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Dose of Reality from Meltzer


Guest terp
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I assume everyone on here reads Bill but I thought this was a particularly insightful blog and I didn't see it posted here:

http://www.hockeybuz...ns-tix/45/42194

Meltzer's Musings: 2/15/12 PLUS win Flyers-Penguins tix

The fast-approaching NHL trade deadline plus the Flyers' inconsistency over the last couple months is a surefire recipe for tension and rampant debate over whom the team ought to target and whom the team should make available.

It is clear the Flyers need to make some changes to their mix on the blueline. I am in favor of the team going out and acquiring a defenseman and/or a proven checking forward with good size. But I am not expecting miracles here.

I do not think there is a defenseman whom the Flyers could realistically acquire within the next couple weeks who will make a major difference by himself. Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber is not available right now. While there are defensemen out there who could help out the Flyers in certain ways, expectations have to be kept realistic.

Defensemen like Chris Pronger don't come along too often. When you lose a player of his caliber, it basically takes TWO players -- a power play threat and someone more defensive minded -- to approximate his value on the ice. His absence also hurts in the locker room.

It is unfair NOT to expect that Pronger's loss for the season and playoffs would not eventually have an impact on the team. We saw it last season, too.

The club thrived during a brutal road stretch after Christmas without the services of Pronger, who was out with a broken foot. Some folks hastily proclaimed that the team would be fine without him. But there was a cumulative effect to losing Pronger last year.

Other defensemen had to play more -- and tougher -- minutes, which eventually wore them down by the stretch drive, before the playoffs even started. Meanwhile, Pronger kept getting injured (broken hand, back problems) and he was not able to be nearly as effective as his normal standard when he did play.

The Flyers' hope coming into this season was that Pronger and Kimmo Timonen would hold up another year, the acquisition of Ilya Bryzgalov would help to cancel out a lot of defensive breakdowns and, meanwhile, the trio of Braydon Coburn, Matt Carle and reigning Barry Ashbee Trophy winner Andrej Meszaros would play at a high level on a consistent basis. This combination would have to make up for a lot of roster changeover and youth up front, as well as mitigating the risks of icing a forward lineup that (on the whole at least) is strictly average defensively.

We see how that's worked out so far. Pronger has been lost for the season and possibly for good. Bryzgalov, Sergei Bobrovsky and the defensemen other than Timonen have lacked consistency. The team starts two rookie defensemen regularly. The forward corps scores it share of goals but is short on proven defensive stoppers and has numerous rookies in the lineup.

The Flyers are still a pretty good team but they have clear-cut weaknesses that top team can exploit. That's just the reality.

The grass always seems greener on the other side, especially where defensemen are concerned. All players have their strengths and weaknesses, including All-Star caliber players. Defense in particular is an extremely difficult and often thankless position to play.

Do you want the team to get a "big, physical defenseman"? Then don't be surprised if the guy will be vulnerable to getting out of position, getting beaten off the rush and/or taking a lot of minor penalties. When a team has a big defensemen who can skate, hits aggressively but knows when to pick his spots, the team keeps him and pays him a lot of money. The next step down are role players.

Do you want Philly to add a puck-moving specialist or power play defenseman? Then you might have to get someone who is undersized, turns over a lot of pucks and/or gets outmuscled around the net.

Do you want to "trade veterans and give the young players a chance to develop"? Then expect mistakes and inconsistency that may or may not resolve itself over time. The Flyers chronically struggle to develop homegrown defensemen because they have difficulty sitting through several years worth of growing pains until the player finally figures out what it is he does well at the NHL level and how to minimize his limitations.

In looking at the Flyers defensive personnel without Pronger, the top four are still OK but, if the team is going to go anywhere in the playoffs, it needs Timonen to constantly be at his best and for at least two of three among Coburn, Carle and Meszaros to be playing well at the same time. That still leaves rookies Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson, both of whom have played well in stretches and had their fair share of struggles.

It is what is, folks. Hal Gill, Nicklas Grossman, Bryan Allen, ex-Flyer Mark Eaton, and every other name out there in the Flyers trade rumors all have certain assets they can offer. But not one of them is going to be 20-minute stopper for this team.

