Making a case for the Flyers to make a move on defenseman, Tim Gleason, now…by pavialax
When Paul Holmgren was busy with his version of an extreme makeover of the Philadelphia Flyers, it seems he thought of everything. He found the right mix of finesse, grit, youth, speed, size and veteran presence to create the type of team chemistry that he wanted. With a healthy Chris Pronger, the flyers are a formidable opponent for any team and a top contender come playoff time. The flyers found out last season, Chris Pronger’s skates are hard to fill. It was a stretch of the imagination to think there was any way that Pronger, riddled with various injuries in 2010-11, would have anything but a healthy year in 2011-12.
The one thing that Holmgren didn’t bring into this season was a contingency plan in the event that something happened to Pronger.
Pronger is a steady anchor for the defense when he’s in the line-up. He’s physical, he’s intimidating and he makes good decisions with the puck, Kimmo Timonen has done an admirable and all-star worthy job of providing a stable defensive presence on the back end, but a sizeable, intimidating physical presence, he is not. Brayden Coburn has been Timonen’s defensive partner for better part of the past few seasons and is a physical presence, even if he is not as intimidating as Chris Pronger. Coburn could be more physically imposing on a more regular basis and may gain a role in intimidation, but that remains to be seen. Matt Carle and Marc Andre Bourdon are the unlikely pair that have been better than I expected, however I don’t get all warm and fuzzy thinking about this pair for the future. Andrej Meszaros has struggled this year and his partner of late, Andreas Lilja has been pretty bad, to put it nicely.
None of the above can do their own jobs plus carry the added burden of changing their style to include more physicality, especially in front of their own net, where opposing players have had their way of late. The mental lapses on defense have been, at best, described as horrible. The penalty kill is struggling and opponents have had too much freedom to roam. We should see some marginal improvement in puck movement with the return of Erik Gustaffson, but I think the Flyers need more than Gustaffson can offer.
Holmgren knows the defense is an area that has to get better. “We need to defend our turf in front of our net better than we have been, of late,” he said. “Guys need to play harder in those areas. We have four guys back there who have played a lot of games and logged a lot of minutes for us. They’re good players. I do believe we need to be harder in front of our net, and they are all capable of that. None of them are Chris Pronger in front of the net, but they can still get people out of there. Over the course of 82 games, those things happen and I’m willing to accept that. You don’t want to see this on a continuing basis here.” That is a message well sent, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to sit back and wait to see which guys will step up.
I think Holmgren should make a move now. I believe he has been looking around for a player to bring in to bolster the defense ever since Pronger was shut down for the season, so he’s had time to do his research and ask around. Having just reached the halfway point in the season, it would be nice to have any new player that comes in get some extra time with the team, so as not to disrupt chemistry too greatly. Even if this means that they go after rental player for half a season, it still gives the Flyers an opportunity to reassess Pronger at the end of the season and decide which direction they need to go. There are several defensemen in the last year of their contracts that could be picked up without sacrificing too much and making a move now could circumvent some of the price inflation that happened as the trade deadline approaches.
Ryan Suter, Luke Schenn, Tim Gleason, and Bryan Allen are names that have been involved in trade rumors. Though it would be nice, I don’t think now is the right time to go after Ryan Suter and he has to be made available first, anyway. Talk about a trade involving Luke Schenn heated up late last week, however Schenn is still young and has been struggling this year in Toronto. A change of scenery may do wonders for him, however I’m sure he carries a hefty price tag. It also remains to be seen that Schenn is truly available from Toronto. Honestly, the idea of Holmgren trying to pull off a trade with Brian Burke scares me.
I may be alone in this thought, but Holmgren couldn’t even convince Burke to trade Ilya Bryzgalov from the Anaheim Ducks back in 2007. Instead, Burke put Bryzgalov on waivers and the rest is history, but I digress. Bryan Allen’s name has come up less often and while he is something of a shot blocking specialist, there is not much offensive upside to him. He brings size to the back end and at 31, some veteran presence, however he has played 82 games just once (in 2006-07 with the Florida Panthers), so I’d question his ability to stay healthy and with the amount of injuries already incurred by the Flyers this season, he’s not the most reasonable choice.
The Flyers’ interest in Carolina’s Tim Gleason has been rumored since the end of December. Gleason, who is 28 years old and carries a very reasonable cap hit of 2.75 million, is a former 1st round pick. He is known for his gritty style and is an alternate captain for the hurricanes, so he can help provide some extra veteran leadership while the Flyers are without a captain. Since he is slated to become a free agent in July, it’s a relatively low risk move in the event that Pronger is healthy next season.
If Pronger is healthy, then the Flyers would maintain ownership of his rights until July 1. The cap hit of 2.75 still leaves a bit of breathing room for the Flyers, should they choose to make any other minor moves. Gleason is a defensive defenseman and doesn’t bring a ton of offensive flair, however the Flyers need someone that can play with a bit of aggression, especially in front of the net. The Hurricanes are currently sitting dead last in the East should be sellers in the 2nd half of the season. The other upside to dealing with Carolina is coach Laviolette’s familiarity with most of their players.
