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Great Expectations

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
(Voorhees, NJ) – After a couple of days to relax and unwind following the grueling NHL season and a deep run in the playoffs, the Philadelphia Flyers were back at their training facility for one final day to clean out their lockers and meet with the management and coaching staff.

It’s a day that they would rather have had in a couple weeks following the Stanley Cup Finals, but after the progress that was made this year, it’s hard for the players to be completely unsatisfied with the way things ended.
The Flyers' training center locker room on Wednesday. (Flyers Photos)

The ultimate goal of the Stanley Cup, though, will have to wait. For now.

“The overall season was pretty good, but not good enough. I’m here like everybody else; to win the Stanley Cup and we didn’t do that. Hopefully we can do that next year,” said Kimmo Timonen.

“I think when it’s all said and done, from where we were last year to where we are this year, mostly a lot of positive things came out of it,” added Derian Hatcher. “Being a part of it last year, I am proud of these guys. I think this team has a bright, bright future.”

Mike Richards, arguably the most improved player in the league this year, is also excited for the future. He will begin a 12-year contract next season, and expects that the Flyers will be once again viewed as one of the elite clubs in the NHL.

And he’s looking forward to it.

“I think expectations are good for a team, and goals are better for a team,” he said. “I think coming into this year we might not have set our goals as high, and as the year went on, obviously we changed them. We expect more [next year] than I think we did coming into this year.

“I don’t think too many people gave us much of a [chance] this year, and with some of the things we did, it makes you that much more excited for next year. With the players that we have here and how young we are, and really a good, hard-working team, you can’t help but be excited for the future.”

Like every other team in the league, there are some questions that will have to be answered this offseason. There are unrestricted free agents set to hit the market on July 1, such as captain Jason Smith, as well as restricted free agents like Jeff Carter that Philadelphia would like to sign before that date.
"Obviously, I don’t want to go anywhere. I love playing in Philadelphia, and I want to be here for a long time." - Jeff Carter

On Tuesday, Paul Holmgren, the club’s general manager, said that signing Carter is at the top of his priority list. Carter was asked about his future on Wednesday.

“Obviously, I don’t want to go anywhere. I love playing in Philadelphia, and I want to be here for a long time,” he said. “We have to sit down with my agent, [Holmgren] and everybody, and hopefully we can get something done as soon as possible.”

Carter was reminded of Holmgren’s comments that they want to get the deal done quickly.

“It puts your mind at ease a little bit. It’s great that they are going to put that kind of confidence in me. Hopefully we can do it soon.”

Regardless of what happens, the players know that management will be doing everything possible to make the team better. That has been a staple of the Philadelphia Flyers for 41 seasons now, and it’s not going to change. It’s one of the reasons Danny Briere, who just completed the first of an eight-year deal with the club, decided to come here last summer.

“I feel like we’re just starting to reach where we can go,” said Briere. “We’re climbing, and just starting to get noticed. Everybody knows the commitment of this organization, so it’s very positive.”

Richards says he’s not ready for captainship

Mike Richards, who has been touted as a future captain of the team ever since the day he was drafted, was asked if he thinks he is ready to be a captain in the NHL should the team be without one at the beginning of next season.

He was quick to respond that he doesn’t think he’s ready just yet.
Simon Gagne expects to be healthy for training camp in 2008. (Getty Images)

“I’m still learning so much from everybody. [Jason Smith] is the best captain…I’ve not been around too many, but just the way he carries himself, the things he does for his teammates…he would do anything for a teammate,” he said. “Then there’s Hatcher, and Kimmo, and Danny. I don’t feel I’m ready right now. I feel like I’m learning so much from different people.

“I like the position I’m in as a little bit of a leader [as alternate captain], but there’s so many leaders in our dressing room, that I don’t think it’s the right time.”

Gagne pleased with progress

Simon Gagne, who played in just 25 games this season due to a concussion, has been riding the stationary bike for upwards of 30 minutes with no after effects, he was pleased to report on Wednesday.

The all-star winger fully expects to be healthy for training camp in September.

“I’m feeling very good right now. If you look it’s been almost three months since the last injury, and from this point on I’m very happy the way things are going. Symptom-wise, I think I’m 100 percent.

“I started a couple weeks ago to get on the bike and see if everything is fine. Sometimes you think you’re okay, but when you start working out you start to see some symptoms come back, but not now. It’s a good sign. If you look in front of me, I have the whole summer to get back into shape first and another four months before I play a game. I’m very happy the way things are going right now.”
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