Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Dropping Like Fly(er)s

After it appeared that the Flyers were ready to land at least one of the two biggest free agent defencemen on the market this summer, GM Paul Holmgren must be having migraines today after it was announced that defenceman Andrej Meszaros will miss considerable time after suffering an injury during his training regimen this summer. Meszaros is a warrior on the blueline, and his loss, combined with missing out on both Suter and Weber and the continued absence of Chris Pronger with his eye injury, will significantly affect the Flyers at the start of this upcoming season.

Reports indicate that Meszaros had surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn right Achilles tendon after suffering the injury while training in his native Slovakia. Having known a couple of players who went through the same injury, returning to hockey is a slow process as it took them nearly 18 months of recovery and rehabilitation time to return to the sport. NHL players, of course, have access to all sorts of additional medical staff and procedures, but the recovery time will still be significant.

The Flyers need a physical presence on the blueline, and Brayden Coburn can certainly bring that. But his game is vastly different from the physical game that Meszaros plays, and Meszaros' play on the powerplay will be missed once again. You could see the absence of Meszaros in last season's exit at the hands of the New Jersey Devils. Meszaros returned from back surgery to play in only Game Five, and wasn't a factor after missing 30 straight games to remove a disc fragment that was impinging on a nerve root.

The addition of Luke Schenn will help, but Schenn needs to play much bigger than he had in Toronto. If the potential is still there, Schenn will need to reach it fast this season to help the Flyers cope with the loss of Pronger and now Meszaros. Kimmo Timonen's play should be a steadying factor, but after Timonen, Schenn, and Coburn, the ranks grow a little thin.

Bruno Gervais and Marc-Andre Bourdon have been brought in as help, and there is hope that Nicklas Grossmann can continue to improve. Grossmann showed solid play last season at times, but still has some growing to do in order to become an everyday defenceman. Andreas Lilja can play as a fifth or sixth defenceman, but he's 37 years-old this year, and he only saw action in about half of the Flyers' games last season. He may not have the legs any longer in a tough Atlantic Division. Erik Gustafsson might be your seventh guy if Lilja can't cut it.

There's no doubt that the Flyers would have one of the most imposing bluelines in the NHL if they had everyone healthy. There's a fantastic mix of youth, experience, finesse, and physicality in this group when they are healthy. This is a defence corps that a lot of people would say has the Flyers set for a Stanley Cup parade if only they were healthy.

So while Flyers fans wait on a date for Chris Pronger's return, they'll now sit patiently as Andrej Meszaros recovers from his latest setback. While they still have some horses in the stables, the Flyers' defensive set would be much more complete with both Pronger and Meszaros healthy and contributing. If they can get back before the end of the season, it may just swing Philadelphia's fortunes in the playoffs.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


D.M.Vasso said...

Let's be honest, all of us in Philly have made peace with the fact that Pronger is not coming back from his injury. I think the hockey gods hate our blueline.

Dr. Pete said...

Add Andreas Lilja to the list of walking wounded in Philadelphia. At this rate, the Flyers blue line will have the theme of "Another One Bites the Dust" by Queen.

TedNes said...

Philly has to be the most snake bit team in the NHL, big-time...