What’s going on with the Flyers Blundering Blue Line?

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Mar 31, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim (6) against the New York Rangers during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Another year, another 82 games where this defense just isn’t going to cut it. Suffice to say, fans are getting used to this. That’s not a good thing. Too often, the Flyers have iced sub-par defense. Too often, it’s been their downfall. This year is no different, but it needs to be.

The Season Thus Far

Ivan Provorov, coming off of a down year, has been much better. Seven points in 11 games puts him on pace to shatter last year’s high of 26 points. His giveaways are still concerning, but there’s plenty of chance for him to redeem himself as the season progresses.

Matt Niskanen has been steady. This is neither good nor bad, but decent. Nearing 33 years of age, fans knew that they weren’t going to get prime-years out of the 13 year NHL veteran. However, his execution of the patented “starfish” maneuver has put Andrew MacDonald’s to shame. All in all, Niskanen has proved to be an upgrade over MacDonald, and Radko Gudas for that matter.

Justin Braun has been lackluster. His preseason was fantastic, looking every bit the player Chuck Fletcher wanted him to be. The regular season started, and that Justin Braun has disappeared. Giving up two draft picks was a steep price to pay for someone who is a minus eight on the season. For as defensively sound as Braun was pitched to be, he hasn’t shown it yet.

Travis Sanheim has been a bit of an enigma. His offensive potential is fantastic. Sanheim still has yet to reach that potential, but has hit some bumps in the road. Seeing him replace the tandem of Ivan Provorov and Matt Niskanen on the PP2 unit would be a great start. He’s fast, decisive, and has a knack for showing up on the scoresheet. Growing pains are a thing, but he needs to outgrow them.

Shayne Gostisbehere is a defensive liability. He’s also an offensive dynamo. At what point do these begin to offset each other? Plain and simple, when he shows up on defense. Sheltering him on the third pairing is a smart move. It makes it a bit easier to hide his defensive deficiencies and mask his shortcomings by giving him less minutes. That may work, but not with a partner such as…

Robert Hagg. Hagg is a proven commodity. Usually that’s a good thing, but not in this case. Hagg seems to have reached his ceiling. He’s nothing more than a sixth or seventh defenseman. His contract is decent enough that it isn’t a huge burden, but there always seems to be more left to be desired. For now, Hagg is a third-pairing defenseman who likes to hit. Plain and simple.

The Others

Thursday, the Flyers brought Philippe Myers up from Lehigh Valley. Accordingly, they sent Samuel Morin down on a conditioning stint with the Phantoms. Morin has 14 days with the Phantoms before he either has to be placed on waivers or brought back up to the Flyers. This essentially gives Phil Myers a two-week tryout to prove his worth in the NHL.

Morin has underwhelmed, and hasn’t earned a spot in the lineup. While the bar has been set relatively low, he hasn’t exactly impressed. Morin will benefit from more ice time. He will see that ice time in Lehigh Valley.

These next two weeks will be very telling of how the blueline will look for the remainder of the season. Myers gets his tryout, Morin gets the chance to play. While it’s the AHL, it’s still quality competition for Morin. He should find his footing with Lehigh Valley. If not, it’s hard to imagine him being claimed on waivers if the Flyers decided to send him through.

Until these two weeks pass, fans wait. This will be a telling time for the defense. It’s time for the fringe guys to prove their worth. It’s time for the new guys to prove they belong. The time is now for some exciting Flyers hockey.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports