Browsing the SB Nation Network of blogs, I happened upon a post from Broad Street Hockey on the things Flyers fans were thankful for this season. Now, I know it's difficult to think of a lot of good things to come from a season that didn't end with Nicklas Lidstrom hoisting 35 pounds of silver over his head, but after seeing a lot of the posts looking at next season all the speculation about the offseason (which is perfectly fine, but not necessarily in my taste since I personally would prefer to finish out the playoffs first before thinking about next season), I've decided to blatantly copy the idea from the BSH folks and look at reasons why the past season was great.
1. I'm an unabashed Jonathan Ericsson fanboy, so I'll start with him. It's definitely not ideal that he went down for a month with injury, but when he first got hurt, my first reaction was, "Great, now he'll get to watch a few games and hopefully adjust when he comes back." Upon Ericsson's return the PK got red hot, he started using his size more, and his overall defensive game got miles better than he'd been before. He's still got a ways to go to live up to his contract, but getting better is never a bad thing.2. We finally got our breakout season from Valtteri Fippula. Season after season, we've declared in our preseason predictions that the Red Wings would be great "because Filppula would finally have his breakout season." We finally got it, and it led to...
3. Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler. How consistently dominant was this line this season? Happy scored a bunch of goals we never would have expected him to, and while a single season of success like he has this past season is probably not enough to warrant another contract (unless it's dirt cheap), you have to love his return to depth scoring form from his first stint in Detroit. Zetterberg stepped up in Datsyuk's absence when he was injured. And I already talked about Filppula.
4. You have to love the kind of season J.J. man-crush Drew Miller had. Playing himself out of the healthy scratch rotation and stepping up to pot 14 goals from the bottom-six? I surely wish we could have gotten more depth scoring from there, but Drew Miller did his part.
5. Jimmy Howard etched his name in the Detroit crease for the foreseeable future. After a dominant run through the first half of the season before he went down with injury, he left us with no doubt in our minds about his ability to perform, and that he is definitely capable of better seasons than what he had last season, '10-'11. He delivered.
6. How much more exciting have shootouts gotten with our specialist Todd Bertuzzi?
7. Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith. Despite an early-season suspension suspension and lack of overall playing time for both, the glimpses we've seen from these two already have us rarin' to go for next season and beyond.
8. The record. 23 straight home wins. It certainly could have been longer if not for a bad icing call, but I'll be bitter another time. The team with the best home record in the regular season certainly got it in entertaining fashion, piling up win after win after win at the Joe.
This is certainly far from an exhaustive list, so throw yours up in the comments below, or call me out on the things i've said here. Again, I know it's hard to celebrate when you get ousted in the first round and you constantly expect the Stanley Cup, but after the Game 5 loss the Nashville, the celebration of another season of Red Wings hockey seemed unnecesarily hollow, even without a Stanley Cup.