Time to Stop Meszing Around
The Philadelphia Flyers will play 13 games in the month of December.
10 of them will be on the road, three will be at home and all of them will be without their captain.
Since arriving in Philadelphia for the 2009-10 season, Chris Pronger has consistently led the team in average ice time minutes. With Pronger expected to miss at least one month due to knee injury, the team has to find a way to fill his void.
While the Flyers may explore the option of adding defensive depth through a trade, a constricting salary cap may make that course of action impossible.
What it all means is that the team may have to work with what they already have, which may mean an increased role for Andrej Meszaros.
During the Flyers Stanley Cup run in '09-10, it became evident that the team’s top-4 defensemen were being overused.
The third pairing was unable to hold its own weight, which was magnified when Ryan Parent played all of 41 seconds in game one of the Stanley Cup Final.
Believing they were one defensemen away from a championship, the team acquired Meszaros in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The dividends paid off almost immediately.
Boasting an impressive plus/minus rating and afforded all the attributes of a solid two-way defensemen, he quickly won over many in Philadelphia.
After Pronger went down due to injury, his acquisition was further substantiated as he stepped in to eat up a large portion of Pronger’s minutes.
He’ll have to do that once again this year.
“We dealt with that last year when Chris was out for a little while. I just tried to play my game,” Meszaros said. “It’s a challenge for sure. Our best defensemen is out but we have to play with out him and we have to make sure we play even better because we’re obviously gonna miss him.”
Playing better is something that Meszaros is going to have to do. He’s had a less than impressive start to his season and it’s been clear.
There have been times where he has failed to get shots to the net, carelessly turned the puck over, and has egregiously blown coverage in front of his own net.
Last season, he played the majority of the year with Sean O’Donnell. With the ever-changing lineup in Philadelphia this year, Meszaros has lacked consistency in his pairing.
Some may point to the revolving door of partners he has had this season as to why he has gotten off to a slow start. Meszaros doesn’t believe it has impacted his game.
“You like to have the same partner but to me it doesn’t matter who I play with,” he said. “I just wanna play good, be a value to the team and do the right thing.”
With the loss of Pronger, Meszaros’ value will be determined based upon his ability to help step in for the ailing captain.
Pronger is a strong presence in both the offensive and defensive zone. While Meszaros alone will be unable to make up for the loss, he certainly can help carry the load.
Specifically, his offensive ability may be able to help support the power play.
“I’m trying to work on my shot [after] every practice. You know, do little things,” he said. “Doing everything the coach asks me to do. Just trying to do everything right out there.”
Ultimately, the loss of Pronger is going to mean increased ice time. With the season already two months old, December will be a time for Meszaros to re-establish himself as an important part of the organization.
It’s something the Czechoslovakian-born defenseman looks forward to.
“I like it. I mean obviously I wanna have as much ice time as I can but it’s up to the coaches and obviously it’s going to be up to how I play,” Meszaros said. “If you go out there and feel good or play good the coach is gonna put you out there and you have to take advantage of that.”