There is nothing wrong with good news regarding the lockout; but if the season were to get underway soon, would you be comfortable starting the cup run with the defense as it stands today?
It would seem that the thin blue line is unable to withstand any more big blows after losing Andrej Meszaros before the season began, and even after trading a young, talented winger in James van Riemsdyk for defenseman Luke Schenn, the Flyers defense still remains anything but complete.
There are some notable familiar faces who remain.
Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn lead the pack, and Nik Grossmann should be a reliable big body and shot-blocking force once the season gets underway. Schenn also has the potential to be a big contributor to the defensive effort, but still remains a relative question mark entering his first stint with the Orange and Black. Yet the question marks surrounding Schenn are nowhere near as daunting as the idea of what might be the Flyers final defensive pairing and Achilles heel throughout the season, much like the third pair that plagued their Cup chances in 2010.
The options are limited in both quantity and ultimately ability. Bruno Gervais was brought in over the off-season to shore up the depth, but suddenly went from an extra body in practice to opening night #5 on the Flyers roster with the loss of Meszaros to a potentially season-threatening injury. Behind him stands another veteran liability when overused in Andreas Lilja, who could round out the crew to provide more of a veteran presence. If you wanted to be thorough, Danny Syvret might even be in this mix of veterans.
Then there are the younger guys with more upside, but with an inverse ability to rely on their experience to make the right play at the games highest level. Though players like Erik Gustafsson and M.A. Bourdon have played well when given the chance, they have not yet shown they can be relied on night in and night out to handle the responsibility of the increased minutes. Experience can only be gained with playing time, but without the proper learning environment and a partner to help them when they stumble, setting up the young guys with improbable odds and /or incapable partners is destined to fail on many levels for the organization.
It’s amazing to think of the difference in potential the Flyers defense had after signing Shea Weber to an offer sheet this summer. Before Nashville crashed the party and Meszaros went under the knife, the Flyers defense was looking like one of the fiercest crews in the league. Now, it’s become commonplace to question whether or not this crew can even survive as is, let alone without the additional bumps and bruises they are sure to acquire along the way.
What tale will the defense tell this season, whenever it begins?
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