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Phantoms report cards: Doing defense (part one)

Shifting gears. Talking defense.

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

And we’re back! We’ve talked about goalies and we’re making our way outwards, so to speak. Today we’ll be starting our talks on the Phantoms’ defensemen. For the sake of ease, we’re going to be breaking them up into two groups, so the second will be coming at you next week. And how will we be breaking them up, you ask? What’s the master plan? It’s uh… well it’s funny you should mention that, it’s… okay yeah it’s just alphabetically. Moving on.

T.J. Brennan: 63 GP, 8 G, 35 A, 43 P

Grade: B

This feels like one of our harder grades to give, so we’re just going to knock it out right away. Brennan had a fine enough season in terms of offensive production, coming in third among his teammates in points, and just about matching his total from last season (when he scored 45 points in 63 games). So we don’t really have any complaints there--we expect Brennan to bring a bit of offensive jump, and he was able to do that. The only thing keeping him from moving into A territory is that fact that we had time this season where his defense wasn’t just lacking, its absence made him a flat out liability.

Is that a little unfair? We don’t expect him to bring much on the defensive side, so is it fair to dock him when he doesn’t shine defensively? Maybe not entirely. We’re grading on a bit of a curve, here, but that said, we also can’t be giving up on rush defense, either.

James de Haas: 48 GP, 1 G, 9 A, 10 P

Grade: D

This grade feels a little bit harsh to say out loud, if you will, especially considering that I don’t have any actively bad feelings about de Haas. He’s shown a few weaknesses--the ability to control zone exits and gap control on rushes come to mind first--but it also isn’t as though he’s presented as a liability. He spent most of the season on the bubble between the press box and the third pair, but even in those limited minutes, he didn’t give us a whole lot of spark. He isn’t a player that we look at and say he absolutely should not be playing, in fact a lot of the time he’s just fine, but he also just hasn’t really moved the needle.

Mark Friedman: 75 GP, 5 G, 21 A, 26 P

Grade: B+

All in all, we don’t really have a whole lot to complain about with Friedman’s sophomore season. He seemed to grow more confident this season, and took a step forward in terms of points scored (up from 16 points last season). He held up well playing what had to be a largely defensive role opposite T.J. Brennan, offering some balance to that pair. He’s a player we looked at throughout the season and praised for seeming to be on top of all of the little things, playing a quiet but sound game. And, of course, we love the fact that he draws a lot of penalties but doesn’t take many. That’s pretty great too.

The only thing keeping him—and just barely, we should add—from A territory is consistency. We’ve seen that he has some offensive upside, and that he can be an effective puck mover and help out the team’s transition play, but it just hasn’t been all the time that he’s brought it. We know he can do it, so we want to see a little more.

Philippe Myers: 53 GP, 9 G, 24 A, 33 P

Grade: A-

We’d like to echo our initial thoughts on Friedman here as well—we really don’t have any major complaints about Myers’ season either. This is the season we’ve been waiting for from him, in which he takes the step forward and looked like he’s really mastered the AHL. He also took a step forward on the offensive side, blowing well past last season’s 21 point total. He was one of their best, if not their best, puck moving defensemen (a fact that became even more apparent when they were missing him when he was called up to the Flyers). And hey, that’s another thing! He made a strong enough impression to get himself a longer look with the big club. He brought a well rounded game, and was pretty impressive on all fronts.

And, in the interest of transparency, and if we’re nitpicking, the piece keeping him from an A or even an A+ is consistency, as well. We can’t expect a player to be on every single night—we’re hopeful, but when it doesn’t happen, we understand—but while we can feel pretty confident saying Myers was pretty comfortable saying he was solid through just about the whole of the season, we didn’t see a level of dominance, that we know he’s capable of bringing, on a night to night basis. So there’s that.

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