The Flyers defense is a log jammed mess of bodies that are barely able to do the job that they’ve been given and are a detriment to the whole team. Recently though, Ron Hextall made more additions that crowded the blue line even more but put his plan for the future into motion, now we get a peek at what Hextall’s vision is like.
The New Defensive Coach:
Dave Hakstol has a reputation for being able to win with the talent he’s given using a coaching style that is very fluid. Dealing with the constant drastic changes of a College roster has made Hakstol an expert at tweaking his system to work with the talent he has, but that doesn’t mean he has no ideal roster to work with.
You’re going to see with me an expectation that our defensemen are involved in an awful lot of our play in terms of our play with the puck. I think it’s essential both getting up the ice as well as in the zone.”
The new coach is going to need some new personnel for his plan to be doable. What Hakstol wants is defensemen that can transition, move the puck through the neutral zone, and forwards that can help break out of their own zone instead of being trapped for two minute shifts. The current defense can’t really do that and it will be pretty hard to move them, but Hextall isn’t worried about the right now. Preaching patience most likely means waiting out some of these terrible contracts.
Hakstol is part of the patience. With the slew of young defensive prospects that the Flyers are collecting, they need someone who can properly mold them into the powerhouse blueline that we’ll need. Hakstol, according to all accounts and previous experience, is more than able to develop young players.
It’s been a popular chant among the fanbase all through the last half of the season and into the offseason. Michael Del Zotto has been one of the best defensemen on the blueline and seems like a perfect fit for Hakstol’s vision. MDZ has done a lot right in his come back season, trying to prove that he has a place on an NHL team; while there are still some problems that come with his offensive style, he is young, and has an offensive upside that is very useful. Hopefully Hakstol’s development skills can be turned to Del Zotto to fix the little mistakes in his defensive play.
Del Zotto is a restricted free agent, so there isn’t a desperate rush to get him locked up, but some fans have been getting jumpy. With the jumble of defensemen and the addition of Yevgeny Medvedev, some fans assumed that MDZ was no longer in the Flyers future plans. On May 23rd However, the Flyers announced that they were in talks with Del Zotto’s agent about a contract extension.
After playing his whole career in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), 32 year old Yevgeny Medvedev is making the jump to North America. The six foot three, 187 pound defenseman has won gold medals at the World Championships in 2011-12 and 2013-14 and a silver medal in this year’s World Championships in Prague.
With a one year- $3million contract, it seems like the new addition will play a big role on the blue line. In the 2014 Olympics, he played over 17 minutes a game in a top 4 role, paired with NHLer Alexei Emelin. And his skill set seem to match what Hakstol wants.
This is what EliteProspects has to say about Medvedev:
A large, yet very mobile and smooth skating defenseman. Medvedev sees the ice well and has good hockey sense. He can pass really well, but also possesses a hard shot. Could play a more physical and aggressive game given his size.
Medvedev isn’t a scorer, but he does move the puck well, something a lot of the current Flyers defense can’t do. Hakstol needs more guys like him.
Shedding Dead Weight:
Obviously the most difficult task coming up for Ron Hextall will be clearing out the defense. Players like Grossmann, Schultz and MacDonald will need to be moved in order for the Flyers to get their blue line in good shape, but they’re the least helpful players are the hardest to get rid of.
Luke Schenn and Mark Streit may be the easiest to move, because they’re not completely useless. Streit would get a bit more from a trade partner, but he’s still one of the Flyers best Dmen (despite his age) and they’re trying to build a good D core, not trade away good pieces to add in different good pieces. Streit could also be a helpful veteran presence when the prospects come up, and wouldn’t we rather have Streit teaching the kids than Grossmann or MacDonald?
Unless Hextall finds a way to move Grossmann, MacDonald, possibly Luke Schenn and maybe even Nick Schultz if we’re lucky, There’s very little room for the prospects to break into the lineup. They’ll definitely be fighting for a spot when they go into training camp, but most of them need more minor league development time and no matter what anyone thinks, Radko Gudas will get a spot over one of the young guys just because he’s here and we don’t know what he’ll do.
Shayne Gostisbehere is going back to the AHL, that’s not a question. He suffered a season ending injury and got almost no time to develop with the Phantoms, he’ll be back with them for at least one season. Most of the other prospects are less NHL ready than Gostisbehere except for Hagg. The prospects probably won’t get a permanent spot on the roster, not this season at least.