Pairing the Flyers Defense for 16-17

With the summer blues in full swing and prospect development camp over, the time has come to begin focusing on training camp and pairing out the Flyers defense for 16-17. While it’s possible that Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim or Sam Morin could win spots right out of camp, Ron Hextall’s party line of patience makes it likely that Sanheim and Morin should assume they’re in Lehigh Valley next season, while Provorov presents a more interesting case that will be touched on later this article.

To begin, based on limited action together last season, it’s likely that Dave Hakstol uses Michael Del Zotto and Shayne Gostisbehere as the top pair.

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

Reasoning: MDZ and Ghost are obviously the two most dynamic and mobile defenders in the lineup. It would make sense to pair them together and hope their scoring touches lead to instant offense every time they step on the ice. The HERO charts show that Ghost is actually a better shot suppressor than people give him credit for. On the other side, it’s been argued that his possession numbers overall took a major hit as a result of playing with Andrew MacDonald. Obviously, MDZ is far better than MacDonald, even with one wrist. While this pair may lack size and could lead to some fun puck battle situations, their combined offensive talent should mitigate any potential defensive short falls.

 

Second Pair: Brandon Manning and Radko Gudas.

 

Brought together as the third pair near the end of the season, these two guys are really good, especially together. Manning is solid possession based defender and happens to be the best shot suppressor on the team at even strength.

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

 

Manning’s shot supression, but lack of point production will pair well with Gudas’s near top pair possession AND elite second pair scoring. The Gudas extension, can end up being a steal if he stays healthy and keeps up these possession numbers for the duration of it. On top of that, if Gudas can keep himself out of the box, he might be able to position better to increase his shot suppression ability. While the names aren’t sexy, especially for a second pair, these two guys deserve a shot. Also, I’d love to see how they PK and act together as the late game shutdown pair with a lead.

 

This leaves the third pair as last year’s top pair. The defensive untouchables, Mark Streit and Nick Schultz.

 

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

There isn’t much to say, at this point in their careers, Streit and Schultz are both third pair talents. In the case of Streit, his scoring ability and budget friendly cap hit (due 3M in actual dollars but carrying a 5.25 hit) may mean he’s not even a Flyer come September. But as of now, he and Schultz would man the third pair. Schultz and Streit would also kill penalties together to keep MDZ and Ghost free for big time offensive minutes.

 

Obviously this means Andrew MacDonald is the seventh defender, he’ll need to play 40 games to make him expansion fodder and that means it’s a bad idea to trade him right now.

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

I put A-Mac next to Luke Schenn to illustrate one point, the Flyers gave up a reasonable third pair defender who scored a bit in order to move the Vinny Lecavalier albatross. Schenn’s a decent player,┬ábut with the emergence of Radko Gudas, he’s no longer needed. It was known that Schenn and Gudas were similar players, Gudas won the spot to stay. Obviously with A-Mac and Schultz around, there’s no need to bring a redundant player in. Schenn’s gone, but he might end up being the next Nick Schultz for another team, in that he catches on and finds himself a spot due to injury.

 

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

 

Here are two UFA’s the Flyers could target if they’re looking for a potential 8th defender. Like MacDonald, Nikitin found himself in the AHL last year, but unlike MacDonald, he’s got borderline second pair ability. Justin Schultz found himself a home with Pittsburgh and won a Cup, but was not qualified as an RFA. Justin Schultz adds the ability of being a second right handed shot, and with Mark Friedman (NCAA) and Phil Myers (QMJHL) still a few years away, a one year deal for Justin Schultz to tide things over isn’t bad. However, these two players both have the same weakness, neither one fills the defenses glaring need, shot suppression.

 

This leaves two more UFA’s who may just fill that need. Dan Boyle and Barrett Jackman

 

Via Own the Puck

Via Own the Puck

 

Dan Boyle was a solid possession player, even at age 39. Now entering his age 40 season, he’s only playing to chase a second Stanley Cup. Obviously at this age, violent swings in play are possible, and should be expected, especially if he gets hurt. Jackman is a younger 35, however, hulking shot suppressors like him likely have a lot of dings and tweaks, and like many others his age, he’s likely to break at any time. That said, if either of these players was willing to take a one year deal at 1M or so, the Flyers should jump at the chance. Boyle’s possession game and right shot provide an immediate fix while Jackman’s shot suppression would likely be the best on the team. If the Flyers find a way to drop Mark Streit, even if they must retain 50% to do so, one can argue that these guys would be better served as a the third pair over MacDonald-Nick Schultz.

 

So, what about Provorov?

Provorov is the wild card in this. With Sanheim and Morin both AHL bound, it’s really easy to make them the top pair on the Phantoms and let them develop. Both would be my in-season injury callup, Sanheim could replace Ghost-MDZ-Streit while Morin would take over for Gudas-Schultz. Manning would the guy who’d see where it leads. Obviously TJ Brennen can be thrown around depending on the situation at the time of the injury as well.

But unlike these guys, there are only two options with Ivan Provorov: WHL or NHL. He’s a slide risk and with the NHL likely to add a 32nd team some point soon, it’s not unreasonable to force him to the WHL just to avoid having him accrue service time. Also, the next benefit is, by sending Provorov back, he and Travis Sanheim won’t hit RFA in the same season, which, in theory, would make giving each their second contract easier. Not only that, but should Provorov’s ELC slide again, the end year would be 2020 instead of 2019, which means he gets a new deal the same year Andrew MacDonald’s current deal expires. This means the Flyers would have more money to make his second a deal a long one. Of course, this point goes moot if in the 2017 Expansion Draft, MacDonald goes to Vegas.

That said, it’s likely that Provorov is better than Mark Streit, especially if Streit still has any lingering effects from his detached pubic plate from last season. The only reason that you keep Provorov is because he helps you win now. The Flyers window doesn’t truly open until probably 2018, when the Schultz-Streit deals expire and we see more young talent like Travis Konecny, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Oskar Lindlom and others hit the NHL.

Of course, this changes quickly if the Flyers trade both Streit and Schultz for say a second round pick for Streit and a third round pick for Schultz. Then, the Flyers should pounce on Boyle for the third pair, play him with Provorov for 9 games before sliding him, giving MacDonald 40 games to make him expansion draft eligible and finally calling up a Phantom like Sanheim or Brennan, or acquiring a rental for the stretch run.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.