*********

To illustrate my point, I'll use Gill and Grossman as examples of the give-and-take that comes with virtually any defenseman the Flyers could acquire at the deadline. I chose them because Gill appears to be the most popular current choice around here and Grossman is a player I watch every game in blogging for the Stars here at HockeyBuzz.

Gill is huge and usually has moderate penalty totals. He blocks a lot of shots (118 so far this season, good for 15th in the NHL). His hitting game is sporadic, both because of the rule changes and due to the need to play a good positional game to compensate for his weaknesses. He knows what he's doing out there, which is how he's still in the NHL at age 36 in an era where similar players were largely forced out within a year or two of the lockout season.

The 6-foot-7, 240 pound Gill is a slow skater who can get beaten wide at times, but has the advantage of tremendous reach. When refs relax even a little on clutching and grabbing, Gill can be highly effective in tying up a man and preventing him from scoring.

On the flip side, Gill is a subpar puckhandler. Despite not being relied upon to be a puck-mover, Gill has averaged nearly a giveaway per game (51 in 52 GP) and is the only strictly defensive defenseman who ranks in the NHL's top 20 (he's 15th) in unforced turnovers this season.

Grossman is nine years younger than Gill and has good size at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. He's an average skater, an underrated physical player despite low penalty minute totals and nearly as good of a shot blocker as Gill.

The Swede has tended to be quite injury prone thus far in his career. When he's in the lineup, it's an absolute must to pair him with a puck-mover because Grossman is not very good with the puck on his stick. With the Stars, he has averaged nearly 19 minutes (18:59) of ice time per game this season and he saw a lot of time against opposing top lines last season, but I see him as more of a 16-minute player on a deeper blueline.

When players such as these suit up for other teams, Flyers fans often clamor for their acquisition. Once the player gets here, suddenly the focus shifts to what they don't do well as opposed to their strong suits.

Think back to all the people pining for a Luke Richardson trade at the 1996-97 deadline, for instance. When he came here as a free agent that summer, a lot of folks soon wanted to see him run out of town. Over time, the majority eventually started to appreciate that he added toughness and grit but was not someone the Flyers could frequently use against top-line attackers.

That's the nature of role players. They do particular things well. Defensemen come at a premium; even the role-playing ones. The stars cost an arm and a leg and still need the right surrounding cast. If a team is in the market to acquire defense, be prepared to overpay, both in trade return and salary. The Flyers spend a lot of salary cap space on their blueline and are still dissatisfied.

The only other alternative is to develop your own defensemen in the farm system, exhibit tremendous patience through their formative years. Also recognize that there's still a pretty good chance that the benefits will ultimately be reaped by the player's NEXT team and not yours.

Do you want to know why the Flyers paid so much to pre-empt Braydon Coburn's unrestricted free agency with a long-term extension? Because he is a big guy who can skate and is still relatively young. A comparable replacement next season would have cost even more money. In fact, Coburn probably sacrificed some money on the open market in exchange for the security of staying put.

Coburn has always been a rather streaky player in his Flyers' career -- excellent for stretches, average in stretches. The same goes for Carle and Meszaros. Guess what: That's the nature of much of the middle class of defensemen throughout the NHL. That's why they are a cut below the perennial All-Stars at an extremely difficult position to play.

Edited by terp
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Bill makes some great points especially needed two defensemen to replace Pronger. I think it's possible to do that to a degree. I think Philly should be kicking the tires in Dallas for "two" defensemen -- Souray and Grossman. Both have good size and Souray could bring a big shot from the point for the ailing powerplay. If either player plays well enough, Philly could sign them in the off-season. If they don't play well, they are free to walk and Philly can pursue other options. I'd like to see them both picked up as rentals. Here are the stats:

Sheldon Souray ($1.65M)

GP G A PTS +/- Hits Size

47 5 13 18 11 44 6'4" - 237lbs

Nicklas Grossman ($1.75M)

GP G A PTS +/- Hits Size

52 0 5 5 0 96 6'4" - 230lbs

Edited by ratskull
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I think it's possible to do that to a degree. I think Philly should be kicking the tires in Dallas for "two" defensemen -- Souray and Grossman

Every team knows that they need defensemen though. So what do you have to give up to get them is the problem.

3rd rounders or higher for rentals?

