The Flyers have used plenty of defensemen this season. With the condensed 48 game schedule – a hellish marathon of games that seems more like an extended torture session than a season- it’s easy to assume the Flyers would have injuries. But this much? The egregious amount of injuries seems too daunting to overcome, but if they do, they can thank all ten on the squad who have played throughout the season.
(I added their cap hit to let you see how valuable each player is to the squad, along with who they’re paired with.)
Before the Flyers play the Winnipeg Jets, take a quick look at where their defensemen are in their progression through the season.
Kimmo Timonen, $6.3 million(1st defensive pairing with Luke Schenn) – Timonen was hurt against the Leafs while blocking a shot, as it seems he does in every game, and he’s day to day injury-wise. Timonen does so many things (first pairing on the powerplay, first pairing on the penalty kill, third on the team in average time on the ice, top ten in scoring defensemen in the NHL, the entire backbone of the team) that if he misses significant time, the Flyers would need a miracle to make the playoffs. It doesn’t seem that he will be out for long (he’s a game-time decision for Saturday’s game at Winnipeg), so the Flyers dodged a bullet (much unlike Kimmo’s willingness to dodge shots from the point). With all the injuries to the Flyers defensive core, and the young and underperforming players the Flyers brought in to surround Kimmo, there’s really no comparison. The guy is just an animal. To me he’s a Norris Trophy candidate.
Luke Schenn, $3.6 million for 4 years(1st defensive pairing with Kimmo Timonen) – Schenn was dealt in a deal that sent James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs. As the Flyers watched van Riemsdyk gain position down-low, turn around and roof a shot over Ilya Bryzgalov, all in one effortless motion, you had to have an inkling in your brain that said, “Wow that was a mistake of a trade.” But you know what? I’m fine with it. Schenn is a physical specimen (6 foot 2, 230 lbs.) and makes the opposition regret digging pucks out of the corners. While van Riemsdyk has 40 goals a year written on his wrists, Schenn can be a player that develops into a hulking blueline threat. He has a plus/minus of 4 and his play of late has really picked up. He lets Timonen make the outlet passes, thank goodness.
Brayden Coburn, $4.5 million for 4 more years (2nd defensive pairing with Niklas Grossmann) – Coburn can skate like the wind and for years analysts have been pointing out that if he were to learn how to deal with the puck better in pressure situations he would be close to an elite defensemen. That’s not going to happen. Since he’s paired with Grossmann, he’s usually the one making the outlet pass to the wingers on transitions into the offensive zone. He’s also a big man (6 foot 5, 220 lbs.) but it often looks like he shies away from physical contact, which is probably why the Flyers have paired the much more physical Niklas Grossmann with him. Injured in a game on March 29th, Coburn is still a top four d-man on the Flyers and they will be glad to have him back once his injury heals. He’ll be out for about another week, it seems.
Niklas Grossmann, $3.5 million for 4 years (2nd defensive pairing with Brayden Coburn) – Grossmann plays with Coburn, blocks shots, and checks hard. He’s a large player (6 foot 4, 230 lbs.) and he solidified the backend last year when the Flyers added him from the Dallas Stars. What he lacks is good puck possession along with a good outlet pass, and therefore putting him with Coburn in my opinion isn’t a good idea. He’s coming back soon from injury, as reports have him increasing his practice time.
Erik Gustafsson, $.9 million – Gustafsson is a fun player to watch from time to time. He can skate well and is probably the Flyers second best passer. Last year, he played 30 games and looked impressive for the Flyers. What I do see is some poor decisions, and giveaways that end up costing the Flyers. I would like for the team to pair him with Grossmann.
Kurtis Foster, $.95 million – The Flyers initially brought in Foster to captain the second powerplay unit on the point and play as the team’s 6th defenseman. When the team saw that he couldn’t do that well, and Meszaros got healthy, Foster didn’t play. One thing that bothers me with Foster is his hesitation to blast his shot from the point. Think of it; you’re brought in to the team for your rocket of a shot, you obviously can’t do anything else particularly well except blast a shot, yet you refuse to shoot, the one thing that the team likes about your playing abilities? No thank you, Kurtis Foster.
Bruno Gervais, $.85 million for 2 years - Gervais has also picked up his play lately. Slated to start on the team’s 3rd pairing in the beginning of the season, the 28 year old veteran has been an adequet player for the Flyers. Lately they’ve been giving him more minutes, and he’s been making the right decisions. Let’s hope it continues.
Kent Huskins, $.7 million – The Flyers acquired him before the trade deadline when they were decimated with injuries. While he hasn’t played much in revered Orange and Black, he has done the small things that have helped the Flyers on their recent small winning streak. I would rather see him back there then Foster and Meszaros, although that might not mean much.
Andrej Meszaros, $4 million for 2 years – Andrej was injured to start the season, and since he first started playing he has looked like the team’s worst defenseman; turning the puck over, getting beat next to the net, losing foot-races, and just playing like a lost gander without its goose. Perhaps he’ll need time to get into the swing of things, but with his salary and his age creeping up (at 27 he’s no spring chicken compared to the guys they’ve got coming up), you would hope the Flyers can move him in the offseason.
Oliver Lauridson, $.65 million – Lauridson came up when Coburn went out with an injury, and I’ve been impressed with his poise. He isn’t exactly a speed demon, but he’s big enough (6 foot 6 and 220 lbs.) and smart enough to recover from opposition players who have a step on him. He’s played 4 games and has looked promising as someone who can play for this team in the future. He and Gustafsson have a good future on this team if they continue to progress.