Last year the Flyers were considered to have one of the top defensive cores in the league. But as the season went on, we saw that the Flyers lacked some defensive depth. I still believe that even last year the Flyers had the best top four in the league, but did in fact lack a solid third pairing. But the aquisitions of Andrej Meszaros, Matt Walker and Sean O'Donnell has given the Flyers questionably the best defensive core in the entire league.
But there are other teams that have upgraded their defenses in a big way this year. There were tons of defensemen on the market this year so it gave teams the opportunity to get the right peices they neede for their defenses. Let's take a look at the top seven defensemen of teams that are challenging the Flyers for the top defense in the league.
The Canucks got bigger and more physical on the blueline this off-season. They brought in the coveted Hamhuis (who was supposed to be a Flyer) and Ballard from Florida. The Canucks already had good, young defensemen in Edler, Ehrhoff, O'Brien and Bieksa. Salo is also a key part of the defense with his experience but has had injury issues his whole career. Their blueline may get a tad weaker before the season starts though, because a Kevin Bieksa trade seems to be imminent.
The Devils are probably the most defensively imprved team this off-season. The aquisition of Volchenkov alone was a HUGE improvement for them defensively, who will give the Devil fans flashbacks of Scott Stevens. Tallinder was another good pick-up, adding some leadership and offensive ability to the blueline. The up and coming Andy Greene will probably be on the second pairing along with White.
The Pens improved their top four in a big way. Martin and Michalek were big pick-ups, and combined are an upgrade from Sergei Gonchar and Mark Eaton. The place where the Pens are weak are on their botton pair. They lost Jordan Leopold and Jay Mckee as well which may affect the bottom pair. Goligoski is still unproven and Lovejoy has yet to play a full N.H.L. season. The Pens' defense is much like last year's Flyers defense, great top four with a weak bottom pair.
No matter what you say, the Leafs have a very stron defensive core. The top four are extremely strong, which consists of Phaneuf, Kaberle, Beacuhemin and Komisarek. The bottom pair is still in question. Lebda was a good pick-up for the Leafs for a depth guy. Schenn and Gunnarsson are probably going to be fighting for the sixth spot, and I see Schenn getting it (at least to start with). The reason I don't mention Finger is because I believe he will be waived.
So after all analysations, I say the Flyers have the second best defense in the league. I will give the edge to the Canucks over them. I think that Meszaros needs to prove himself this year and O'Donnell and Walker will both be good, but the Canucks still are deeper. Even if Bieksa is dealt, they will still have a third pair of Salo and O'Brien with Alberts as the seventh, and that is just simply better than Meszaros and O'Donnell/Walker. Although I do believe the Flyers have a better top four.