Any players? Hard to give up anyone from the current lineup for them.

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I'm not hating on Souray..hell, I met the guy and his SMOKING SMOKING SMOKING hot wife in Hershey last year. Did I mention his wife is smoking?? Anyway, this guy was buried in the minors for 1.5 years. It got so bad, that Edmonton wouldn't even send him to their farm team for fear he would poison their young kids, so they loaned him to Hershey. So, I have to ask, what has changed in half a season to make him someone the Flyers want? And I'm not being an ***..I am being honest. From where I sit, I don't want this guy anywhere near a team of young kids. 6-8 rookies dressing..remember??

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Edmonton totally mistreated Souray. I'm sure his new contract helped humble him if necessary. Of all the rentals, I would actually be interested in Souray for 3rd pair D, 1st PP unit. That is very very interesting. How much do the Stars want?

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Every team in the league knows Philly needs defense so Digity raises a good point. But, these guys are UFAs so they shouldn't cost an arm and a leg unless another team creates a bidding war. I'd give up a couple of 3rd rounders or a 3rd and Wellwood or something similar. Maybe they would move the two of them for a 2nd rounder. I'm hesitant to give a 2nd rounder for a couple of rentals. But, I would like to see Philly solidify the D with a couple of big bodies so we have a chance of seeing more than one round of playoff hockey this year. I don't expect this type of move will win the cup, but you never know what can happen. We sure won't win anything with the current defense. I like what Bourdon has done this year, but I'd like to see him as #7 when the playoffs start.

Edited by ratskull
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I think Philly should be kicking the tires in Dallas for "two" defensemen -- Souray and Grossman.

I'm not sure why Dallas would want to give away two decent defenseman from their team while they are only 4pts out of making the playoffs. I would think for a team that needs to financially make the playoffs a move as this is self destructing.

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great point about having a team with many rookies. SOOO many fans here were clamoring for Holmgren to bring in youth, let young guys grow with the organization, etc but want to complain about inconsistency and how "long" it takes them to develop. I don't get it.

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@Bertmega

no gd way do i trade two roster players for Kane, he's good but he's little; we're good with the little guys and my feeling is JvR will have similar if not better numbers shortly and for a longer duration. I still hold out hope that when it is all said and done JvR will have more points than Kane because his career will be longer and the level of production will be similar.

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I'm not sure why Dallas would want to give away two decent defenseman from their team while they are only 4pts out of making the playoffs. I would think for a team that needs to financially make the playoffs a move as this is self destructing.

After my post, I checked the standings and came to that same conclusion. Dallas couldn't afford to lose two defensemen. I didn't realize they were still that close. At least we got one of their defensemen. :) I think we overpaid, but it's a step in the right direction. I expect that they will try to grab another defenseman before the deadline.

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@Bertmega

no gd way do i trade two roster players for Kane, he's good but he's little; we're good with the little guys and my feeling is JvR will have similar if not better numbers shortly and for a longer duration. I still hold out hope that when it is all said and done JvR will have more points than Kane because his career will be longer and the level of production will be similar.

I agree. I've said before that I think JVR will be better than Kane and I still think so. Kane will never really be more than what he is right now, JBR is still finding his game. (albeit a little more slowly than most of us would like)

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@flyercanuck

No no Kane will fine, I know this guy at the gym that has a copious supply of anabol. In all seriousness, you are right with the size assessment. It was scary how many liberties the Sabres took on the Flyers in the early portion of the game last night.

Size would certainly be needed against the B's or Rangers. I wonder if they will make another move to beef up their roster before the deadline.

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@mojo1917

If JvR can have a full injury season you may be right. My only fear is the contract hits and he becomes a shell of what he could be. Then again I guess that could be said about anything. He is not my favorite Flyer, but maybe a full healthy season could change my mind.

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No need to make any more moves. Guys we should not be expecting to win the cup this year. Please do not trade any youth for seasoned players anymore, it doesnt work out for us. We have a 11 rookies on this team, the expectations should not be cup or nothing. Let this team grow together. In 2 years this team will be dominant! Highest scoring team, and the youngest team, the defense will come with age. Alot of these rookies do not have the legs yet for an 82 game season, some guys are getting tired. We made a trade for Grossman, thats good enough in my book for this year.

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