NHL Draft: The Flyers' sad history of selecting defensemen

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When the Flyers select defensemen in the NHL Draft, those defensemen either are bad at hockey or they don't wind up staying in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Flyers are not good at drafting defensemen. This isn't a recent phenomenon, although it's progressively gotten worse throughout the team's history. It's something that''s plagued them since ... well, uh, Jimmy Watson and Tom Bladon were drafted in 1972, so around then.

Since their first draft in 1967, the Flyers have drafted just 11 defenseman who have gone on to play more than 500 career games in the National Hockey League. Of those 11 defenseman, just four of them played more than half of their NHL careers in Philadelphia: Watson, Bladon, Behn Wilson and Chris Therien.

Here's a full list of every single defenseman drafted in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers. We've broken it down by general manager, as you can see, and we've listed both how many games the player put in at the NHL level ... and how many of those games were with the Flyers. You'll notice that most of these guys never sniffed the NHL, and when they did, it wasn't usually as a Flyer.

Year Rd Overall Player NHL GP Flyers GP % GP w/PHI
1967 2 14 Al Sarault


1969 3 28 Willie Brossart 129 47 36.43%
December 1969: Keith Allen takes over GM duties from Bud Poile
1970 4 46 Jacques Lapierre


1970 8 99 Gary Cunningham


1971 3 36 Glen Irwin


1971 5 64 Don McCulloch


1971 6 78 Yvon Bilodeau


1972 2 23 Tom Bladon 610 463 75.90%
1972 3 39 Jimmy Watson 613 613 100.00%
1972 7 103 Serge Beaudoin 3 0 0.00%
1973 2 20 Larry Goodenough 242 129 53.31%
1973 5 74 Michel Latreille


1973 6 90 Doug Ferguson


1973 8 122 Norm Barnes 156 60 38.46%
1973 9 137 Dan O'Donohue


1974 2 35 Don McLean 9 0 0.00%
1974 9 159 Peter MacKenzie


1974 13 211 Brad Morrow


1975 9 160 Viktor Khatulev


1975 10 175 Duffy Smith


1976 1 17 Mark Suzor 64 4 6.25%
1976 2 35 Drew Callander 39 18 46.15%
1976 3 53 Craig Hamner


1976 4 71 Dave Hynek


1976 5 89 Robin Lang


1977 1 17 Kevin McCarthy 537 90 16.76%
1977 5 89 Dan Clark 4 0 0.00%
1977 8 139 Mike Greeder


1977 9 151 Michel Bauman


1977 10 158 Rob Nicholson


1977 11 165 Jim Trainor


1977 11 168 Rod McNair


1978 1 6 Behn Wilson 601 339 56.41%
1978 3 50 Glen Cochrane 411 257 62.53%
1978 5 83 Brad Tamblyn


1978 9 151 Greg Francis


1978 10 167 Rick Berard


1978 10 168 Don Lucia


1979 2 22 Blake Wesley 298 52 17.45%
1979 5 98 Thomas Eriksson 208 208 100.00%
1980 1 21 Mike Stothers 30 12 40.00%
1980 3 63 Paul Mercier


1980 4 84 Taras Zytynsky


1980 6 126 Brian Tutt 7 0 0.00%
1980 8 168 Mark Botell 32 32 100.00%
1980 9 189 Peter Dineen 13 0 0.00%
1981 1 16 Steve Smith 18 15 83.33%
1981 3 47 Barry Tabobondung


1981 6 121 Andre Villeneuve


1982 3 46 Miroslav Dvorak 193 193 100.00%
1982 3 47 Bill Campbell


1982 12 245 Mark Vichorek


May 1983: Bob McCammon takes over as general manager
1983 5 101 Jerome Carrier


May 1984: Bob Clarke begins first stint as general manager
1984 2 22 Greg Smyth 229 48 20.96%
1984 2 37 Jeff Chychrun 262 198 75.57%
1984 3 47 John Stevens 53 9 16.98%
1984 7 142 Tom Allen


