Better With Popcorn

2014-15 Flyers Preview: Defense

The Players
 
Braydon Coburn 5g/12; Michael Del Zotto 3g/13a with NY Rangers and Nashville; Nicklas Grossmann 1g/13a; Andrew MacDonald 0g/4a, Luke Schenn 4g/8a, Nick Schultz 0g/5a with Edmonton and Columbus; Mark Streit 10g/34a.
 
Flyers looking to fill big hole left by Timonen
 
The future for the defense of the Philadelphia Flyers is extremely bright.
 
Players such as Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg, along with Shayne Gostisbehere are not far from being NHL ready. And the expectations are very high for when they are ready. 
 
Until then, the Flyers have a bit of an issue on the back end. Veteran defenseman Kimmo Timonen’s future in professional hockey is in question as he is out indefinitely due to blood clots in his lungs and right calf. The loss of Timonen will likely expose some of the issues that the Flyers have on the blue line. 
 
Braydon Coburn will need to show that he can be a leader for this defensive core.
 
He has been with the Flyers longer than any other player on their roster. He also has experience of being a part of a top pairing. A good sign for the Flyers is that his name is still frequently mentioned in trade rumors. This does not mean he is going somewhere, but it shows that Coburn still has value. 
 
While his age is a bit of a concern, Mark Streit is going to be a very big name for the Flyers this year. His ice time is going to be lengthy as will his special teams play. He proved to be a surprise bright spot at defense last season so it is hoped that Streit will be able to carry that into 2014-15. 
 
Last season, the Flyers traded for and then extended Andrew MacDonald. His price tag is without a doubt very high especially for someone who is not a big name player. But he could likely be a top pairing defenseman on this Flyers team. Like Streit, he is going to get some special teams play, specifically PP. Aside from his offensive skills, MacDonald showed his gritty side with his high number of blocked shots last season. 
 
Luke Schenn was supposed to be an excellent addition in a trade where both teams (Philadelphia and Toronto) got what they needed. Unfortunately, Schenn has yet to show his worth. He struggled mightily last season as his flaws were exposed. His skating is very unimpressive and he is often out of position defensively. It can be hoped that his play will improve with age, but right now hopes are not so high.
 
Michael Del Zotto split time with the Rangers and Predators last season. Unfortunately for the Flyers, Del Zotto is a far cry from the impressive rookie defenseman he was in 2009-10 with the Rangers. His play has been incredibly streaky ever since then. It is hard to predict what he will bring to the table this season. 
 
When the Flyers first acquired Nicklas Grossmann in 2012, he was, for lack of a better term, a “man beast.” His physicality was suburb and his play with Coburn was very impressive. But his play has since then noticeably declined. This is rather surprising since he hasn't even reached 30. It looks as if he is a player in need of a change of scenery, but with his declining play, it is unlikely that the Flyers could easily part ways with him. 
 
A likely seventh defenseman is Nick Schultz, who was signed as a free agent over the summer. At 32, Schultz is the typical older defenseman that the Flyers have liked to have as their seventh man as of late. We’ve seen this with Andreas Lilja, Hal Gill, and Bruno Gervais to name a few. 
 
This has been a controversial choice that the Flyers continue to make. It can be seen that the Flyers are going to have their struggles at defense this season. Some guys such as Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald are capable of stepping up, but the issue is that those two are not top defensemen on great teams. The future is very exciting to think about, but for right now, the defensemen in Philadelphia are not what this team needs to be a contender.
 
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Alicia Sprenkle
Staff Writer
Twitter: @Activestick_44@TCLFlyers