Archive for defense

Logjam at Defense: Problem or Blessing?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2008 by flyersfan44

After some early-season difficulty, the Flyers’ defense is looking pretty good right now.  Regular pairings are established and the blueliners appear comfortable with each other.  Braydon Coburn – Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen – Ossi Vaananen, and Luca Sbisa – Andrew Alberts are the regular pairings.  Laase Kukkonen is playing much better than earlier this season and is a reliable fill-in.  The potential difficulty is now that Randy Jones is ready to return from a training camp injury, who sits to make room?  On top of that, his $2.5 million salary will put a salary cap squeeze on the Flyers when Danny Briere returns from his injury.  To complicate things more, injured defenseman Ryan Parent will be returning after Christmas.  That would give the Flyers nine NHL-calibre defensemen.  Too many to carry.  Kukkonen, who cleared waivers earlier this year, would have to go through waivers again in order to be sent down.  Since he is playing better now, he may not clear waivers a second time.  Looks like at least one of the rearguards will need to be traded.  Kukkonen and/or Alberts figure to be the odd men out. That’s too bad, because the team is coming together really well and you hate to change pieces when things are going good.  It would be great if the Flyers could find a way to hold onto all these guys, especially since injuries are always a danger and nine capable defensemen in the system would be a blessing, especially come playoff time.  Remember when Timonen and Coburn both went down with injuries last spring?

Uh-Oh, 2 and 1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 15, 2008 by flyersfan44

The season has not gotten off to a very good start for the Flyers as they are 0-2-1 in their first three games.  The main concern seems to be that they have not put together a full sixty minutes of solid effort.  In the opener against the Rangers (who, incidentally, are 5-0; how did that happen?), the Flyers were nowhere to be found in the first period and surrendered four goals.  They played well in the second and third, but came up one short of the tying goal.  Against the Canadiens, they played well in the first and second and carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, then allowed four goals in a 5-3 loss.  Playing the Penguins last night, the Flyers had difficulty converting chances, but played pretty well defensively and took the game to overtime, where they lost with ten seconds remaining. 

Defense looks like it could present some trouble.  With regulars Ryan Parent and Randy Jones on the injured list for several months, new acquisitions Ossi Vaananen, Steve Eminger, and 18 year-old Luca Sbisa will need to play very well.  Sbisa is a surprise and the Flyers may need to keep him on the roster for the season with the injury situation.  After nine games, he can go back to juniors; if he plays ten games, he must stay with the Flyers for the season.  I think he has played very well in all three games, showing poise under pressure, playing the power play, and moving the puck well.  Lasse Kukkonen, beaten more than a couple times in the opening games, may have lost his regular spot as the Flyers acquired Andrew Alberts from Boston.  Alberts (6’5; 220) replaced Kukkonen in the lineup against Pittsburgh.  I’m not sure he’s going to be much better as he took a couple of hooking penalties, perhaps a sign that he’s getting beaten on plays.

With so many new faces on defense (and some up front, too) they may just need some time to gel, so I am not pushing the panic button yet.  However, they will need to get in the win column soon, as the Rangers are already nine points ahead (although they have played two more games) and we know how fragile this team’s confidence can be.  We don’t need a long losing streak to start the season.

Camp Opens Today

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 20, 2008 by flyersfan44

The Flyers open training camp for the much-anticipated 2008-09 season today at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.  Now the off-season moves are pretty much completed and the evaluation begins.  Many fans were disappointed with the lack of a big-name signing over the summer, but salary cap constraints only allowed for a few lesser known names to be added to the roster.  The departure of forward RJ Umberger, also the result of salary cap issues, also was disappointing and this blossoming player will be missed.

Let’s take a look at some of the more significant stories as training camp gets underway:

1. Mike Richards is named Captain. Looks like it’s time for the young forward to take the next step to a leadership position.  The other option was defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who also provides good leadership and was captain in Nashville, but Richards definitely represents the future of the club and it makes sense for him to take on the official designation of team leader.  This will become Richards’ team.

2. Who will be the Top 6 on Defense? With Derian Hatcher placed on injured reserve, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, and Randy Jones are the automatic top three.  Ryan Parent, who played well during the Flyers’ playoff run, could step into the top 4 spot with a good camp.  That would leave five players to compete for the last two regular spots: Lasse Kukkonen, new acquisitions Steve Eminger, Ossi Vaananen, Danny Syvret, and veteran Bryan Berard, who was recently signed to a tryout contract.  How well Eminger, Vaananen, and Syvret play and whether Berard can still produce will determine how strong the Flyers’ defense will be this season.  They need to improve greatly in this area and cut down on the number of shots allowed per game.  They just cannot regularly give up 35 or 40 shots per game like last season and expect to improve their point total.

3. Another center moves to the wing. How many times have the Flyers moved a center to the wing?  Seems like this has happened often and not always with good results.  The latest experiment is moving Danny Briere from center to wing with Mike Richards centering him and Simon Gagne.  I like Briere at center (his natural position) because of his size.  I’d hate to see him get banged up along the boards, but the Flyers expect some chemistry with this combination. 

4. Will Gagne return to form? After missing most of last season with a concussion, will Gagne return to the 40 goal-scorer or will he be unable to regain his scoring touch? Will he be overly susceptible to concussions and be knocked out of the lineup again?  The solid return of Gagne is essential if the Flyers are to improve.

5. Consistency! The Flyers must develop into a team that plays consistently well over the course of the season.  Too many ups and downs last year, with a horrid ten game losing streak that almost cost them a playoff appearance. Were they playing over their heads in the first two playoff rounds or is that the team that we can expect to see this season?  50 wins could be an achievable goal if some of the question marks pan out but only if coach John Stevens can get them to play at a consistent level throughout the season.

6. Will Giroux make the team and produce? Claude Giroux, who tore up the QMJHL playoffs last spring, is expected to make the team this season.  He has great goal scoring ability and wonderful potential for the Flyers.  Will he be able to produce at the NHL level? This is another piece that the Flyers will need to jump to the next level.

That’s a fair amount of uncertainty heading into camp but should make for an interesting pre-season and early regular season in Philadelphia.