It should have opened in September. Instead, a 113-day lockout left the Flyers and 29 other clubs players on the outside looking in.
Sunday, the NHL officially welcomes everyone back to the game as training camp opens in Voorhees.
The Flyers have six days to get up to speed on a club that has a spotty defense, questions in goal (as usual), and a mostly-defined roster that could see a surprise -- namely, if first-round prospect Scott Laughton makes the cut.
The emphasis will be to try and put things into place with regards to systems and our team, coach Peter Laviolette said.
And chemistry and lines and get going. One thing that we can pull from last year is that we have a lot of returning players who have played the system and are comfortable."
With 11 players in Europe and a handful of others playing regularly in the AHL with the Phantoms, the Flyers have an advantage over many teams as most of their roster is already in game-playing shape.
Also, there wasnt much turnover to the roster. Most of these players know Laviolettes system.
There's a number of guys who have played 30-odd games with the Phantoms, which is good, said general manager Paul Holmgren. I think a lot of our players did play in Europe. I think that's going to be beneficial.
The guys that decided not to play, I don't think that's an issue either. It's important when we do get together, whatever the number of days of practice time, they have to have their focus and get ready for the first time.
To get 'em back, I think we're going to have to a very short period of time to get our practices in and get ready for the first game. Again, that's where the coaches come into play.
The fact that there is some familiarity with how we play and it's pretty much the same group as last year is good for us.
The 18-year-old Laughton represents the most intrigue because he is a centerman, and veteran center Danny Briere will likely miss the start of the season with a left wrist injury.
That opens the door for Laughton for at least five games. Anything more, and he uses up a year of eligibility on his entry-level contract.
Given the success the Flyers had last season using 11 rookies and opening with Sean Couturier, its no surprise the club says privately that if Laughton represents himself well in camp, he wont go back to his OHL club in Oshawa.
Laughtons presence is going to make life a whole lot more difficult for Eric Wellwood and Zac Rinaldo, in particular, not to mention camp hopeful Tye McGinn.
Ice time is always up for grabs, and that's a good thing, Holmgren said. It's about the Flyers.
This camp is really about the defense.
Andrej Meszaros, rehabbing his right Achilles the entire lockout, will participate, but his readiness to play in the season opener Saturday against Pittsburgh remains in doubt.
Erik Gustafsson has a deep bone bruise in his right foot and Marc-Andre Bourdon is still suffering from post-concussion syndrome.
Right there, three blue-liners, are hurting. That elevates veteran Andreas Lilja and newcomer Bruno Gervais, who would have been a seventh man here if all were healthy.
Luke Schenn is a newcomer, too, looking for a fresh start. Again, this is a defense is flux.
Once Kurtis Foster is signed out of free agency, things change back there a bit.
How the defense shakes out in terms of personnel, pairings and especially cohesiveness figures to be pivotal in this shortened sprint of 48 games over 99 days.
The Flyers will also name a new captain sometime this coming week. There really is no debate there. It has to be Claude Giroux.
He acts like a captain on and off the ice. He talks like one in the dressing room, too.
With the season we had last year, were obviously a young team, again, Giroux said.
Guys were coming in their second season, most of them. We've got to get in the momentum of last year when we ended the season.
Everyones on the same page and just the chemistry in the room was unbelievable. The key early on in the season is going to be to get that back and get in the routine right away.
Like I said, its gonna be a lot of games so we need everyone in the room and everyones got to kick in here and play together.
Look for Laviolette to ratchet things up quickly as he wants that high-octane adrenaline to carry over into Saturdays season opener without interruption.
In other words, a fast camp transitioning into a fast start.
Thats important every year, he said. Certainly with a shorter year, it becomes more important. Its a little bit more magnified that you get out and get running in the right direction.
Nobody wants to start a regular season poorly. You can emphasize that a little bit now because of the shorter season. To get out there and start well is really important for all teams.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com