With the Flyers trading away two of their best defensemen in a matter of 60 hours over the weekend, the blue line has a significantly different look to it as we enter the stretch run of the regular season.
Of course Kimmo Timonen hadn't played yet this season, but the possibility of him returning for the playoff push brought a sliver of hope to the situation. Timonen's track record was good enough to fetch two picks from the Chicago Blackhawks despite the uncertainty around his game.
On the other hand, one of the Flyers most consistent, regular defensemen was traded as well early Monday. Braydon Coburn was shipped off to Tampa Bay for defenseman Radko Gudas as well as the Lightning's first round and third round picks in this upcoming draft. It was quite the return for Coburn in the seller-friendly deadline market.
However, the departure of Coburn leaves a huge gap on the Flyers blue line. He had missed some time earlier this year on two separate occasions, but his presence was felt when he was in the lineup. Coburn played a lot of minutes at even strength and was crucial to the improvement of the penalty kill. With him gone, the Flyers are going to need to have some other guys step up.
The Flyers have seven active defensemen on their roster, so there's no need to make any recalls or moves if they don't want to do so -- assuming Nicklas Grossmann is fully healthy, and that doesn't look like a long-term thing for him.
Let's look at all seven guys and what they bring to the table.
With injuries to the defense early on, Ron Hextall signed Colaiacovo on October 30th to a one year deal. The veteran defenseman had bounced around in recent years and has dealt with a variety of injuries. This depth signing turned out to be a great one as Carlo has turned into one of the best possession defensemen on the team when he's in the lineup. He is not only among the Flyers best at shot suppression, but at generating shots as well.
In his 217 minutes of even strength time he has played mostly with Andrew MacDonald (73 minutes) and Luke Schenn (58 minutes). Surprisingly he has had success with both. Colaiacovo isn't going to be a guy that gives you 20 minutes a night, but he deserves at least third pairing minutes, maybe even second pairing minutes on this team.
Michael Del Zotto
Michael Del Zotto was another desperation signing by Hextall after the news broke about Timonen's condition in August. After being run out of town in New York and having a decent half-season in Nashville, Del Zotto has thrived in Philadelphia. He leads the Flyers defense in goals with eight, including one shorthanded game winner against his former team this past weekend. Del Zotto was, and still somewhat is, known as an offensive defenseman but has taken on a more defensive role with flying colors. He has turned into an effective penalty killer as well.
He definitely has the offensive side of being a defenseman down, qualifying as "top pairing" status in the offensive categories. However, his defensive game could use some work. Keep in mind that this chart is since the 2013 season, and his numbers look a lot better recently.
Del Zotto and Coburn had recently turned into the Flyers top defensive pair both at even strength and while shorthanded. With Coburn gone, there will have to be some shuffling of the cards. He had spent time with all three of Schenn (333 minutes), Nick Schultz (173 minutes) and MacDonald (126 minutes) this season before teaming up with Coburn. I can't see him as a top pair defenseman on any team, but he is almost forced into that role on this one.
Charlie spelled out the Nicklas Grossmann story earlier this year and not much has changed. His recent injury might cause him to miss some more time, bringing the Flyers down to only six healthy defensemen unless they call up Brandon Manning or Oliver Lauridsen from Lehigh Valley.
Even with how bad Grossmann is, you never want to see an injury to a player. Get well soon, Nick.
Grossmann (790 minutes) was chained to Mark Streit's leg for most of the season (489 minutes) but has recently been put with MacDonald (133 minutes) and they haven't been absolutely horrible. Grossmann is one of the worst defensemen on this team and in the league, yet has not been a healthy scratch one time this year. It is baffling.
Where do I even begin? The Flyers acquired Andrew MacDonald and subsequently signed him to a six year, $30 million extension last spring.
Since then, he has been quite bad and not good. The thirty million dollar man has been a healthy scratch on a handful of occasions this season, including very recently. Maybe he can go on a lucky PDO-fueled streak and some team will take him off our hands sometime.
MacDonald has been given top pairing minutes over the past three seasons and has done nothing with it. His numbers this year with the Flyers probably aren't as horrible as the chart shows, but he is still in the bottom pairing bracket.
MacDonald and Schenn have made a nice pair this year at times with 179 minutes together. As mentioned above he has also spent time with Del Zotto and Grossmann. MacDonald is going to have to play out his contract one way or another, whether it be on the third pair or in the press box.
Since being traded for James van Riemsdyk in the 2012 offseason, Luke Schenn has been a bit of a disappointment in Philadelphia. Schenn had a solid 2013 lockout-shortened season spent with Kimmo Timonen. Given his performance last season it makes you wonder if Kimmo was doing all of the legwork for that pairing.
However, this season Schenn has quietly put up decent numbers. Taking away his turnovers here and there, Schenn has generated positive possession in somewhat sheltered usage.
Luke has been quietly producing for the Flyers at generating shots and has done a decent job of suppressing shot attempts. He will never be the top pairing defenseman that there might have been hopes of when he was drafted, but he will stick around as a fourth to sixth defenseman depending on the team.
Schenn, as mentioned above, has had success with both Del Zotto and MacDonald this season. He has seen his fair share of the press box as well with more than a few healthy scratches to his name. With Coburn gone I would expect both Schenn and MacDonald in the lineup regularly after they were rotating in as the sixth defenseman in February.
Oh Nicky, the bad signing turned surprise success turned bad contract extension. He's been up and down on the season.
The signing of Nick Schultz this past off season was a bit questionable, but he proved himself throughout the first half of the year. Unfortunately, rather than letting the rest of the season and offseason play out, Hextall re-upped Schultz for two more seasons. There could have been cheaper options out there in free agency, or even in-house by the name of Carlo Colaiacovo or Brandon Manning.
Schultz has been the worst possession defenseman outside of Grossmann on the team, which is saying something.
Nick had a few down years before coming to the Flyers where he has slightly improved. His performance this year is likely slightly above this chart, but he still isn't anything more than a depth defenseman.
Schultz has played his best with both Coburn (336 minutes) and Streit (293 minutes) this season, which is good and bad. Good because he has shown that he isn't a complete liability on the ice, bad because the results very well might have been heavily influenced by his partner's great play.
After being a healthy scratch for game number one, Schultz has played the rest of the way for the orange and black, besides one game for injury, and that will continue the rest of this season.
Last, but certainly not least, is Mark Streit. Streit has quietly gone along this season playing well both at even strength and on the power play. The need to shelter him with a lot of offensive zone starts is a bit troublesome, but his puck moving ability as displayed on his stretch pass Saturday night is as good as they come at his age.
Streit has been the team's iron(defense)man, playing in every game this season. He has two years left on his contract after this one, hopefully he can keep it up.
Streit's offensive game is on the mark. He is still playing at close to top pairing minutes with top four production, but he is getting up there in age.
Streit has had the misfortune of carrying around a large boulder by the name of Nicklas Grossmann with him for half of the season, 489 of his 1074 minutes have been with Grossmann. He has had great success with Schultz in 293 minutes, and decent success with MacDonald in 119 minutes. Streit has been consistently consistent this season and will be leaned upon the rest of the way.
Here's a look at the seven defensemen here and how they should be deployed by Craig Berube over the remainder of the 2014-15 season.