While writing my previous story on the Flyers' lack of depth on defense, I had wanted to get Tim McManus' take on the state of the Phantoms' defense. Unfortunately, he was out of the office that day and was unable to respond.
I have since gotten his response and rather than post an update on the previous story, I will simply post this as an interview.
Jump to see the interview.
Broad Street Hockey: The AHL stats page is rather bare yet Joonas Lehtivuori stuck out as probably the best defenseman on the team right now. Is that accurate?
Tim McManus: I think you hit it dead on. Lehtivuori has been the most pleasant surprise of the season and probably has been the best defenseman the past month or so. He reminds me of like a Danny Syvret-lite. He's starting to show some really good instincts jumping into the play and his goal the other night showed a hard shot that I didn't know he had. He's more polished offensively at this point than Bourdon, who came with the offensive reputation.
BSH: How are Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall progressing?
Tim: Bourdon has a nice shot, but he doesn't seem as far along [in terms of] jumping into the play or as comfortable on the power-play as Lehtivuori. He also has a bad habit of reversing the puck in front of his own net.
Marshall is harder to judge because he's more of a stay-at-home guy. He's an NHL talent, but I think he needs another year here. I like his physical play and he's got great leadership potential. [He] plays with a little bit of an edge - always involved in after-the-whistle stuff, but Bourdon has actually turned out to be the bigger fighter.
BSH: Could one of the "older" guys like Sean Curry or Joey Mormina finally warrant a look at the NHL level?
Tim: Curry is struggling, to be kind. I've always thought Mormina is a very solid AHL defenseman and would be a nice asset to a team contending for the Calder Cup. Everyone sees the huge body and thinks he's going to play like a Pronger, but it's just not his style. He's solid though and logs a ton of tough minutes. If the Flyers needed someone for a game or two in an emergency, I think he'd be fine.
BSH: What about Logan Stephenson? From what I read on your site, Stephenson has become/is quite the team player and well-respected in the locker room. His numbers aren't bad, but he doesn't put up much offense.
Tim: Stephenson is a real fan and locker room favorite. He plays up to the crowd, is a great quote, and really gets the whole minor-league experience. He's a talker and an agitator on the ice. He's very physical and a decent stay-at-home guy, but every five games or so he makes a horrendous turnover that leads to a goal. Takes some bad penalties, too.
BSH: It's pretty clear the team just isn't that good, so I don't know how much to take from the few stats available on theahl.com, but is there anything you could speak to about that?
Tim: Overall, the D has been fine. If the team could score at all, it wouldn't be the D holding them back. They don't give up a lot of goals and many of them have come on brutal turnovers by forwards that have led to odd-man breaks. If Backlund and Grahame weren't excellent, they'd be out of the playoffs by 20 points. There's never any margin for error with how little they score.
Very big thanks to Tim for answering my questions.