1984 12 245 Juraj Bakos


1985 5 84 Paul Marshall


1985 6 126 Ken Alexander


1985 9 189 Gord Murphy 862 261 30.28%
1985 12 252 Paul Maurice


1986 1 20 Kerry Huffman 401 207 51.62%
1986 4 83 Mark Bar


1986 8 167 Murray Baron 988 83 8.40%
1986 10 209 Shaun Sabol 2 2 100.00%
1987 1 20 Darren Rumble 193 18 9.33%
1987 5 104 Bill Gall


1987 6 125 Tony Link


1987 7 146 Marc Strapon


1987 10 209 Steve Morrow


1988 6 119 Gord Frantti


1988 8 161 Johann Salle


1988 9 182 Brian Arthur


1988 12 245 Dragomir Kadlec


1989 8 159 Sverre Sears


1989 10 201 Allen Kummu


1989 11 222 Mark Brait


1989 S 17 Jamie Baker


June 1990: Russ Farwell takes over as general manager
1990 2 42 Terran Sandwith 8 0 0.00%
1990 3 46 Bill Armstrong


1990 3 47 Chris Therien 764 753 98.56%
1990 3 52 Al Kinisky


1990 9 172 Toni Porkka


1990 10 193 Greg Hanson


1990 S 4 Steve Beadle


1991 4 86 Aris Brimanis 113 0 0.00%
1991 6 122 Dmitri Yushkevich 786 215 27.35%
1991 10 204 Josh Bartell


1992 5 103 Vladislav Boulin


1992 6 127 Roman Zolotov


1992 S 7 Garrett MacDonald


1993 2 36 Janne Niinimaa 741 143 19.30%
1993 3 77 Milos Holan 49 8 16.33%
1993 6 140 Mike Crowley 67 0 0.00%
1993 10 244 Jeff Staples


1993 11 270 Ken Hemenway


1993 S 10 Shannon Finn


June 1994: Bob Clarke takes over as general manager (again)
1994 3 62 Artem Anisimov


1994 4 88 Adam Magarrell


1994 8 192 Derek Diener


1994 8 202 Ray Giroux 38 0 0.00%
1995 2 48 Shane Kenny


1995 6 132 Dmitri Tertyshny 62 62 100.00%
1995 6 135 Jamie Sokolsky


1995 9 230 Jeff Lank 2 2 100.00%
1997 3 62 Kris Mallette


1997 4 103 Mikhail Chernov


1997 6 158 Jordon Flodell


1997 8 214 Marko Kauppinen


1997 9 240 Par Styf


1998 2 42 Jason Beckett


1998 2 51 Ian Forbes


1998 4 109 J.P. Morin


1998 9 253 Bruno St. Jacques 67 13 19.40%
1998 9 258 Sergei Skrobot


1999 4 119 Jeff Feniak


2000 8 259 Regan Kelly


2001 1 27 Jeff Woywitka 278 0 0.00%
2001 5 146 Jussi Timonen 14 14 100.00%
2001 6 172 Dennis Seidenberg 581 84 14.46%
2001 7 208 Thierry Douville


2001 7 225 David Printz 13 13 100.00%
2002 1 4 Joni Pitkanen 535 206 38.50%
2002 4 105 Rosario Ruggeri


2002 6 192 Nikita Korovkin


2002 6 193 Joey Mormina 1 0 0.00%
2003 3 85 Alexandre Picard 253 72 28.46%
2004 4 101 R.J. Anderson


2004 5 144 Chris Zarb


2004 8 253 Travis Gawryletz


2005 3 91 Oskars Bartulis 66 66 100.00%
2005 6 174 John Flatters


2006 2 42 Mike Ratchuk


2006 2 55 Denis Bodrov


2006 4 101 Joonas Lehtivuori


October 2006: Paul Holmgren takes over as general manager
2007 2 41 Kevin Marshall 10 10 100.00%
2008 1 19 Luca Sbisa 236 39 16.53%
2008 3 67 Marc-Andre Bourdon 45 45 100.00%
2009 3 87 Simon Bertilsson


2009 7 196 Oliver Lauridsen 15 15 100.00%
2010 5 179 Nick Luukko


2010 7 206 Ricard Blidstrand


2011 4 116 Colin Suellentrop


2012 3 78 Shayne Gostisbehere


2012 4 111 Fredrik Larsson


2012 5 141 Reece Willcox


2012 7 201 Valeri Vasiliev


Bud Poile totals 129 47 36.43%
Keith Allen totals 4,088 2,485 60.79%
Bob McCammon totals 0 0 lol
Russ Farwell totals 2,528 1,119 44.26%
Bob Clarke totals 4,900 1,358 27.71%
Paul Holmgren totals 306 109 35.62%
Overall totals 11,951 5,118 42.82%

This table makes me sad every single time I look at it.

