There has been a lot of talk about how the Flyers are going to reshape the defense. One player who most people want out is Andrej Meszaros, and this article is aimed at asking why? Why do we want to get rid of a guy who is in the prime of his career (27 years old) while his value is at an all time low? He has a four million dollar cap hit with one year left on his deal, and if that’s not bad enough his actual salary is $5.5 million.
The simple answer to why we want to move him for nothing is that he is now injury prone. After playing 81+ games in five of his first six NHL seasons, Andrej has missed 57 of the last 130. Here’s a little timeline of his injury struggles (dates via Rotoworld):
May 2011- Offseason wrist surgery
8/26/11- Fully recovered from surgery, missed no time
3/4/12- Out indefinitely; lower body injury
3/19/12- Back surgery; out 6-8 weeks
5/8/12- Returns for Game 5 vs. NJD (the final game of the year)
8/7/12- Torn achilles training in Slovakia
1/20/13- Returns to play in season opener without missing a game
1/25/13- Left shoulder injury, out for a month
3/9/13- Returns from injury
3/27/13- Re-injures shoulder, gets surgery, out for year
Current- Homer expects him to be ready for the start of camp.
Wrist, back, achilles, shoulder. He does have a legitimate injury history, but he seems to be legitimately healthy for the first time in nearly two full years. His back hasn’t acted up since he got the surgery in March of 2012. His achiles was fine all of last season once he returned, and he’ll have plenty of time to rest and recover from this shoulder surgery. While he should be “healthy” come September, he’ll still carry the injury prone label. What kind of player should we expect if he does manage to stay on the ice?
Here’s the behindthenet.ca data (along with the traditional stats on the right):
= Led team
**= Second on team
***= In 2011-12 Meszaros’ .3 G/60 was the 11th in the league among defenders who played 60 games
An 11 game sample size, especially considering that those 11 games are sandwiched around an achiles injury and two shoulder surgeries, isn’t nearly enough sample size to conclude anything. The Flyers brought in Mez after they lost to the Blackhawks in the Cup because our third pair was horrible. Mez was a great fit as our fifth defender behind Pronger/Timonen/Carle/Coburn and had a couple of excellent years in that role. Since his rookie year, every time he’s played 60 games he’s had at least seven goals. To put that in perspective, Kimmo Timonen hasn’t had 7 goals in a season since his first year as a Flyer. Meszaros is a legitimate NHL offensive defenseman, capable of running a second unit on a lot of NHL teams (including ours).
Not only does he put points up on the board, he’s a pretty good possession player as well. Here is a table I created using information from stats.hockeyanalysis.com:
The defender Mez spent the most time with this year was Bruno Gervais, although Meszaros spent more time with six different defenders the prior year. In breaking down this table we find that Andrej Meszaros brought the CF% up for all of his partners over the past three years except two: Bruno Gervais this year and Matt Carle last year.
He brought the play of Sean O’Donnell (40.1% without Mez) up by 9.1%, and he also improved Matt Carle’s game (51.7% without Mez to 57.5% with Mez). Last year, he gave Lilja a 2.4% boost and Erik Gustafsson an 8.5% boost. All you have to do is look at the table to realize that Mez has done a very solid job with nearly everyone he’s been paired with.
Looking forward to next year, there are a few people it would make sense to pair Meszaros with. The sample size isn’t really there, but Meszaros has had success with Coburn three years in a row. Coburn usually plays vs. opponent’s top players, while Mez hasn’t received that kind of deployment before, so their pairing, while it could work, seems unlikely. If the Flyers bring in a “top-4 guy” to round out a current top three of Coburn, Timonen, and Schenn; Meszaros and Gustafsson should be the front runners to make up the bottom pair. Not only would Mez and Gus be the 5th and 6th best defenders on the roster, they also had success in 2011-12 together. If Gus wins the 4th defender role and plays with either Coburn or Luke Schenn, Meszaros seems to be a good fit with either Oliver Laudirdsen or Brandon Manning on the third pair.
The downside to keeping Mez is very small. His one year deal is will be done next July, so there is no long term obligation. If he does get hurt, we can LTIR him to get his cap space back and he wouldn’t cost us anything but a roster spot. The upside is we get the 2010-11 Andrej Meszaros who won the Flyers best defender award. He’s fully healthy, playing for a contract and he has literally no trade value. Andrej Meszaros may not fill his top-4 potential, but in a semi-sheltered role (50+ OZS% vs. 3rd and 4th liners) he’s shown the ability to play very well with a bad partners (Sean O’Donnell and Andres Lilja could barely skate). Why not keep him in that role and let a kid play that 6th defender position instead of signing another 37 year old that can’t skate?
I’m not saying Mez should be untouchable, but I wouldn’t trade him strait up for a low round draft pick.