Defense is the hot topic for the Philadelphia Flyers. How did Shayne Gostisbehere affect roster decisions? When will Phil Myers return?
Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers corrected key aspects of their identity crisis. The return of Shayne Gostisbehere helped stabilize the defensive pairs. Before long, the Flyers were right as rain, getting back into the win column. A victory against the New Jersey Devils in 2020-2021 is a valuable one and has to feel great for a locker room previously on a two-game skid.
What were some adjustments Philadelphia made to put themselves in a position to win? Let’s talk about that in the January 27th, 2021 edition of the Philadelphia Flyers Phlight Deck.
Flyers find more Bear than Ghost
Gostisbehere kicked off his career renaissance during last night’s 5-3 victory over the Devils. The last 12 months ha been chaos up to that point. Before training camp, he was openly addressed as a trade asset following a year where he required surgery on a lingering injury. This came after a period of being a healthy scratch.
When he arrived in camp, the concept of trading Gostisbehere came to a grinding halt as he received top pair repetitions with Ivan Provorov. Days before the opening night of the season, Gostisbehere was made unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols.
After Matt Niskanen retired, a defenseman already on the roster needed to take on a huge role. All signs pointed to Gostisbehere at the onset. Remember, he filled in for Niskanen during his suspension in the 2020 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals versus the Montreal Canadiens. While Niskanen would have been the preferred player in 2020-2021, Gostisbehere had a similar skill set. He isn’t as polished defensively but exhibited exceptional poise on the powerplay in previous seasons.
Defensively, the team is still incomplete. A return from Gostisbehere steadied an unstable defensive unit. When Philippe Myers returns from suffering a broken rib, only then will Philadelphia know what they have on defense. Gostisbehere may not be the “x-factor,” but Vigneault recognizes his value. Effectively, he could prove Chuck Fletcher’s signing of Erik Gustafsson to be unnecessary.
James value Riemsdyk
Value has got to be his middle name. Last season, James van Riemsdyk finished sixth in team scoring. Anyone who thought that was a sham is being proven wrong in the early stages of 2020-2021. He secured two goals in last night’s victory versus New Jersey, earning the first-star honor. Currently, he’s fourth in team scoring.
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. A streaky scorer, van Riemsdyk can produce in large batches. Imagine if he can play up to his contract cost in 2020-2021. Philadelphia could be the ones benefiting in the 2021 offseason if van Riemsdyk can continue his trend.
If it is a hill that I’m dying on, then bury me now. Mark Friedman needs to be a permanent fixture in the Flyers’ defensive ranks. Without Myers, he belongs on the second pair with Travis Sanheim. After Myers returns, Justin Braun should become the seventh defenseman. It would behoove Fletcher and Vigneault to bet on the defensive youth.
At first, extending Braun didn’t seem like the wrong move. It did, however, seem like an allergic reaction to Niskanen retiring. In the early stages of this season, Braun is struggling. His play was lethargic with Provorov on the top pair and didn’t fare any better last night versus the Devils. Braun was the worst skater for Philadelphia last night.
The Flyers must inject their defense with young, defensive defensemen. Friedman fits that mold. His potential to develop into at least a third pair defenseman in 2020-2021 is clear. Is he a permanent fix for seasons to come? Maybe, or maybe not, but he requires more ice-time before the 2021 offseason where potential franchise-altering decisions on defense may be necessary.
Another Return for the Flyers?
Keeping with the defense hot topic, Myers returned to practice today. He seemed fine and is eager to get back into a game. Vigneault said he doesn’t think Myers is there yet, but he’s “real close.” Great news concerning a wobbly defense in Philadelphia. During practice, Myers did swap out with Friedman.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre