All three find themselves on a new team this season. All three arrived at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone this week, started skating and met some of their new teammates. And of course all three players were on the outside looking in during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It’s that last factor that each of them would like to put behind them, but it is also the reason that all three of them are here and excited to join the Flyers organization.
“I was very excited,” said Walker upon arriving earlier in the week. “Obviously coming to a team of this caliber you hear nothing but good things and then you show up and see the facility, and how hard the guys are working. Everything is at your disposal here, from the trainers and everybody on the ice, it’s been nothing short of great.”
Although coming up short with the Lightning last season, Walker does have some playoff experience under his belt. The 6’4’’, 215-pound stay-at-home defenseman made 17 postseason appearances in 2009 to help the Chicago Blackhawks reach the Western Conference Final.
“I caught a few games throughout the playoffs. I mean it’s the playoffs, everything is left out on the ice every night. It doesn’t take much to go one way or another and [The Flyers] were right there. Obviously I’d like to take it that one more step this year.”
Perhaps the person who best knows about the Flyers run to the Stanley Cup Final last season is Jody Shelley
, who as a member of the New York Rangers, came within one point (and a couple of shootout goals) of a berth in the playoffs.
“That’s the ultimate goal for every team,” said Shelley. “Like you said they had a lot of success and they did a lot of great things. It ended in disappointment, but you know it’s exciting to be part of a team that’s got a lot of history and a team that wants to do nothing but win the Stanley Cup. They’re going to do everything it takes and you just try to do your job, be a part of it and help everyday as much as you can.”
Doing whatever it takes also includes the acquisition of another big and skilled defenseman in Andrej Meszaros
. After missing out on the playoffs the last two seasons with Tampa Bay, he is looking to get back to the form that earned him NHL All-Rookie Team honors in 2006 and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final with the Ottawa Senators in 2007.
“Basically it’s whatever the coaches want me to do,” said Meszaros on how he sees his defensive role shaping up on a team that is stacked on the blue line. “It doesn’t matter if its defense or offense, I’m up for everything.”
Meszaros and company may just see everything this season, particularly in their own division. Each member of the Atlantic went into the off-season with a game plan to add size and toughness to accompany talent, and each figures to be a legitimate threat to challenge for a spot in the postseason.
“Yeah it’s a tough division,” added Meszaros. “But I think we have a great team and if we play together as a team I think we have a good shot.”
In fact of the three, only Shelley has experience playing in what most call the toughest division in hockey.
“Everyone has their predictions this time of year and those don’t really matter,” said Shelley. “Every team has the same goal. It’s a very difficult league to win in and you just have to be sharp and ready every night. You just have to worry about yourself. [We’ve] got some great leadership here, so that’s a huge advantage.”
Shelley, Meszaros and Walker will have something in common with every player on the Flyers roster. It will be their first under head coach Peter Laviolette, but whatever comes out of camp this season, Shelley admits he is just happy to be here in Orange and Black.
“Just being a part of this organization,” added Shelley. “Getting to know these guys and really proving myself to everyone around the organization, fitting in and getting things going. It’s a long summer when you don’t make the playoffs and you get anxious. It’s a great time of year to get in here and I’m really looking forward to getting the camp started and get at the season.”
The first official day of the Flyers 2010 training camp will be Friday, Sept. 17. A complete roster and schedule of events during camp will be announced in the near future.
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