The Philadelphia Flyers announced this morning that defenseman Andrej Meszaros had surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon, an injury that Meszaros apparently suffered while training in his native Slovakia.
The injury will take one of Philadelphia’s top-four defensemen out of the lineup for months, given that recovery from this type of tear can take six months or more before an athlete can return to action.
The news is just the latest downer in a disappointing offseason for the Flyers. Here are seven big offseason moments that are causing concerns for Flyers fans everywhere.
The Flyers selected center Scott Laughton with the 20th pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, a mind-boggling choice given Philadelphia’s depth at center and Laughton’s relatively tame scouting report.
Granted, the Flyers had a low first-round pick and were not going to get an immediate impact player at No. 20. But the team has the need for depth at defense and in goal, and players like Olli Maatta and Malcolm Subban were still available when the Flyers went with Laughton.
It’s unlikely that any selection would have had an effect on Philly’s 2012-13 season, but a more strategic pick would have indicated that Holmgren has faith in his organization’s ability to develop defensemen.
Chris Pronger’s fate may have been a foregone conclusion long before the offseason began, but it wasn’t until the summer that the team truly began to prepare for his absence by going after free agents like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.
Reports out of Pronger’s camp are few and far between, but they have inspired little optimism for Flyers fans. Philadelphia has seen firsthand the devastating effects of concussions on players like Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau, so few Philly faithful realistically believe they will see Pronger put on the orange and black again.
The Flyers appear to have lost their locker room leader, biggest tough-guy and team captain in Pronger.
When the Flyers still had a healthy Meszaros and the potential to bring in a big free agent defenseman, letting Matt Carle go didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Chris Pronger’s former partner was going to get big bucks and likely would have tied up too much money in the blue line.
Now, with Philly’s defensive corps looking weaker than last year’s, Carle’s deal with Tampa Bay has become something for the Flyers to envy.
For all the criticism about turnovers and toughness, Carle was a reliable defenseman who put points on the board. Philly’s somewhat-depleted defense will miss Carle’s contributions.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were the cream of the crop in the 2012 UFA class, and Paul Holmgren made a move for both of them.
Holmgren’s biggest selling point to the free agents was that the Flyers could afford to pay both of them big bucks for a long, long time ($80 million over 12 years).
It seemed unlikely that Holmgren would land both, and some speculation states that Homer never intended to sign either, he merely wanted to drive up the market price. Still, signing either one would have been a major upgrade on offense or defense for the Flyers.
The most intense six days of Philadelphia’s offseason were the six days spanning from Paul Holmgren’s monstrous offer sheet to Shea Weber to Nashville’s bold move to match the contract, dollar for dollar.
In that time, Flyers fans began picturing Weber’s name stitched on the back of an orange uniform, filling in for fallen captain Chris Pronger at the point and slamming Sidney Crosby’s head into the boards instead of Henrik Zetterberg’s.
Alas, Holmgren’s biggest swing produced his biggest miss of the offseason, and while one cannot fault Homer for his attempts, the roster stills lacks an upgrade over the group that bowed down to the New Jersey Devils in the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Perhaps the scariest moment of Philadelphia’s offseason came days before Nashville matched Philly’s offer sheet for Weber, when the New York Rangers acquired Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets and actually saved money in the process.
The Rangers gave up Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick to acquire Nash, whose total salary is slightly lower than the combined NHL salaries of the three players sent to Columbus.
Nash’s presence on New York’s top line makes the potential combination of Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik (when he returns from shoulder surgery) a truly lethal one.
Philly went 0-for-6 against New York last season, and the Rangers have only improved.
When the Flyers missed out on Suter and Weber, the optimist would point out that, while the team lacks a true superstar defenseman, the Flyers could make up for it with their impressive depth on the back end.
The Flyers had an obvious top-five in Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn and Andrej Meszaros, with players like Bruno Gervais, Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon competing for the final spot in the starting lineup.
With Meszaros injured, suddenly Philadelphia’s defense looks very average.
Timonen is beginning to show his age, Schenn’s appeal is more about potential than proven ability, and no other player in Philly’s system can immediately match Meszaros’s combined ability to block shots, throw the body around and put points on the board.