Better With Popcorn

Gervais, Gustafsson Making the Most of Playing Time

Many people have expressed concern with the defense of the Flyers this season. 

It’s one of many concerns fans have when it comes to this team. Unfortunately, controversial offseason acquisitions and an injury to Andrej Meszaros have complicated things. 

The third pairing for the Flyers is currently Bruno Gervais and Erik Gustafsson. 

If it were up to the fans, Gervais would have never come to Philadelphia and Gustafsson would have been in the lineup all season. But agree or disagree with the signing, it happened, and Peter Laviolette can only play the guys that he has. 

But when you actually think about it, things are not as bad as they seem. Let’s take a look at the two main concerns of fans right now. 

First off, it’s the Meszaros injury. It has obviously had negative effects on the Flyers. But the good news is that they have powered through it as much as they can. 

Any team is going to struggle when they lose a defenseman. Goal scorers can easily be replaced, defenseman cannot. It’s not easy for young guys to adjust and even veteran players have to develop chemistry with the guy they are paired with. 

The Flyers sit in 8th place in the Eastern Conference right now, so they are not out of the playoff race. When Meszaros makes his eventual return - he was skating this morning during practice in Voorhees - they should be much better off with little harm done to their position in the standings. 

Secondly is the signing of Kurtis Foster and Gervais. A lot of people just want to know why they were signed when they Flyers have young players like Marc-Andre Bourdon, Gustafsson and Brandon Manning with the Phantoms. 

There may not be an answer to that, but everything has seemed to pan out. Gervais has not been disappointing. He has not stood out which is fantastic for a defensive defenseman like him. He’s sticking to what he does best and has earned a permanent spot in the lineup. 

Gustafsson, Gervais’ partner on the third pairing, has benefited from the Meszaros injury. Laviolette has serious confidence in him, and he makes it very clear with this statement early this week: 

“Gus has done a really nice job of just, with his skating and his puck movement,” Laviolette said after the Flyers’ 4-2 loss to Toronto in which Gustafsson played 20:08 of ice time, second among defensemen. 

“He’s been able to get out of our end with nice clean breakouts, he can add to the rush offensively, he moves the puck well, he sees the ice well. I think coming off that injury and going down and getting his game back with our minor league team, he finished the year strong with us too in the time that we needed him last year. It was unfortunate with the injury that he had, but he’s been able to come back and he’s looked good doing it. “ 

Simply put, the Flyers are making do with what they have and adjusting to whatever comes their way. New questions are always going to be popping up. 

Defense is the hardest position to play and communication is huge. Changes make that harder, but more changes will have to come. The next question is who gets the boot when Meszaros comes back?

It would make sense to keep Gervais in the lineup because he has not been bad and he’s the guy making the money. You have to play your guys that can’t just be sent down to the AHL to get playing time. 

But Laviolette seems to be very happy with Gus. So it will be an interesting decision. It’s hard to say if he can go wrong either way. Meszaros coming back will be huge, and whoever plays with him will benefit even more.

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Follow Alicia Sprenkle (@Activestick_44) and the site (@TCLFlyers) on Twitter