Flyers have enough talent, Holmgren says

". . . It's an uneasy feeling to be out of the playoffs," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said.
". . . It's an uneasy feeling to be out of the playoffs," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. (         YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 30, 2013

General manager Paul Holmgren said the Flyers, who completed their lackluster season on Saturday, need just a little offseason tweaking to return to the playoffs.

"I still think we have good-enough talent to win," Holmgren said.

In a far-reaching, 24-minute media session Sunday after the Flyers cleaned out their lockers at their Voorhees practice facility, Holmgren said that bolstering the defense, which was decimated by injuries this year, will be a priority.

"We're always looking to get better on the back end. We're always looking to get bigger," he said. "Those are the areas we'll tend to focus on."

Holmgren said he would do whatever it takes to improve the team, and did not rule out making an offer to a restricted free agent. Highly regarded St. Louis defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk will be among the attractive restricted free agents.

The Flyers, who missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last 18 seasons, allowed 2.90 goals per game, tied for 22d in the 30-team NHL. They finished ninth in the league by averaging 2.75 goals per game.

"I think we have enough offense the way the team is now. I think we have some guys internally that are prepared to take on a bigger role and take the next steps," said Holmgren, who seemed to be referring to Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, and Matt Read, among others. "That doesn't mean we won't look outside to add."

Holmgren said that he expected minor-league forward Scott Laughton to battle for a roster spot next season, but that he would be surprised if Nick Cousins made the team out of training camp. He said Cousins needs to improve defensively.

The Flyers (23-22-3) had the league's 11th-worst record; they will draft No. 1, No. 11, or No. 12, depending on Monday night's weighted lottery.

"I think if we're healthy, we still have a good team," Holmgren said. "We had a lot of unhealthy players at times this year. . . . Lots of guys didn't have the year we wanted them to have or they wanted to have. That's just the way it goes sometimes."

Holmgren said he expects three key defensemen who were sidelined by injuries - Braydon Coburn, Nick Grossmann, and Andrej Meszaros - to be ready to start next season.

Coach Peter Laviolette, meanwhile, said the season was "not the outcome we were looking for. When things like this happen, certainly I feel responsible. I'm the head coach of this team, so it's an uneasy feeling to be out of the playoffs when the expectation is to be in the playoffs."

"We underachieved," forward Danny Briere said. "We know that. Pretty much every single player in this room knows they can play better."

"We're young, we're a fast team. We can do a lot of good things," captain Claude Giroux said. "But not being able to make the playoffs, it's frustrating. But at the same time, we've just got to learn from this."

It can be argued that the Flyers relied too much on one goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, who became worn down as he played 22 consecutive games during a six-week stretch. After Steve Mason was acquired late in the season and the goalies divided the duties, Bryzglaov seemed rejuvenated.

Mason, 24, was superb in seven appearances with the Flyers, compiling a 1.90 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. The 6-foot-4 goalie has regained his confidence and is "back on his game," Holmgren said.

Asked whether having a quality backup all season might have changed the Flyers' fortunes, Laviolette said, "I don't have a crystal ball."

The coach explained why he used Bryzgalov so often.

"Bryz has the reputation of being a guy who has handled a lot of games in his past," Laviolette said. "We were behind the eight ball from the first three games of the year; we were catching up the entire year, and every game . . . we needed to win. We needed to put our best foot forward, and Bryz was the No. 1 goalie and he did a terrific job for us."

Asked whether Bryzgalov was his No. 1 goalie going into next season, Laviolette deflected the question.

"We have two goaltenders right now, and they both did a terrific job," he said. "Mace finished the year strong. Ilya finished the year strong as well."

Holmgren said having $7.2 million tied up in two goalies next season was "not a big issue. You need to have strong goaltending to win in this league, and I think right now we have strong goaltending. Certainly stronger than we had a month ago."

Contact Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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