Another look at the Flyers’ blueline
Two things have become apparent about the Philadelphia Flyers over the last few seasons. First, goaltending will always provide punch-lines and easy columns for hockey writers around the world. Second, the defense of the team seems like it will never be healthy.Of the two, defense is the one they should be concentrating on this offseason. Ilya Bryzgalov is not as bad as he appeared for almost all of last season, and considering his hefty contract–moving him would require also selling the farm.
What the Flyers should have done, instead of rolling the dice on Shea Weber with an offer sheet, was go after a multiple defensemen. The only two things they should have been worried about in those players are:
- 1: Is this defenseman historically healthy
- 2: Can this guy play 22 minutes or more a night and be a positive contributor in that role?
Getting two, or even three defensemen who fit this particular mould would ease the load on Bryzgalov, and give them a shot at making another run in the playoffs.
Bryan Allen has played a little below that 22-minute level and was a UFA as of July 1st. This defense-first blueliner’s big frame would have made a world of difference in helping clear pucks from in front of Bryzgalov. Bumping him up an extra one minute a night over last year’s totals in Carolina would more than likely have seen him post 200 or even 250 blocked shots.
While not a long term solution, Bryce Salvador is another player who knows how to win. He’s a guy who wants to win, and again would make Bryzgalov’s life that much easier. Given the overall youth of the Flyers team, his experience would help fill the gaping hole left by Pronger–and he too was a UFA.
On the trade front, it is possible that sending one or two picks and/or players someplace like St Louis could lead to a solid young blueliner or two coming back the other way. The Blues need offensively gifted and healthy forwards as badly as the Flyers need healthy, reliable defenders. Not to mention, with the cap space available to the Blues, and a new ownership group settling into the driver’s seat this past May, pushing along their change could have been good for both sides.
Also much rumored to be available is one of the more underrated defensemen in the NHL, Jay Bouwmeester. This is a defender who hasn’t missed a game since the lockout. He’s got three double digit goal scoring seasons under his belt, he skates hard, and plays well in all situations. Currently, he leads the defense corps on a team with Jarome Iginla and pretty much no one else worth mentioning in Calgary. Playing in Philadelphia with the forward group they have– it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him post 50-point seasons.
Whatever else happens between now and the next time the Philadelphia Flyers take the ice, there is no question they need to address their defense. It doesn’t matter if that day is October of 2012, January of 2013, or some later date. They have prospects and players they can move. With Pronger likely never to return, Liljas down until close to January, and Meszaros out for the unforeseeable future, the Flyers will have about $10-million in cap space to address these holes on their blueline.
However, if the Flyers don’t find a solution to their defensive problems, the team will have trouble going deep in the post-season. If Bryzgalov plays as badly as he did last season, the forwards would have to be on nearly a 500 goal pace for team to grab home ice advantage in the first round. There is a buttload of talent in that group… but not that much.
Hockey This Week
@PuckSage should probably apply for the next open General Mangers job in the NHL, even blind drunk, he’ll be more competent than some of the guys with the job now.