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Bill Meltzer on missing out of Weber


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Bill makes great points here and I am pretty much in agreement with him... I still think the defense is suspect and if injuries come up (as he points out) it could be downright scary...

There was never a question to me whether the Nashville Predators could match the Flyers' offer sheet to Shea Weber. There was enough personal wealth among the ownership group members to do it.

The bigger question was -- and frankly, still is -- whether matching the offer sheet would be the right business move apart from the hockey and PR facets of doing it. All along, I thought the best strategy (for both sides) would have been to work out a trade in exchange for a no-match on the offer sheet.

It is no longer the Flyers' concern that the Predators are on the hook for $33 million to TWO players alone ($26 million to Weber and $7 million to Pekka Rinne) in the next 11 months with up to 12 free agents to re-sign or replace next summer. Even if there is no hockey played next season, Weber would still collect $25 million of it in the form of guaranteed signing bonuses.

The already money-losing Predators' pride just got themselves into an almost impossible fiscal mess, with the situation a lock to get worse before it gets better. They made that choice by matching the offer sheet rather than seeking a reasonable trading solution with Philadelphia that would have kept Nashville at least solidly in the hunt for a playoff spot while adding draft pick assets and not tying their hands financially for at least six years to come.

For the Flyers, the question is what the team should do next: Should they focus first and foremost on acquiring another defenseman who can post 35+ points? Should they try to find a right winger for Claude Giroux, whether via trade for Bobby Ryan or attempting to sign UFA Shane Doan? Or should they stand pat for now, re-sign their remaining RFAS (Jakub Voracek and Marc-Andre Bourdon) and re-evaluate the team's needs closer to the trade deadline?

As of now, the Flyers do not have nearly as bad of a blueline group -- even without Weber -- as some would lead you to believe. Yes, they lost puck moving prowess and 35-point offense with the departure of Matt Carle.

However they made, at absolute worst, a lateral step in terms of own-end defensive play with the acquisition of Luke Schenn and loss of Carle. The former Maple Leaf is also leaps and bounds more physical than Carle and is still young enough to live up to the hype ("the next Adam Foote") that accompanied him into the 2008 Draft. His long-term defensive upside is higher than Carle's, although his recent play in Toronto may not have been better.

As a one-to-six unit, the Flyers could do a lot worse than Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros and one of Marc-Andre Bourdon, Bruno Gervais or Erik Gustafsson. Of course it would have been wonderful if the Flyers had gotten Weber. He's a franchise player who is simultaneously a top offensive force, a shutdown defenseman and physically intimidating to the opposition.

Unfortunately, players like that are extraordinarily difficult to acquire. As we have just seen, when a team has a player like Weber, they will go to just about any lengths to keep him. The reality is that the Flyers have to move on.

My big concern is not that the Flyers didn't get Weber. It is what will happen if the aging and banged up Timonen does not come back strong from back surgery or if other nagging injuries wear him down again. I also worry about the blueline's offensive capabilities if 2010-11 Barry Ashbee Trophy winner Meszaros does not have a strong bounceback from an inconsistent and injury-riddled (back surgery) season. Beyond that, I think about Grossmann's knee issues.

In other words, a serviceable blueline very easily could become a major problem unless health factors that are beyond the control of the team and even the players themselves end up working out next season. The offer sheet to Weber was a crystal clear sign that Chris Pronger is never going to play another hockey game again. So don't expect some miraculous return.

I don't really know if there is anything the Flyers can immediately do to strengthen their blueline outlook for next season. There's no one on the remaining UFA list who would be an all-around upgrade on what's already there.

Potential trade targets such as Phoenix's Keith Yandle would be prohibitively costly in terms of opening up other holes. Meanwhile, someone like Yandle is outstanding in some areas but also has bigger specific weaknesses in his own game than Weber. In Yandle's case, there is some defensive trade-off for his offensive prowess. Perhaps the Flyers could work a deal for San Jose's Dan Boyle if he's truly available, but Boyle is 36 years old.

