The book on Andrej Meszaros is nearly complete. First year with the Flyers: outstanding. Second year: letdown.
Third year? Well, that’s where Mesz’s story gets interesting.
The Ottawa Senators plucked Meszaros in the first round of the 2004 draft. After three seasons, of which Mesz played in every game, the Senators traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He would go on to play in Tampa for two seasons, appearing in 133 of a possible 164 contests. Meszaros was then sent to the Flyers where, in his first year, he won the Barry Ashbee Trophy for best team defenseman.
Since that first year, it has all been downhill for Meszaros.
Last season, Meszaros played in just 11 games, suffering numerous injuries stemming from the end of the 2011-12 season. Mesz missed the last 20 games and most of the playoffs with a back injury and then suffered a torn Achilles tendon in August. He would fight back through the lockout to return to the opening day line up for the 2012-13 season. His season was cut short again after he sustained a shoulder injury in the fourth game in.
Meszaros posted career lows in goals (0), assists (2), points (2), and games (11) during an injury-plagued 2013 season. Expectations for him were quite high after the Flyers missed out on Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and not re-signing Matt Carle. The Flyers expected Mesz to play like the Ashbee award winner he was in his first season with the team, but even while playing, he was only a fraction of the player he once was.
The Flyers’ biggest fear with Meszaros is no longer wondering if he can recapture his 2011 form, but whether he can stay healthy enough to be a contributing member of a lackluster defense that, last season, was a rotation that featured many of the Adirondack Phantoms.
Mesz enters year four with the Flyers, the first time he has had this much stability with one team. One would imagine that if the Flyers had the opportunity to rid themselves of his contract (Meszaros stands to make four million dollars this year), they would.
This season is a big one for the 27-year old defenseman, as he enters a contract year heading into the prime of his career. The left-hander boasts a booming shot, the ability to skate and carry the puck, and experience. A solid season for Meszaros could bring in the free agent dollars that have all but sunk up due to his injury history.
If Mesz is able to return to a pre-injury form – a very large ‘if’ – his future as a Philadelphia Flyer could be long. But if not, Meszaros could find himself leaving the Orange and the Black as just another top-four blueliner failing to meet expectations.