Flyers got what they needed with minor moves

Flyers got what they needed with minor moves
April 7, 2013, 9:00 am

The theme on e-mails and Twitter this past week regarding the Flyers' moves at the trade deadline had a familiar ring to them: They got a goon, a goalie, and another old winger.
 
On the surface, one can understand the fans' frustration, especially those from the age group that was around 38 years ago when the Flyers last won a Stanley Cup.
 
Then there are the season ticket holders, many of whom weren’t even born back then, who have no first-person Cup memories and have been waiting impatiently since the Lindros Era to see a parade on Broad Street.
 
As for the acquisitions, let’s start with Jay Rosehill, the “goon,” as so many people have labeled him.
 
Forget the Flyers’ bully image of the past. Has anyone noticed how their skill guys -- Claude Giroux, et al. -- have been getting hit lately?
 
There has been no active Flyer heavyweight enforcer for a while now. Jody Shelley is done for the season with hip surgery and hadn’t played much to begin with.
 
Tommy Sestito was picked off waivers by Vancouver as the club attempted to return him to the Phantoms.
 
Zac Rinaldo, currently injured, is not a heavyweight. Jakub Voracek, currently playing, is not a fighter.
 
The Flyers needed to get someone with NHL experience who could fight. Rosehill fit the bill. No problem with that.
 
Let’s skip to the older vet -- 32-year-old Adam Hall.
 
Once Max Talbot went down, the Flyers needed a depth forward with the ability to take faceoffs -- Hall's 54 percent execution is very good, and he can play on the penalty kill.
 
Hall didn’t cost them anything. The Flyers simply claimed him off waivers. It was a cost-efficient move for the final 13 games -- that’s a win. And Hall looked good against Toronto on Thursday.
 
Kent Huskins was not a move inspired by the trade deadline. Once Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros joined Nick Grossmann on the injured front, the Flyers had to get a veteran defenseman with NHL experience.

Huskins looks very comfortable on the ice and seems to settle things down. All he cost the Flyers was a 2014 conditional draft pick. That’s a win, too.
 
Which brings us to the goalie -- Steve Mason.
 
Sure, the Flyers could have had Mason a number of times in the past several years, yet something kept them from pursuing a deal.
 
Once upon a time, he played like a rising star for Ken Hitchcock. Then his star flamed out.
 
A number of people were stunned to hear goalie coach Jeff Reese actually say Mason could refurbish his game in pressure-packed Philadelphia.
 
Frankly, this is the last place you want to bring a player -- especially a goaltender -- who is trying to find his game.
 
But was there a need for a backup goalie? Yes.
 
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had zero confidence in Michael Leighton’s ability to spell Ilya Bryzgalov.
 
The Leighton who shocked the hockey world for three playoff rounds in 2010 hasn’t been seen since the Montreal series to decide the Eastern Conference title.
 
Starting with the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals on through this season, the “real” Leighton reappeared.
 
He simply wasn’t good enough in practice, let alone real games, to help the Flyers.
 
General manager Paul Holmgren made some very bad decisions last summer and Leighton was the worst. Holmgren signed him on the cheap at $900,000, and cheap is what the Flyers got as a backup.
 
Which brings us back to the question of whether it was a good move to trade for Mason, who has had four years of misery since winning the Calder Trophy as the league's rookie of the year in 2008-09.
 
The team in front of Mason in Columbus was poor. The team in front of him right now in Philadelphia is slightly better even though its defense is a mess, albeit not as much lately.
 
Unless Holmgren fixes the defense, neither Bryzgalov nor Mason will find any relief next season.
 
Goals against is not always a reflection of the goaltender. It’s a reflection of the team in front of him as well, and the Flyers have been a very poor defensive team 5-on-5 much of this season.
 
What fans wanted to see at the deadline was the Flyers making a bold move to get a scoring winger, like Minnesota did with Jason Pominville, or get a reasonably young impact defenseman who can manage the game, like Shea Weber or Ryan Suter would have represented last summer.
 
Holmgren’s job this offseason is to find two defensemen, including an impact guy, because there are serious doubts about whether Meszaros will ever be the player he once was.
 
Not only has Meszaros become injury-prone, he seems afraid of being re-injured when he plays. That’s a lethal combination on the ice.
 
And how about Coburn ... what has happened to him? He's lost his shot from the point, which was spectacular when he first got here. Now, he’s lost his ability to defend and seems to get stripped of pucks easily.
 
Coburn is not the player he was a few years ago, but he’s still young enough at 28 that he can recover.
 
Still, he's had a couple downer seasons wrapped around just one good one lately, and his offensive numbers have been in decline since 2007-08 -- from 0.46 points per game then to 0.15 this year.
 
The Flyers need to consider whether Coburn is going to recover as player with the Flyers or if he should be moved this summer instead.
 
League-wide, the one team that boosted its chances the best and outdid everyone else leading up to and through the trade deadline was the Pittsburgh Penguins.
 
Because the Penguins had no player on long-term injury (LTIR), every contract they got was pro-rated. That saved them millions on the salary cap to add Brenden Morrow, Douglas Murray, Jarome Iginla and Jussi Jokinen.
 
That aside, however, GM Ray Shero’s club also suffered the worst blow of any Cup contender -- the loss of Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw, amid rumors the best player in the game might also be concussed.
 
So far, the team says Crosby is not experiencing concussion symptoms.
 
You’ve already seen how the Pens have looked this week without Crosby in the lineup -- their 15-game winning streak came to an end with two defeats in a row. Right there, that could be the difference between a Cup or no Cup.
 
Similarly, the Boston Bruins, who lost out on both Morrow and Ryane Clowe, did well in picking up Jaromir Jagr. But the loss of Patrice Bergeron to yet another concussion dims their chances for the Cup.
 
It would have been interesting if Danny Briere (concussion) had been healthy this past week. There's no doubt he would have waived his no-movement clause to head to Boston, where he could work his usual playoff magic.
 
All of which brings us back around to the Flyers.
 
Give Holmgren credit for this: He did nothing this week that cost the Flyers a valuable prospect, high draft pick, or a top six player off his roster.
 
It tells us the Flyers are going to save their valuable chips this summer to restock the blue line, which remains their most pressing need.
 
Meanwhile, the debate will rage as to whether Bryzgalov would have been better down the stretch if the defense were better and he had more rest. Or maybe Bryz’s flashes of brilliance in late January into February and early March were just a mirage.
 
Mason is not here to take his job. He’s the backup.
 
And twice Holmgren has dodged questions about Bryz’s future in goal.
 
Ahh, that’s another column for another day.