Recently, Dennis Seidenberg and Joni Pitkanen are the only two examples of defensemen developed by the organization who went on or are going on to lengthy NHL careers.

Pitkanen was drafted fourth overall in 2002, but didn't jump to North America until 2003-04, when he played 71 games with the Flyers in his rookie NHL season. For the first time in a very, very long time, it finally appeared as though the team had drafted a stud defenseman -- and this one didn't even really need much development. He came to the NHL ready to play at a high level.

Pitkanen was eased in that first season behind a talented corps of blueliners led Eric Desjardins, Kim Johnsson, Marcus Ragnarsson, Chris Therien, Eric Weinrich and later at the trade deadline, Danny Markov. But he became a key cog on the power play that rookie year and the future was extremely bright.

He won the Calder Cup with the Phantoms during the lockout year in 2004-05, won the Ashbee Trophy as the Flyers' top defenseman and Lindbergh Trophy as most improved player the following year, and grew into a top-pairing force for the next several seasons. Just as they had when they selected him, the Flyers expected Pitkanen to be a mainstay on the blueline for years to come. But we all know that didn't happen.

Ultimately, Pitkanen was traded with Geoff Sanderson to Edmonton for one-year captain Jason Smith and Joffrey Lupul, who of course in part turned into Chris Pronger. The trade ultimately was a gain for for the Flyers -- Smith and Lupul played key roles on a team that went to the Conference Finals in 2008 and of course, Pronger was a huge piece on a team that was two wins away from winning the Cup in 2010. Having a 29-year-old top-four guy in Pitkanen on the blueline right now would be nice, but that's hindsight. Can't be too mad about the way things shook out.

Nevertheless, Pitkanen is the probably the best talent the Flyers have developed on the blueline in literally decades, and even he wasn't valuable enough to keep around long term.

Drafted 172nd overall by the Flyers in 2001, Seidenberg made his NHL debut with the Flyers in 2002, playing 58 games with the big club and 19 games across the parking lot with the Philadelphia Phantoms. He split time again in 2002-03, played 79 games with the Phantoms and won the Calder Cup during the lockout-shortened 2004-05 year, and then played 29 games with the Flyers in 05-06 before being traded to Phoenix for Petr Nedved.

From there, Seidenberg went on to Carolina and a short stop in Florida before settling in as a top-pairing defenseman on a Stanley Cup winner in Boston. The Flyers (and I guess the Mannheim Eagles of the German DEL, where he played three seasons prior to his NHL days) developed Seidenberg into a nice NHL player, and then traded him quickly there after. He became a top-pair guy elsewhere, but the talent was always there. And it's not like the Flyers got much for him. Nedved played 49 games in Philly before being placed on waivers a year after the trade.

Aside from these two, there just isn't much at which to look. Chris Therien is the ONLY defenseman to be drafted by the Flyers and go on to a lengthy, productive career in Philly since the 1970s. ONE GUY. It's horrifying once you see it on paper, isn't it?

We've written thousands of words on this site about the Flyers problems on defense, and even despite that we still don't have any easy way to solve those problems. One thing we know, though: When you rarely select defensemen with high draft picks, and when it's even more rare that you take the time to develop a young defenseman, it doesn't help your overall situation on defense.

What's the reasoning for the Flyers' total inability to draft, develop and keep talented defensemen? Is it short-sightedness? Is it a blanket inability to recognize defensive talent unless that talent is already a fully-known commodity, such as Kimmo Timonen or Chris Pronger? Is it that they just don't care about it as much? Is it that, on the whole, it's harder to recognize defensive talent at draft age and see that talent through to the NHL level?

Whatever the answer, the Flyers need to get better in this department in a salary cap era. Maybe they can start on Sunday at the 2013 NHL Draft.

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