Flyers' Substandard Defense Continues to Disappoint
The Flyers' defense is pretty bad.
Make no mistake, every team craves a burgeoning young defenseman that can do it all with flash and consistency. Every team's wish list includes a so-called "puck-moving defenseman."
A guy like Alex Pietrangelo, P.K. Subban, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh, Oliver Ekman-Larsson...the list goes on, and on, and on...
Those aforementioned players showcase true, honest-to-goodness stardom. Fans expect them to make plays and post points on a regular basis. More often than not, they do. Who on the Flyers fits that mold, though? Their inability to move the puck to start offensive plays has been crushing them.
Does Braydon Coburn have what it takes to fix everything? Once upon a time, he had some offensive flair to his game. Back in 2007-08, he scored nine goals and added 27 helpers. Those are some solid totals. Bad news for him, he has come nowhere close, especially recently.
His last three seasonal point outputs don't even add up to his 36 point outburst. With just three points this season, is his offensive acumen completely gone? Where did it go? No one knows.
How about Mark Streit? Heavens no. After signing a bloated, 35+ contract that will presumably keep him here until he is 39 years of age, he has provided 10 points in 30 games, but not much else. Oh, right. 14 giveaways too.
Streit found himself on the ice for three of four Senators goals on Monday night in perhaps his worst effort of the season. His ill-advised spins at the blue line have led to goals against, specifically his worst piece of work against Carolina, where Manny Malhotra delivered the dagger on that night.
In his heyday, Streit posted 62 points in 2007-08. His numbers have been on a steady decline since, and it would be safe to say everyone saw this coming and that this was a terrible idea.
Well if it isn't them, it has to be young Erik Gustafsson right? He can't even secure himself a roster spot. "Gus" has only suited up for half of the Flyers' contests, and has accrued five points. He has potential to be a solid puck-mover and playmaker, but two meh games in Florida have forced him out of the lineup in favor of Andrej Meszaros.
Is Meszaros any better? Maybe a few years ago, but not anymore. He scored 30+ points four times in his career, but now, just five points in 26 games over his last two seasons. Meszaros can't stay in the lineup due to bad play or significant injuries to his shoulder. His time in Philadelphia is surely over once this season concludes.
...Kimmo Timonen...? Again, perhaps once, but not anymore. Playing hurt on a nightly basis, and a true warrior, Timonen once dominated games. He may have been small, but he played much bigger. He hobbled after every blocked shot, but he did that dirty work anyway.
Timonen looks a half step slower and less effective. Maintenance days are a regular occurrence with him nowadays. At 38, and playing over 21 minutes per game on average, he will tire out. This team would not survive without him, and thus, why they paid him $6 million to bridge an ever growing perilous gap towards "the future."
Luke Schenn and Nicklas Grossmann play defense. That is their role. Yet somehow, they both individually have more points than Braydon Coburn, who probably owns a much higher offensive upside, historically speaking.
No one on this roster sticks out as a true defenseman to be scared of. As a team, the Flyers' eight defensemen have scored a total of nine goals and 28 assists. Timonen and Streit have accounted for three of those nine goals, and 17 of those 28 assists.
Want to know the worst part? Erik Karlsson has 29 points by himself. Flyers defensemen are getting paid $28.55 million to score peanuts compared to single defensemen who can put that up singlehandedly.
GM Paul Holmgren tried to secure Nashville's do-it-all defenseman Shea Weber to an unreal deal, but failed. In perhaps the stretchiest of stretch moves in his time, Holmgren even went as far as trading for no-name defenseman Janne Niskala in 2008-09, and in a press release, he called Niskala a true puck-moving defenseman.
Niskala never suited up in orange and black. Ever. He scored a grand total of three NHL points for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now he plays for the KHL's Dynamo Minsk.
How do the Flyers get more out of their defensemen, who have exceptionally underachieved? Question of the century. Prospect Shayne Gostisbehere continues to impress at Union College. He also played a big role on USA Hockey's World Junior champions a year ago. Gostisbehere still needs time to develop though.
Any free agency fixes available? Most offensive defensemen on the market this summer are in their mid-to-late 30s. Andrei Markov (34), Marek Zidlicky (36), Dan Boyle (37), Joe Corvo (36), Derek Morris (35), and even Kimmo Timonen (38) will all wear a UFA tag come July. They have all posted double-digit point totals, and are all older players.
As mentioned prior, every single team in the NHL wants a puck-moving defensemen. Teams that have one will never let them go without a fight. Will St. Louis ever part with Pietrangelo? Can Los Angeles live without Drew Doughty?
Puck-moving defensemen don't grow on trees, and right now, the Flyers don't have a good one, and they probably won't have one for a while. They might have to trade one, or both of, coveted centers Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier to accomplish something, if prospect center Scott Laughton continues to pan out as a solid contributor.
Whether or not that happens is anyone's guess.
Timonen and Meszaros will come off the books. Gustafsson and injured Marc-Andre Bourdon will become RFAs. All indications point to either making a move, or hoping prospects Mark Alt, Brandon Manning and Oliver Lauridsen make the next step.
Until then, this substandard defense will have to carry the way.
Seriously though, where did Braydon Coburn's offensive game go? Or for that matter, anyone's?