The defensive depth of the Philadelphia Flyers seems to be gradually waning.
It all began early last fall, after team captain Chris Pronger forfeited his season when it was discovered he was suffering from post-concussion syndrome and lingering knee problems that resurfaced from years prior. Without their top shutdown defenseman, the Flyers' goals-against average took a spike in the wrong direction, and their setbacks on defense were matched by their shaky goaltending.
Earlier this offseason, the Flyers lost two-way defender Matt Carle to free agency. The loss seemed tolerable until Andrej Meszaros tore his Achilles' tendon while training in Slovakia over the summer and will now miss considerable time.
The Flyers seem comfortable with their top two defensive pairs. They can expect some offensive output from Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn, while Nicklas Grossmann and newly acquired Luke Schenn will work more toward goalscoring-preventative measures.
Their bottom pairings were expected to consist of Bruno Gervais and Andreas Lilja, with intermittent appearances from youngsters like Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon.
Without Lilja, the Flyers will have to depend that much more on Gervais, Gustafsson and Bourdon to carry the load. The veteran defender dressed for 46 games last season for the Flyers and was a plus-9 with 61 hits and 72 blocked shots.
Flyers management took opportunities to remedy their depleted defense by pursuing high-profile free agents in Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, almost landing the latter in a landmark offer sheet signing, but neither came to fruition.
General manager Paul Holmgren now must decide if he has enough faith in his current defensive depth to carry the load, or if another deal must be struck to reconcile his defensive losses.