To sum up, the Flyers defense has not been playing up to par without Chris Pronger and I believe that Paul Holmgren needs to make a move as soon as possible to bring in an experienced defenseman that can help take some of the tough minutes from Kimmo Timonen, provide extra leadership, and fit nicely in regards to the cap. I think Tim Gleason is the Flyer’s guy; Holmgren just needs to make it happen.
Schenn, not Gleason, should be the guy…by Craig F
Although I agree with the idea that the Flyers need a defenseman, I don’t agree that it should be Gleason.
Allen, Suter, Gleason, and Schenn are the players that seem most likely to come to Philadelphia.
Allen is great defensively and can provide strong veteran leadership, but as Kim stated, he is injury-prone. It would defeat the purpose for Philly to trade for a defenseman who has a good chance of not being in the line-up come March and April.
Suter is a great all-around player, but he isn’t necessarily a shutdown defenseman. He isn’t the biggest guy at 6’ 1”, 198 pounds, so it’s difficult to ask him to clear out traffic in front, which has been a huge problem for the Flyers since Pronger went down.
To me, Holmgren’s best two options are Gleason and Schenn.
In all honesty, Gleason is the best option for a rental defenseman. He is reliable, strong in his own zone, his attitude wouldn’t hurt the team late in the season or the playoffs, and it wouldn’t be the end of the World if Philly let him walk at the end of this season, since Pronger is expected back next season.
However, what should the Flyers do if Pronger gets hurt again next season?
After playing in 50 games last season, Pronger only took part in 13 games this season. It goes without saying that the veteran defender is now considered injury-prone. Does that mean his career could come to a close earlier than expected?
We see how concussions affect everybody differently. The severity and duration of the effects from a concussion vary so greatly it makes a timetable for a return from the injury so difficult. While Claude Giroux missed just four games due to a concussion, Sidney Crosby is still trying to return to normal after receiving a pair of hits to the head over a year ago.
With this being said, it’s difficult to gauge just how long it will take for Pronger to return, if at all.
This is where the decision to trade for Schenn becomes my choice of action for the Flyers.
Schenn, a physical, punishing defenseman who has shown leadership at the early age of 22, should be the player Philly trades for. He is capable of clearing out bodies in front and is a strong checker. In addition, Schenn has an ability to block shots and provide some offense.
Schenn, unlike the other three options mentioned, is not set to be a free agent after this season. He is set to make $3.6 million a year through the 2015-2016 season, which sounds ridiculous until one considers the trade talks that have happened recently between the Flyers and Maple Leafs.
JvR, who is set to make $4.25 million a year through the 2017-2018 season, was the player Brian Burke wanted in exchange for Schenn. If this trade were to go through, the Flyers would clear $650,000 in cap space.
Despite the financial plus, there are several questionable aspects of the JvR-Schenn trade: it takes a future star away from our offense, we’ll have a crowded blue line, and it’s not certain Pronger’s career will be cut short. These are all reasonable concerns, but each has a strong counterargument.
JvR is indeed going to be a future star in this league. He, along with Giroux, is the reason why Holmgren traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter over the summer. JvR hasn’t been the greatest this season, but he showed flashes of greatness last postseason and who knows what other injuries besides the concussion he has been fighting against as of late.
Similar to Jvr, Schenn is going to be a future star in the league, if he isn’t one already. It’s important to put up plenty of goals, but what’s more important is keeping the puck out of your own net. The loss of JvR would be a huge blow to the offense, but Philly has several forwards 25 years of age or younger who can carry the load for a team currently second in the league for goals per game. The Pronger-less defense, however, is 23rd in the league for goals against per game (Bryzgalov may not be helping that).
If Schenn was to come to Philly, the Flyers would have nine defenseman under contract, assuming Carle and Marc-Andre Bourdon resign with the club. Even with both Bourdon and Gustafsson having two-way contracts that is a lot of defenseman. If Pronger was to play the majority of next season, Philly could trade either Bourdon or Gustafsson and move the other to the AHL, while Lilja would become the seventh defenseman. If Pronger misses a large number of games for a third straight season next year, the Flyers can move either Bourdon or Gustafsson down to the AHL and still keep Lilja as the seventh defenseman.
The final counterargument, and the one that has me wanting Schenn to come play alongside his brother the most, is the possible blue line the Flyers could be playing with next season.
If Pronger were to be healthy and the Flyers acquired Schenn, the defensive pairings for the 2012-2013 season could be as follows: Pronger/Carle, Timonen/Coburn, Meszaros/Schenn. Instead of Meszaros always needing to bailout an O’Donnell or Lilja, he could be letting Schenn handle the workload on the third pairing. Hoping that Bryzgalov was to finally settle down and get back to his usual goaltending self, the Flyers would be nearly impossible to score on next season.
Yes, Holmgren could sign any of the other three players that came here and played great in Pronger’s absence, but none of them possess the leadership qualities of Schenn and none are as young as Schenn.
Schenn is not only the exact type of player the Flyers need at this second, but he is the type of player they need for the future. In a couple of years, the Flyers will be without the services of Pronger and Timonen. Sure, Carle and Coburn will still be around, but the concern for a crease-clearing bully will rear hits head again. Philly will be giving up a lot in this trade, but they will also be getting a lot in return.
With talks already taking place with Toronto, I think it’s smart for Holmgren to take the young, physical defenseman as opposed to a rental that would walk and leave us writing this same article at the same time next season.