After being acquired last season from the Dallas Stars for the playoff push, Nicklas Grossmann was poised to become a key member of the Philadelphia Flyers blue line as the 2013 season began. Without Chris Pronger and Matt Carle to rely on, it was Grossmann who was asked to step up the most as the veteran presence starting the year in the middle of the depth chart. When he played, the massive Swede seemed to deliver; but awards aren’t won when you can’t finish the race.
If you had to describe the season of #8 in one word, ‘tumultuous’ might be a good choice. When he played, he did exactly what you wanted him to do: block shots and be physical. Had he finished the season in its entirety, he likely would have been among the league leaders in hits and blocked shots from the back end. He also served as a stalwart on the penalty kill, using his big body to clear the front of the net and handle the overload of opposing forwards.
He isn’t a number one defensemen, but in the six games he averaged over 20 minutes of ice time the team finished with a 4-2 record. Three of those four wins also came against playoff teams, a testament to his ability to rise to the occasion in big games. He won’t be matched up against a team’s top line if Peter Laviolette can avoid it, but he can handle his opponents biggest weapons when called upon, as evident by his presence on the PK. Otherwise, Grossmann can be used as the coach pleases throughout the second and third defensive pairings. Simply put, when healthy Grossmann did exactly what you would expect him to do.
Here comes the rub: he’s not healthy. With his style of play, injury is a concern whenever he sets foot on the ice. His season came to an early end due to lingering concussion issues, forcing him to miss over a third of the season. As of April 29th he was still suffering from the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
With 3 years left at $3.5 million per season, he and Andrej Meszaros combine for $7.5 million dollars of question marks and headaches for the front office. That is a large percentage of cap space tied up in defensive uncertainty next season. The 28-year old should be able to recover, but Flyers fans have seen first-hand that this is no guarantee.
Assuming the Swede makes a full recovery, the team will welcome his calming veteran presence on the blue line when next season gets underway. As questions loom in the crease, the more shutdown depth the Flyers have on defense, the better. Every good team has a big body like Grossmann, and with three years remaining on his manageable contract, the Flyers would be wise to retain his skillful defensive services for the foreseeable future. That is, assuming the Swede makes a full recovery…
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