The new look of the Flyers are flying high

Bill Riccetti, Columnist

Baseball is now over, basketball is still canceled and football plays one game per week.

A casual sports fan would be racking their brain trying to figure out what to watch.

Well the answer is very simple: hockey.

It’s not just for Canadians anymore. Hockey is a great, exciting and competitive sport that many seem to overlook, and this year’s NHL season has started off with a bang.

Now, if you are a Philadelphia Flyers fan like me, things are looking pretty good. Look across the league: Sidney Crosby from the Penguins is still out, the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins have more losses than wins and the biggest rival for the Flyers now are the lowly New Jersey Devils, whom they shut out earlier this year.

Did I mention that the Flyers will be hosting the most anticipated regular season game – the Winter Classic? This game will be played on Jan. 2 2012. The Flyers will host the New York Rangers on an outdoor rink at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

After last season’s free agent roller coaster ride that sent captain Mike Richards and assistant captain Jeff Carter to other teams, the Flyers’ new guys are shining bright.

Newcomers Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek are tearing up the middle of the ice while rookies Matt Read, Sean Couturier and Zach Rinaldo are letting their presence be felt.

They are fast and they are fresh. Whether they stay this way through the hardships of a long season is unknown, but at the moment they are knocking in goals left and right.

With all these new talents there has to be veteran leadership, and that is where Chris Pronger and Jaromir Jagr step in. With a combined age of 76 these two veterans are showing their new teammates what a successful hockey team does.

Jagr, who had a slow start, scored five goals in three games. Pronger has been a defensive mastermind the beginning half of the season; however, an eye injury has sidelined him for at least three more weeks.

Claude Giroux is also emerging as a leader. He is the only person on the team with seven goals. He also has scored 15 points in all but two games.

But good offense is nothing compared to a well-rounded defense, and the Flyers finally stepped up this off-season when they signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov from Phoenix.

This top five goalie has already accomplished feats that the Flyers could not last year (pitching a shut out). He has had some shaky games due to allegations that he is not used to the type of media pressure a market like Philadelphia presents, but he has since rebounded and is looking forward to becoming even better.

The year looks promising for the Flyers, and so far it is off to a great start. They stand at a healthy 11 points in their division and are in second behind rival Pittsburgh.

With new looks and young talent, the Flyers are definitely going to be a team to be reckoned with.