The Philadelphia Flyers open their NHL season Wednesday night at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Each day leading up to the game, Staff Writer John Russo will take a look at the Flyers' personnel at each position. Coming tomorrow: the goalies)
The Flyers' blue line has the potential to be a very good unit.
A lot of that is going to hinge on health. Andrej Meszaros and Nicklas Grossmann will need to prove they can stay healthy, or else it will put pressure on young defensemen such as Erik Gustafsson and Oliver Lauridsen to step up and play a huge role again.
Kimmo Timonen (2012 stats 5, goals, 24 assists): The 38-year-old Timonen will be playing in his final NHL season. Signing a one-year extension last year, Timonen led the Flyers defensemen with 29 points in 45 games, and was second on the entire team with 24 assists. He's the Flyers' best all-around defenseman despite being the oldest.
Player Needed to Step Up
Braydon Coburn (1 goal, 4 assists): The 2013 season was the worst of Coburn's career. The 28-year-old had just five points and was a minus-10 in 33 games (only Bruno Gervais, who was assigned to Adirondack, had a worse +/- with a minus-17). Coburn's season was mercifully ended when he separated his shoulder in the final month. As the longest tenured Flyer and Timonen's partner on the top pairing, a repeat performance will be completely unacceptable.
The New Guy
Mark Streit (6 goals, 21 assists): Streit, 35, was acquired from the Islanders and then signed to a four-year extension. Granted he's a 35-year-old getting a four-year deal, Streit was only 28 when he broke into the NHL with the Canadiens in 2005, and has less wear-and-tear on his body. He's been fairly healthy his entire career, too, despite missing the 2010-11 season with a shoulder injury. He could contend with Timonen for points leaders among defensemen on the team. He moves the puck well and can quarterback the powerplay unit which is among the best in the NHL each season.
Staff Writer John Russo