End of the Year Grades: The Defense and Goaltending

Photo by Heather Barry

Part two of the end of year grades for the Flyers. This time, the defense and the goaltending. You can see the forwards’ grades here.

Reminder that these grades are not based on each player’s season itself. They’re based on how they performed against early-season expectations.

A- They were much better than expected

B- They were better than expected

C- They were about what was expected

D- They were worse than expected

F- They were much worse than expected

Defense
Del Zotto – C
Michael Del Zotto has had an up-and-down season. At some points, he’s looked like he could be the best defenseman on the team. At others, he’s clearly been one of the worst. Overall, though, he played a decent season for him. He was about what I expected. When he wasn’t a healthy scratch, that is.

Gostisbehere – D
“Ghost isn’t going to have a sophomore slump, he’s too good for that.” My famous last words, eh?

Shayne Gostisbehere should have won the Calder last year, no doubt. He was by far the best rookie in the league (and was actually a rookie unlike someone I won’t mention by name). That’s why expectations for him going into this season were probably unrealistically high. Maybe he, like Giroux, never fully healed from his off-season surgery. Maybe other teams figured him out and he was unable to get around that. No matter what the issue was, Shayne Gostisbehere wasn’t himself this season. Like Giroux and Voracek, he had his moments where we all thought “yeah, there he is!” But unfortunately this just wasn’t his year. He seemed to start to find his way again towards the end of the year, but it would be unfair to him and to reality to claim that he was anywhere close to meeting expectations.

Gudas – A
Radko, Radko, Radko. My dude. To be honest? I wasn’t expecting much. He’s a good player but he always plays right on that line between hard-hitting and dirty, and in a Flyers uniform that typically results in a multitude of penalties and a suspension or two. He got his suspension out of the way early in the season, though, and then never looked back. Throughout the majority of the season he was able to reign in his temper and control his actions, taking less penalties than I expected. It allowed him to be on the ice doing his job and defending the goal. If it wasn’t for Ivan Provorov, I would probably say he was the best defenseman on the team.

MacDonald – F
The bar literally couldn’t have been lower Andrew MacDonald and yet somehow he still managed to underperform. The worst part is, poor Ivan Provorov was stuck carrying around his dead weight the entire season. Mac would have gotten a D had he not dragged the kid down with him. Just horrible all around.

Side Note: Hakstol, buddy. If you’re reading this? We gotta talk about some of the decisions you made this season.

Manning – B
Truthfully, I really had no solid expectations for Brandon Manning. He’s a 3rd pairing defensive talent at best and in the beginning of the year I was expecting him to be scratched a lot of the time. But he was actually a lot better than that. Not outstanding, but definitely better than expected. He made good plays, he created scoring opportunities, and he threw down the gloves when he had to spark his team. And hey, any mediocre defenseman that can get under the skin of the league’s “golden child” like he did is good in my book. Bonus points for the Clark Kent glasses he wore at the Wives’ Carnival.

Provorov – A
Look, Ivan. Everything the light touches is your kingdom.

No, but seriously. This season started a little rocky, but to be honest I expected way more bumps in his particular road. The way he handled some of the league’s top talent with ease this season was completely unexpected and I loved it. It just shows that Ivan Provorov is an NHL-caliber defenseman and nothing (read: no one) is going to drag him down for good. He’s definitely still got some growing to do, but remember he’s still only 20 years old and was playing his first season of professional hockey. Just imagine when he’s finally paired with someone of equal talent.

Schultz – C
I don’t know, man. Nick Schultz exists. Sometimes he plays hockey but most of the time he sits in the press box. I don’t even notice him when he is playing. He wasn’t terrible this season, but then again you’d have to actually play in order to be terrible. Pretty much exactly what I expected from him.

Streit – B
Dearest Mark. Where do we begin? While he was with the Flyers, his season was just mediocre. Not good, but not terrible. Had he not been traded, he probably would have gotten a C. But in my opinion the return on his trade was good enough to bump his grade up a little. I would say good luck to him in the playoffs, but I really can’t. I generally like you Mark, but I hope you get swept in the first round.

Goalies
Mason – C
Steve Mason deserved a contract extension over Michal Neuvirth. There, I said it. Now that that’s out of the way… Mason’s season was pretty much exactly what I expected out of him. One game he looked practically unbeatable and the next game he was giving up easy goals. Inconsistency has always been his biggest weakness and this season was no different. The good and the bad pretty much cancel each other out, leaving him with an overall average season. Basically on par with how he’s performed in the past few years, though I was hoping for better.

Neuvirth – D
Like Mason, Michal Neuvirth’s season was extremely inconsistent. The two biggest differences between the two were save percentage (Neuvy: .891, Mason: .908) and the injury Neuvy suffered in November that caused him to miss a decent amount of games. Clearly he did enough to earn himself a contract extension, but unless Hextall knows Vegas wants to take him off our hands, I really don’t understand why. Overall, a less-than-expected season for Neuvirth.

Stolarz – B
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to see Anthony Stolarz in an NHL game this season. I’m extremely glad to be wrong this time. Stolie only appeared in seven NHL games this season (four starts), but he played admirably in all of them. He had two shut outs, one combined with Neuvirth, and a solid .928 save percentage. The only game he really looked bad in was his loss to the Rangers, but even then there were extenuating circumstances that can easily explain his performance. Seven games isn’t a great sample size, but what we’ve seen has been good. I’m excited to see what he can do with a full season in the NHL.

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