?
Rich Bestler
Williston Park, NY

: “You never like to see players like R.J. go, but it’s just the way the cap is now. You can only keep so many players. I think R.J. is going to continue to be a really good player in the league, but we have other guys that have shown the versatility of Umby. We have some young players that are going to get an opportunity such as Claude Giroux and Steve Downie. Scottie Upshall really came on last year at the end of the year. We seem to have a lot of players with the ability to move around like Umby did. I don’t know if you replace him, but certainly there’s guys in our lineup that are capable of more responsibility and can take more minutes and more situations.”

With the great success you had as a player and a coach at the Spectrum, how does it feel to say goodbye to such an icon of Philadelphia's history?
Mike Wiese
Warminster, PA

: “I think I was a small part of the history of the Spectrum, but the times that I had here were certainly some of the great times of my hockey experience. We won the championship in 1998 while getting to play in the old Spectrum. It’s kind of sad to see it go, but as time goes on you see a lot of these great buildings go down. There’s certainly some memories that will be solidified before that happens.”

How will the loss of assistant coach Terry Murray affect this hockey club?

Paul Rumer
Bensalem, PA

: “Terry Murray was a valuable part of our staff and had been here for a long time, and we certainly wish him the best with the opportunity he’s going to get in Los Angeles, but we feel very confident with Craig Berube coming back. I think he’s a great young coach that has a great feel for the game. We’re going to shuffle some things and some responsibilities. More than likely, Jack McIlhargey will run the defense and Chief will be more involved with our team system play and a lot of teaching with our young players. He’s very familiar with our young players because he’s been around the organization for a number of years, and I think we’ll have continuity in the way things are done even though Terry has left.”

I am a huge Steve Downie fan and I love his intensity. What role do you see him playing this season and how high is his ceiling?
James Izzo
Niskayuna, NY

: “I think that’s a question that Steve Downie is going to answer for all of us. I think a lot of people like Steve Downie, and he is the kind of kid you root for. I, for one, think the world of him. He’s worked extremely hard this summer to better his conditioning and better his chances to be a part of our team. He’s going to be given every opportunity to play for our team, and how much he plays and the responsibility he gets will be dictated by the opportunities he creates for himself. I think he’s a guy that’s going to continue to be a bigger part of our team and Flyers fans are going to continue to love as we move forward.”

Do you feel that your outward calm is a key to keeping the team emotion level during times where the game may be going not your way?
Rick Reisch
Reading, PA

: “I think I’ve come full circle with this. I’ve been criticized for being calm and complimented for it at the same time. I’ve learned my lessons over the years that you have to be able to think through the emotion of the game and keep your head in the game. I think it’s misinterpreted sometimes, but there’s a fire burning inside. You just have to keep your head in the game and keep the players on track, and I think we’ve been able to do that.”

Will Arron Asham and Riley Cote ever be in the lineup at the same time?
Tom Wood
Philadelphia, PA

: “Absolutely. I think Arron Asham is a veteran guy that has really worked hard and turned himself into a good two-way player. He’s a right-handed shot which is valuable, and he’s a hard-nosed guy that’s hard to play against, but he’s proven that he can be a very responsible defensive player and is smart. I don’t think you can ever have enough competitive people in your lineup. Certainly with Riley and Arron, they are two of the most competitive guys. I think if you throw Downie in that mix, they would be a fearsome three to go on the ice against.”

How hard is it to make roster decisions when there are so many young guys competing for spots on defense?
Devin Bradbury
Raleigh, NC

: “I actually think it’s a luxury that is good to have. If you look at last year, we had Alexandre Picard, Ryan Parent, Nate Guenin, and all these young guys that are knocking at the door. There’s going to be injuries and you’re going to need more than six or seven guys to play. We have guys developed to the point where they are ready or almost ready, and there’s nothing wrong with spending a little more time in the minors and being more ready rather than coming in when you’re not ready. This organization has done a great job at creating depth at the defensive position, and I think it’s only going to help us through the course of the season when injuries set in.”

Which player(s) do you feel will make the greatest strides to improving his game this year?
Troy Patenaude
Hay River, Northern Territories

: “If you look at last year, we had probably 13 or 14 guys with career years in different categories. I think that’s important that all of our players continue to get better. Certainly with some of these young players that were part-timers last year like Ryan Parent, Steve Downie and Scottie Upshall that was kind of in-and-out before he got going at the end…if anything I’d like to see some consistency in those guys. The guys that made great strides last year, we want them to just continue with that development.”
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