Want to trade for Zach Bogosian and hope that he overcomes his considerable early NHL career struggles and live up to his 2008 Draft hype ("could be as good or better than Drew Doughty")? The cost will still be steep and the risk considerable.

As for offer sheets to players such as P.K. Subban or Michael Del Zotto, forget it. Their teams would match it unless the Flyers were to do something so crazy -- such as offering Suter-like or Weber-like money to the still-developing players -- that it would be a totally unjustifiable hockey decision to devote such a huge chunk of salary cap space to them. It's not even worth discussing any further than that. It's not going to happen.

In terms of long-term blueline targets, the best candidate for next off-season may be Winnipeg Jets' defenseman Tobias Enström, who will become an unrestricted free agent. The little Swede could more or less fill the void that will be left when Timonen is no longer here. He isn't quite as strong defensively as Timonen but he's not bad either.

Enström may also become available as a rental near the trade deadline if the Jets are on the outer periphery of the playoff bubble and the club feels it will not be able to re-sign him before he hits the open market. But that is many months away.

As for looking to bolster the wings, the Flyers no doubt will make their best financial pitch to Doan if he opts on Friday to tell the Coyotes he's going full-steam ahead in considering other clubs' offers. The problem, though, is that Pittsburgh, New York and other teams will also do their best to lure the 36-year-old power forward. It will be up to Doan to decide.

A trade for Bobby Ryan may be tough to accomplish right now, for the same reason as Yandle. Anaheim appears to want too much for the Cherry Hill native. Ryan may want to return home just as Weber was clearly pleased by the idea of coming to the Flyers. But unless his current team cooperates, wishing won't make it so.

That is why I feel that the best option right now is for the Flyers to focus on getting Voracek and Bourdon signed, take their best shot at Doan (without going way overboard in a bidding war) and go into the season with all of their trading assets intact plus a bit of bankable free cap space (and Pronger's LTIR allowance as a last resort) at their disposal.

Final thoughts:Weber is a magnificent defenseman but he's still only one member of a team. Name something that every NHL Conference playoff finalist (let alone Stanley Cup finalist and Stanley Cup champion) has in common? Answer: They got there without a player named Shea Weber.

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Good article.... as always by Meltzer.

Those who feel the Flyers' defense is fine are dilusional and are just in self-denial. For Christ's sake, almost half of the Flyers' blueliners are coming back after serious injuries/surgeries. How can you not be concerned... especially considering the fact that Timone is already 37 years old.

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Does it not seem every year that the Flyers d looks good on paper, the season starts and they perform below average for some unknown reason. It happens to often to blame the coach....perhaps they were just not that good in the first place and I set my expectations to high. Just say'in...as individuals, they look formidable, but it does not transition to the actual ice...anyone else feel the same thing?

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Jammer... spot on. I appreciate some people when they are positive but this d has some incredibly big question marks. We ar3 depending on a guy who is clearly losing gas, 3 guys who are coming off tough injuries and a newly acquired kid with potential but looked lost most of the time in the d zone with the Laffs. Throw in the young kids and Lilja and this d is weak and not deep at all...

Just dont see this group as some do...

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@murraycraven Every year I look at the big names we have on defense, and gush at how good they will look...it's like Charlie Brown kicking that damn football.....well I've reached he point where Lucy has plucked it out from under one to many times...LOL!

So many poor years in a row have lead me to be negative. How I'd rejoice if we could cover guys like the Devils did against us in the playoffs...that was pure smothering...we could not even breath....but to be honest, a bit of that was "they wanted it more than us" type of aggression. That's the part that has me disillusioned, if you're just more talented fine...but to get out-hustled and out worked...wow, that is a lot to stomach....thus, my negative rant is over.

