Listening to new assistant coach Gord Muphy talk about the current state of the Flyers' blue line, you’d swear this organization is right up there with the Bruins, Rangers, Blackhawks or Kings in terms of defensive talent.
“It’s a strong unit,” said the former Flyers' defenseman, who replaced John Paddock on Wednesday (see story).
“I believe there’s a good veteran group. There’s good leadership back there. There’s players with a lot of experience and they all bring something different to the table that’s a very good quality.
“I think it’s a strong group collectively and the sum of the parts is very good. They’re big, they’re strong, they move the puck well and they bring a lot of good elements to the hockey club.”
The spin is good, but it’s not accurate.
Murphy, like Paddock, will have his work cut out for him, especially, if the salary cap-strapped Flyers do nothing more this summer to upgrade a blue line that is light years behind the best clubs in the NHL.
At the moment, the Flyers have less than $5 million available cap space and a number of players still must be re-signed. Their only defensive move so far has been to re-sign Kimmo Timonen, who turns 40 next season.
Since 2000 began, the Flyers are the only NHL club without a single drafted-developed defenseman playing regular minutes for them.
Yet new general manager Ron Hextall has already stated he won’t push his blue chip prospects -- Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg or Samuel Morin -- to the forefront this season, meaning this will be the 15th straight year the Flyers might not have their own homegrown guy on the blue line which is unfathomable to comprehend.
“You don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Murphy said, essentially, backing up Hextall. “It’s important these kids come in and get a taste of that during training camp, and especially the kids coming out of college that haven’t been through what will be their first pro camp.
“So we’ll see. We’ll take a look, but we want to make sure we don’t rush these kids. You don’t want to get overwhelmed and give them too much too early. There’s a lot of talent there for sure.”
Isn’t it time this organization makes it a priority to push a kid along like, say Chicago, or others have done to get some results and maybe a few Cups?
“I can’t speak or comment on the past whether they had a good prospect and he ended up getting into a trade,” said Murphy, who coached in Florida last season and with Team Canada’s under-18 group.
“I don’t know the reason for that. If you ask a question about the prospects that are there now, there are some very good ones. We’ll see how they do and we’re not going to rush them.”
Many outsiders see the defense as the Flyers' biggest obstacle now to winning a Stanley Cup. It’s simply not quick or mobile enough and needs more youth.
Murphy said he didn’t want to rate where the Flyers are on the proverbial “Cup contender” chart.
“I’ll have a better feel once I’m in there a little bit, but I feel they’re very close,” he said. “As an outsider and coaching against them, this is a very strong hockey club. For whatever reason they got off to a sluggish start and then with the coaching change, Craig [Berube] came in and did an outstanding job.
“They play a fast, strong brand of hockey. They’re very competitive. I don’t personally see many weaknesses in the club. They were as good as any team the last three or four months of the season. The run they went on just show the depth and the ability of that team.”