Last evening the Flyers dropped a 3-2 decision to the Phoenix Coyotes, after leading 2-0 late in the second.
The Flyers had three costly defensive breakdowns that ended up in the back of their net. That is what happened, but it sells the Coyotes short. This is an excellent young team, full of resiliency and they skate like the wind. The most surprising thing was the amount of hockey smarts that this young team showed.
Anhyhow, the Flyers goat horns go to defensemen Randy Jones and Alexandre Picard, who really looked to be struggling in their own end last evening. I don't want to do a lot of speculation, but I have to wonder what has happened to Lasse Kukkonen.
Kukkonen, for whatever reasons, seems to be in head coach John Stevens doghouse. His play had tailed off of late, but he has hardly been the worst defenseman on the team.
The other news from Philadelphia last evening was a trade. The Flyers sent winger Ben Eager to Chicago for defenseman Jim Vandermeer.
I am somewhat stunned, because 20 minutes prior to the trade I predicted that nothing would happen before the holiday roster freeze in the HockeyBuzz chat room.
However, I am ecstatic on two fronts. First, Ben Eager is gone. The guy has ability, but he is prone to taking ridiculously bad penalties and honestly, isn't much more than an average fighter. He had no points this year, and while averaging 5 minutes of ice time was a -8.
In Vandermeer, the Flyers get a defenseman that can play twenty minutes a night, is good in his own end, tough and even has a pair of goals and nine points, to go along with a +3 rating. Vandermeer is also a former Flyer-he was traded to Chicago in 2004 for Alexei Zhamnov, as the Flyers were gearing up for a playoff run.
The Eager-Vandermeer swap could be a harbinger of other moves.
First, Vandermeer is a UFA this summer, which clears tagging space for the Flyers to re-sign other potential free agents, like Jeff Carter, RJ Umberger and Jason Smith.
Secondly, the Flyers now have a lot of bodies on defense. It's likely that Picard will be sent back to the AHL, Rory Fitzpatrick might be on his way off the roster and creates an interesting situation for Kukkonen and Jones, as one of them will likely be the odd man out and have to fill the role of spare defenseman.
Third, this could also be a stepping stone to another trade. Could Paul Holmgren have a bigger deal up his sleeve? as of right now he's got twelve hours to the holiday trade freeze....but I'd be a bit surprised if he does anything else before the first of the year.
So a night that looked like it was going to end really badly ends up having a bit of a silver lining.