I think it was Pods or Doom that mentioned the lack of righties on this defense...for many, many years. Could that a big part of why the on ice product does not match up with the individual talent on this team? Think about it, under pressure, constantly taking the puck on your backhand...some guys are waaaay better than that skill than others. Sometimes I notice dangerous passes off the boards to get it on the partners forehand...looks wicked if they pull it off, but the odds of it clicking are pretty low. This was my favourite thing to watch Lidstrom doing, the subtle little pass off the boards that gives a teammate a clear breakaway...like a chess master knowing just the right move to finish an opponent...except Nick was at full speed....ah well, I'm rambling...LOL!

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So many poor years in a row have lead me to be negative. How I'd rejoice if we could cover guys like the Devils did against us in the playoffs...that was pure smothering...we could not even breath....but to be honest, a bit of that was "they wanted it more than us" type of aggression. That's the part that has me disillusioned, if you're just more talented fine...but to get out-hustled and out worked...wow, that is a lot to stomach...

Jammer, you nailed it! How many times does a club that prides itself on its work ethic get out worked and out hustled? You're correct, it is very tough to watch. In the case of the Devils series, I can't blame our D 100%. Way too many times there were only the defensive pair trying to come out of their zone with the forwards hanging around in neutral ice like it was still the Pens series!?!? The forwards didn't help as much as they should. The Kings figured it out. Shorter outlet passes and the forwards helped the D.

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@MDFlyerFan Agreed, good point....the forwards did not backcheck well enough, did little to help out the defense. The Devils forwards however, backchecked like men possessed. That was a big difference. They won all the little puck battles that inevitably turned into full out possession for the Devs. Sickening....really.

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I agree with a lot of what he says (minus the Nashville bashing BS). I have said in many posts how I don't see your defense as being that formidable. I like Coburn and Grossman in your own end. And I think Schenn was a great acquisition for JVR. You DEFINITELY won that trade, regardless of JVR's production as you have plenty of young forwards to step up. I think Timonen still has some gas in the tank, but he's not an offensive threat anymore, and he'll be middle rung defenseman at best. Meszaros I am no fan of, and think he is highly overrated. I still think losing Carle will hurt more than many here seem to think. I was unaware of all the health concerns there with Grossman though, so that does raise a few more concerns for you guys I'm sure.

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I still think losing Carle will hurt more than many here seem to think.

agreed, just like losing staal will leave your fans wondering why sid and malkin's lines aren't as effective as last year. at least you got a player to point the finger at :D

lot's of people don't know what they're looking at with Carle, they only see the guy getting out muscled by brian marchand in front of the net, which, let's face it, sucks, but they don't see how many times he handles the puck , leads the break, makes a good first pass, beats a forechecker to the corner. or... they don't value those aspects.

his departure will change the dynamic of the way this team attacks, it may be a good thing in the long run but i think our break out will seem inconsistent for much of the year.

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....the forwards did not backcheck well enough, did little to help out the defense.

Jammer, that's the problem with this team. If we had Weber, Suter, and 25 year old versions of Ray Bourqe & Rob Blake as the top units it wouldn't matter if the forwards do not help defensively.

Since at least '95, the Devils players have bought into a system and execute that system well. Sure, we'd win a lot of games but probably wouldn't go any deeper than 2nd round or conference finals playing like that.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn't something symptomatic about the Flyers organization in general. Seems players come here and get comfortable. Sometimes the team takes a period or two if not the entire night off when they're on the ice.

That aside, we have coaches trying to implement a system and either the systems are bad or the players cannot execute or do not want to buy into it.

On the positive note, the team did accumulate what, 105 points (?) during the regular season and went to the 2nd round of the playoffs. This happened during a supposed rebuilding year.

There's a great core of young players that should only get better.

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agreed, just like losing staal will leave your fans wondering why sid and malkin's lines aren't as effective as last year. at least you got a player to point the finger at :D

lot's of people don't know what they're looking at with Carle, they only see the guy getting out muscled by brian marchand in front of the net, which, let's face it, sucks, but they don't see how many times he handles the puck , leads the break, makes a good first pass, beats a forechecker to the corner. or... they don't value those aspects.

his departure will change the dynamic of the way this team attacks, it may be a good thing in the long run but i think our break out will seem inconsistent for much of the year.

Very well said.

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