Brian Boucher, the Philadelphia Flyers’ new TV analyst, and his wife are visiting their daughter in picturesque Italy, where the Northeastern University freshman is studying abroad for a few months.
When the former Flyers goalie returns next week, his attention won’t be on the awe-inspiring statue of David in Florence, the magnificent Colosseum or Vatican City in Rome, or the breath-taking views from Positano on the Amalfi Coast.
Instead, his focus will turn toward the team that former teammates Danny Briere and Keith Jones are building.
The new-look Philadelphia Flyers are expected to get younger as they begin their Great Rebuilding Phase under new management.
It’s a phase that Boucher, 46, is embracing.
“Retooling can be exciting,” he said in a phone conversation from Rome earlier this week. “If you draft well and develop well, and these guys take the necessary strides, then you can see how the future can look better,” he said.
Just because the Flyers are rebuilding, he said, doesn’t mean they can’t have the same goals as other NHL teams.
“I think everybody goes into a season with the hope of getting in the playoffs and competing for the Stanley Cup, right?” Boucher said. “I don’t want to sell the Flyers short.”
He pointed out that two key players, Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson, are returning from injuries and that they should bolster the lineup. “I’m sure they’re going to be hungry,” Boucher said. “It would be nice if Atkinson and Couturier can stay healthy because those are two important veteran players who I think can help some of the young guys along the way when they get called up. You don’t want to be a young guy put in a situation where you’re going to be overwhelmed. You want to make sure you have some veterans who can sort of steer the ship a little bit. And the young kids are the ones who bring energy.”
He also believes winger Joel Farabee, 23, will be much improved after playing last season after coming off neck surgery.
“I think this team could be better than most pundits have them,” he said.
Critics not impressed
Most believe the Flyers will finish seventh or eighth in the eight-team Metropolitan Division. Boucher thinks some other teams will fade “and there will be openings in the East.”
“Competing and being within striking distance (of the playoffs) in the springtime — and making the games meaningful — would be a positive for this team right now,” he said. “Obviously you want to make the playoffs, but I think realistically they’re looking at being in a position where the games are meaningful in March and April. And building toward what they want to be in the next couple years, which is a playoff team that competes for the Stanley Cup.”
He said defenseman Emil Andrae, a 21-year-old rookie who is trying to make the team in camp, is a “smooth, puck-moving D-man who makes good decisions” and is intriguing. “That’s a guy you’d like to see at some point (this season) getting some reps in the NHL.”
Boucher is also high on rookie right winger Tyson Foerster, calling him a “big strong kid who can shoot the puck. Hopefully he can stay healthy.”
‘Part of a Team’
As for his broadcast schedule, Boucher will do one game a week with TNT and spend the rest of the time as Jim Jackson’s sidekick on the Flyers’ telecasts on NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Boucher left ESPN because he wanted to do both the Flyers games and work on the national level. TNT allowed him more schedule flexibility than ESPN.
“I’m excited I wanted to be a part of a team. I’ve missed that,” said Boucher, whose son, Tyler, is a hotshot prospect in the Ottawa Senators’ system. “Doing the national is great, but you miss being part of a team and seeing the guys grow and strive for something. Not that the broadcasters are a huge part of that, but at least you’re around that. You’re pulling for the team. You want the team to do well. You want players to do well. I look forward to being part of that once again.”
And then the man affectionately known as Boosh, his wife, Melissa, and their daughter, Brianna, went off to explore the magical country of Italy. The Philadelphia Flyers, for a short time, would be put on hold.
Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called Bullies: A Love Story. Carchidi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.