Player Movement The Flyers continued their player movement program. There were many significant off-season player moves including seeing the exit of Mattius Ohlund, Radek Bonk, Wes Waltz, Darius Kasparitius, Kim Johnsson, Radek Dvorak and Sami Solo, including highly regarded prospect Martin Gerber. The incoming group included talented centreman Scott Gomez, highly sough defenseman Anton Volchenkov, Mike Grier, Andrei Zyuzin and Shane Hnidy. The prospects acquired were Jeff Carter, Pascal Leclair, Igor Grigerenko, Alex Suglabov and a first rounder whom the Flyers used do select Boris Valibik the towering defenseman from Slovakia. The Flyers also netted several mid round picks for the 2005 draft. In addition, the Flyers were able lower their payroll by several millions. Coaching The Flyers are in good shape here having one of the games best in Jacques Lemaire. Recognized as a defensive specialist his coaching skills will be tested this year after the subtraction of Ohlund, Johnsson and Salo. Finances The Flyers lowered their payroll by several millions by all the trade activity in the offseason. This should put the Flyers in a good position in the future once a new labour agreement is worked out and a cap system is in place. Although not heavy in cash reserves, with the pending retirement of Hasek in a year and the probable move of Grier or another winger earning $2 mil plus, they will be in good shape in the future. Mike Rathje is the only significant UFA to be signed at the end of the year. Forwards Simon Gagne finally shaked off the rust from two years of injuries in last yearâ€™s playoffs. Scott Gomez provides the Flyers with another top end offensive talent and should complement either Arnott or Gagne as a setup man. Mike Fisher is a tough, gritty power forward with skill. The only question is can he stay healthy. Flyers still waiting for Zubrus and to a lesser extent Dumont to put up some big numbers. Zubrus has all the talent required in a top forward but he turns 26 this year and he needs to reach the next level and turn potential to production. Dumont will never win a scoring title due to his speed but he has great hands and should be able to score 30. The Flyers certainly hope so. The Flyers have a lot of prospects in the junior and minor ranks but theyâ€™re still 1 to 2 years away. But guys like Carter, Sojstrom, Fritsche, Grigerenko and Suglabov should provide plenty skill to the team in the near future. Breakthrough Players Simon Gagne is poised for a breakthrough season. After finally ridding the rust in the playoffs Gagne should return to his Olympic form this year. Dainius Zubrus The Flyers have waited for Zubrus to produce great offensive numbers but for the first time in his career Zubrus suffered through various injuries, however, he worked out hard this offseason and is ready for a breakout year. On the Downturn Scott Mellamby Scotty has one or two years left in those legs but clearly he is 1 or 2 years away from retirement, however, for a playoff team such as Philly he can still but up some good numbers. The Grapevine Jeff Carter The Flyers are giddy over the development of Jeff Carter. Carter acquired in an offseason trade had another terrific WJC tournament where he tied Eric Lindrosâ€™ record for most goals in a WJC. Carter is big, fast and skilled and has good hockey sense. He is the complete package and once he fills out his frame he should be able to produce ala Joe Throrton. Danny Fritsche Another junior player from the 2003 draft, Fritsche had a terrific WJC for the USA. He showed a lot of offense and leadership skills along with toughness. If Fritsche can stay healthy, he will be a terrific player in the NHL. The Defense Once one of the games best defensive cores the Flyers have reshaped the unit to a younger and more mobile group but less skilled, much less skilled. Gone are Ohlund, Johnsson, Salo and Kasparitius. In are Zyuzin, Volchenkov and Hnidy. With the exception of Hnidy, Zyuzin and Volchenkov will be with the team for a long time. The A-train though is the key. The Russian tank has plenty of offensive skills and murders people on defense. Zyuzin replaces Salo. Although clearly Salo is the better player now, Z is younger (25) and improving. Hnidy replaces Kaspar in the short-term but there is nobody to immediately replace Ohlund and Johnsson. The A-train is one year away and prospects, Tim Gleason, Anton Volchenkov and Boris Valabik are at least 1 to 2 years away. Breakthrough Players Andrei Zyuzin Has the size, speed and toughness to play on the top 2 units. His game has improved by great leaps and bounds with good coaching and Z is ready to step it up once more time this year. Veterans Mike Rathje is a tower of strength on the backline and will have to be again this year. Entering his UFA season Rathje will be playing for a new contract. Whereâ€™s the Production Gone Aaron Ward Aaron needs to rebound from a poor year. The former 1st round pick seemed to be progressing and then took a step back last year. The Flyers are hoping it was just the normal first year woes after a major contract signing. The Flyers need Ward to re-establish himself as a top four defenseman after dropping the likes of Ohlund, Salo and Johnsson. The Grapevine Anton Volchenkov The A-train is a Monster and master of disaster. The Russian tank can dish out hits like nobodyâ€™s business but yet has the skill to accumulate a lot of points on the powerplay. Expect a lot of great things from Anton in 2005. Tim Gleason Gleason, drafted in the same year as Anton is close to being a fulltime NHLer. He has developed nicely the last two years in the minors and is ready to explode on the scene soon. Gleason has great speed and a hard shot. He also has a mean streak, which at times gets him to lose his focus. He seems to have overcome that though and is ready for primetime. In the Crease Dominik Hasek Dominik Hasek returned from a short retirement and played well last year. Without him, the team would not have made the playoffs. The same could hold true this year. Hasek needs to play big for the Flyers to replicate last yearâ€™s regular season performance. Mika Noronen Mika played sparingly last year but proved he could play in the NHL. The ride was not a smooth one as Mika let in his fair share of soft goals but the Flyers expect to see a big improvement this year. Once voted the best player not playing in the NHL, Mika has to improve drastically to reach those high expectations. The Grapevine Pascal Leclaire After trading Martin Gerber, the Flyers needed to restock their prospect list and they did by trading for Leclaire. Although Pascal struggled his first few years after his draft, he played extremely well last year and has re-established himself as a #1 goalie prospect. The Draft The Flyers lacked picks for the 2004 draft but they made a big splash with the one they had. The Flyers drafted the tower of power 6â€™9â€ Boris Valabik of Slovakia. Boris still looks like a newborn deer trying to walk for the first time but he has the attitude and work ethic to be successful. The criticism layed on Boris is the same ones used for Zdeno Chara when he was with the Islanders. Know Chara is one of the games best defenseman. Boris has a lot of work to do to reach those lofty heights but he lacks no desire to get there. Forecast The Flyers will rely on the coaching of Lemaire and the goaltending of Hasek. If both of those areas are average the Flyers will struggle. Their offensive production should increase this year and the Flyers hope that the addition of defensive specialists Turner Stevenson and Mike Grier will help ease the loss of the defenseman they traded this offseason. Playoffs are within reach but not guaranteed.