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Defense? What’s that?

Not even a certain Mr. Ekholm would help at this point.

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Yesterday, in what now feels like an entirely different era, Ryan wrote an article arguing that Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers simply can’t afford to keep running with the current defense troop currently available to them. Most if not all Flyers fans would agree with that.

The biggest rumored interest for the Flyers has been Mattias Ekholm, as most are no doubt aware; he is the No. 1 ranked player on TSN’s Trade Bait list, and his fit with the Flyers has been well-covered, including here.

However, would Ekholm really significantly improve this defense and therefore the team as a whole?

Well, yes, since he is a great player and adding any great player to your squad improves the team overall by default. However, just how greatly his presence would improve the team is up for debate. This piece is not about Ekholm, per se, but after last night’s eventual overtime victory against the Rangers, it could be reasoned that the Flyers either need a player like Ekholm just to get back into the playoff race, or that even Ekholm wouldn’t be enough to bail out a defense that played perhaps its worst overall game last night.

Simply taking a look at these statistics gives quite the picture of how bad they have been:

Defense - Advanced Stats

Player Position GP CF% FF%
Player Position GP CF% FF%
Robert Hagg D 20 51.74 51.07
Philippe Myers D 18 51.47 49.37
Travis Sanheim D 25 50.07 50
Justin Braun D 23 49.48 49.54
Shayne Gostisbehere D 20 47.99 48.12
Erik Gustafsson D 18 47.76 45.3
Ivan Provorov D 26 46.23 46.58
Nate Prosser D 4 31.08 26.92

When Robert Hagg leads your team’s defense in Corsi-For, there is a big issue underlying that may not be entirely solved by just one player. It seems to be mistake after mistake for Flyer blue-liners, and when mixed with poor gap control, in-zone turnovers, and mind-boggling decision making, leads to an undeserved stat-line for Carter Hart, who can’t be blamed for the four Ranger goals. It’s a shame really, because Hart played better last night than he had in recent outings, but was left out to dry by his defense.

Was this meant to argue that the Flyers shouldn’t be targeting Ekholm? No, not at all. Much like Ryan argued, the Flyers need to do something. Yet, the fear of it not being enough is there given how seemingly historically bad the Flyers’ defense has performed. With or without an addition, something needs to be done, whether a systemic change or coaching staff change, because if not, the playoffs will slip away before Chuck Fletcher knows it.

Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick