Five Questions: Fixing the Flyers

Rafael Diaz

Flyers Faithful revisited a former recurring feature, Five Questions, to address some current hot and important topics, including the draft, prospects, and the future of the Flyers. For this edition of Five Questions, we asked John Saquella, Jim Butler, James Centifonti, Joshua Janet, and our very own Jared Abbott to participate. Below, you will find their answers to today’s question.

If you were currently the General Manager of the Flyers, how would you go about fixing the defense without decimating the core of the team?

John Saquella: I feel, rather strongly, that a lot of the team’s defensive issues are due to systemic flaws and undisciplined play. That said, they need a mobile guy with decent puck skills to properly slot the rest of the defense. I would have loved Jay Bouwmeester. Joni Pitkanen would be a good fit if he could stay healthy. People mention names like Brent Burns and Keith Yandle, but despite advanced stats giving them good numbers, I don’t think either is good enough in their own end to justify the cost. The best way to rebuild a defense corps has always been to draft and develop it. If the Flyers land around the 10th pick, they can probably land a very good defense prospect.

James Centifonti: I’m one who is long tired of trading for and overpaying to try and land a D man with potential or already is a top pair guy.  The cost now is way too much and I try to find a way to develop my own guys while also making my system that much stronger that I don’t have to always rely on trade or free agency.

Jim Butler: Hope to catch lightning in a bottle by finding a 20-something d-man playing in Europe, drafting well and maybe taking a chance on a dman like Rafael Diaz who plays in the Habs system. Diaz may be redundant now with PK Subban and Markov running the PP and eating up big minutes. I really believe you need to build the defensive corps through the draft, start that this draft. Coburn is really scuffling for the Flyers and there are probably more than 10 players just like him throughout the NHL in the same boat. Perhaps a shrewd move in finding one is available at below market value. Good Dman are beyond valuable in the NHL, this is a very tough task.

Joshua Janet: “Core” has a very fluid meaning in sports management. I don’t believe there is any such thing as an “untouchable” player, no matter how beloved or talented an individual is.

At this point, I’m assuming Kimmo Timonen, Luke Schenn, and Nicklas Grossmann are dialed in as three of the top four defensemen. Andrej Meszaros would be the fourth, but I don’t believe you can rely on him to be healthy. Consider him a fifth defenseman at best, and assume that the remaining depth defensemen are Bruno Gervais, Erik Gustafsson, and Oliver Lauridsen (the latter two to be re-signed in the offseason).

I’m also assuming Marc-Andre Bourdon’s career is over. Even if he does come back (cross your fingers), successive concussions usually mean a player is going to be regularly prone to them. So, with all of zero years of NHL management expertise, I would…

  1. Trade Braydon Coburn. His overall level of play has gotten steadily worse over the last few seasons, but he is still well regarded among many clubs and has value. They probably could have gotten a better return if they moved him at the trade deadline, but of course, he was injured just like half of the roster.
  2. Trade Nick Cousins for another team’s defensive prospect. The team has enough young depth at center between Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton that Cousins is expendable. Look for players either just turning pro or on the cusp of graduating from the AHL, like Konrad Abeltshauser (San Jose), Stefan Elliott (Colorado), or Michael Stone (Phoenix).
  3. As a stop gap, target Sergei Gonchar or Mark Streit in free agency. Gonchar could command less years than Streit, but at 38, there’s only so much time left before his body begins aching in ways it didn’t used to. Streit, 35, would likely demand up to a four year contract (which is fine, if he’s replacing Timonen as ‘old guy that we rely on way too much’).
  4. Finally, there’s the “internet/armchair GM” option- assuming he’ll waive his NMC, move Danny Briere, Braydon Coburn, and a 2014 first-round draft pick (hell, maybe add Nick Cousins) for one of Kevin Shattenkirk or Alex Pietrangelo from the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are one of the lowest payroll teams in the NHL and may have difficulty in signing both of their stud puck-moving defensemen now that Jay Bouwmeester is on the books. If they won’t part with either, look to trade Coburn and a late round pick for Bouwmeester evenly. Either way, take advantage of a team with too many expensive or soon-to-be-expensive defensemen.

Jared Abbott: In my opinion since Nicklas Grossmann was acquired he has been the Flyers’ most steady defenseman. Although $3,500,000 may be a bit high for a primary net protector and shot blocker, Grossmann brings stability to the blueline. His consistent smothering of Evgeni Malkin has endeared him to many Flyers faithful. Braydon Coburn is a $3,200,000 cap hit and overrated. With a seemingly high opinion around the league, Coburn would be a good trade piece before his $5,500,000 contract for the 2013-14 kicks in. Giving a guy, who will be 38 years old, $6,000,000 next season is preposterous. Kimmo Timonen may be the most talented defenseman on the team but his legs aren’t youthful anymore and it’s hard to imagine him being able to make it through a full 82-game schedule next year. Luke Schenn has been surprisingly strong since joining his brother Brayden in the city of brotherly love. Andrej Meszaros has one more expensive season left on his deal and I wouldn’t resign him if I were the general manager.

This is a defensive unit with a couple pieces worth keeping but the top guys are old or injury-riddled. Within two years I would model a defensive unit that wouldn’t include Timonen, Meszaros, and Coburn. I know that seems like I am stripping the core of the defense, but the truth is the two formers wouldn’t be worth a new contract. Coburn could attract a decent return and help stock a thin defensive pool. Schenn and Grossmann are two hit-machines and solid defensive zone players. Marc-Andre Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson, and Oliver Lauridsen are the best of the young defensemen and earned the right to play for a bottom-four spot on the unit. The core of the blueline needs revamping and whether you like it or not. The aftershock of the Chris Pronger trade and injury is a depleted prospect pool without top-pair talent.