Upon writing this, the Flyers just won their fourth game in a row and sit only two points out of the final playoff spot in the East. Somehow, despite key injury after key injury, this team has been finding ways to win hockey games and very well could find themselves in one of the final playoff spots in a few weeks. With that being said, I want to spend this blog analyzing what our defense would look like if we do in fact make the playoffs, seeing as that will be the glaring weakness on this roster.
Assuming his injury tonight wasn't anything serious, Kimmo will be our #1 guy should we make the playoffs. With Timonen, you know what you get. He's a fighter and a skilled veteran and will eat up minutes and provide his usual brand of awesome Finnish defense. Kimmo will without a doubt be worn out by the minutes we will need him to play, but even at age 38 he is a top defenseman in this league.
Luke has quickly established himself as our current #2 guy behind Kimmo. While he's had his mistakes and missteps, he has had a pretty solid season for the Flyers and has started to show some of the potential that led Toronto to draft him 5th overall. Luke's physical presence and shot blocking has been hugely important to the Flyers, and assuming he is able to keep this mean streak going in his game, his role is very large for this team.
I love how Grossman plays the game. Great physical presence and even better shot blocker. While injury prone at times and not the best skater, Grossman contributes a huge role on this defense, and if the Flyers are going to be successful this spring, they need him to be that solid defenseman he has shown the ability to be.
Gervais on most teams is a 6/7 defenseman. He is nothing to write home about, and for most of the season has not been anything to blow us Flyers fans away. Although, I must admit, over the current win streak, Bruno has certainly elevated his game. If the Flyers are going to be successful, he needs to continue to play above his potential.
I don't know what it is, but there's something about this kid that gives me hope that he will be a fantastic player for us. He's huge (6'6'') and considering his inexperience, has done fairly well. He's made a few mistakes early on, but considering how young he is and the fact that he hasn't seen NHL time up until now, Oliver has done a fine job considering the team's circumstances. If this team makes the playoffs he will probably show his inexperience, but all in all, I am pleased with this kid. If we want to be successful if we make the playoffs, he is going to need to mature very quickly. All in all though, I am pretty pleased with his efforts thus far and hope he can keep it up.
Something in his game reminds me of a Kimmo Timonen lite. He moves the puck well and again, considering his relative inexperience in this league, he's done a half decent job. Again, same with Lauridsen, he will need to continue to play at a mature level and be an effective puck mover.
Fortunately he has some Stanley Cup winning experience from his time in Anaheim. At this stage in his career, he's really a 5/6 defenseman on most teams. With that being said, given our injuries, he will need to use his experience and knowledge as a veteran to contribute to this team. He's nothing spectacular, but he can definitely play above his expectations if he is having a good night.
With Coburn and Mez out for the season, the Flyers need defensemen who can eat minutes and move the puck. Coburn has had a rough season and has been very inconsistent. At times he has proven to be a fantastic 2/3 defenseman. This season, he's been brutal. Without him in the lineup, given the way he's played, is his loss really that big for this team? Seems to me that other defenseman are doing better than he's been doing. And with Mez, I feel bad for the guy, but he's made of glass. When he's on, I love his game, but again, given his recent injuries, his loss is big, but not catastrophic.
Yes we are sorely lacking a Pronger-esque player on this team. In 2010 Pronger showed how valuable a number 1 elite defenseman is. They can play half the game and make all the other defenseman move down in the pecking order and play in roles they might be more comfortable with. But we've seen teams be successful without this type of player. A team like New Jersey for example. They don't have any eye-popping defensemen on the team, but play a good team game and excel at it.
I'll end this by saying that if the Flyers are going to be successful, the defense is going to rely more on a team commitment to successful defense through shot blocking and good puck movement. Yes, this might be a patchwork defense, but many of these guys are playing beyond their potential. We will need the kids to step up huge and the big 3 of Timonen, Schenn and Grossman to be warriors and eat up some big minutes.
Does the defense still need a major overhaul in the summer? Yes.
With that being said.. remember in 08 that a patchwork defense somehow got this team to the Eastern Conference Finals.