Philadelphia Flyers: Laviolette and Holmgren Are Making Defensive Mistakes

Ezra SkobeloffCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2013

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 26: Kimmo Timonen #44 is congratulated by Scott Laughton #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers after scoring a goal against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on January 26, 2013 in Sunrise, Florida. The Flyers defeated the Panthers 7-1. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Philadelphia Flyers management made numerous attempts to improve the team's defense in the offseason.

General manager Paul Holmgren offered deals to Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, but neither wound up on Broad Street. The players on the Flyers roster can still make up a solid group, however.

Unfortunately, head coach Peter Laviolette and Holmgren have inserted the wrong players into the lineup, and it's shown over the last few games especially.

It's clear that the masterminds of the Flyers roster are preferring veterans thus far in the season. Players like Kurtis Foster (31) and Andreas Lilja (37) have seen time, yet there's little that these players bring to the team beyond age.

Foster has shown me little in the four games he's played. He is known for having quite the shot from the point, which was supposed to aid Philadelphia's power-play unit. Yet we've yet to see the benefit of it with the man advantage, and we certainly aren't getting too much defensively.

Lilja made his first appearance Tuesday night, and I've never been a fan of the Swede. I'm sure he brought something positive to teams earlier in his career, but even at 35, I was scared when he hit the ice.

The issue with these two players, and Flyer newcomer Bruno Gervais, is that they're as good as mediocre or worse. And more importantly, they've helped the Philadelphia defense become a turnover machine.

A good defensive group will have a mix of size, skating, toughness and puck-moving ability. Of course, you wish all of those players have good hockey IQ, but that's not always the case. The Flyers D-unit is long on size, short on skating and very short on puck-moving defensemen.

At the moment, the only defensemen I am comfortable with are Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn and Kimmo Timonen. 

Getting a healthy Marc-Andre Bourdon would help; he is recovering from a concussion. Bourdon played 45 games last season and showed me a lot. He is a good skater, plays with a great amount of grit and is solid at breaking out of the defensive zone.

While Bourdon is an ideal choice to play as a top-six defenseman, he will only be able to join the ranks of his teammates when he recovers from post-concussion syndrome. 

After the injured Andrej Meszaros and Bourdon, the best options reside in Adirondack playing with the Phantoms in the AHL. Danny Syvret, Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson all have seen time in the NHL with Philadelphia.

Manning and Gustafsson have the highest upside of the three, with Manning representing the Phantoms in this season's AHL All-Star Game. At age 27, Syvret is the oldest of the bunch. I doubt Holmgren and Laviolette would call up two players to Philadelphia, though I'd prefer to see them play more regularly than Gervais and Lilja.

More realistically, I'm begging for the Flyers to call up Gustafsson. He has 30 games under his skates and would add a great skater and puck mover to the lineup. If Laviolette paired him with a veteran like Grossmann or Coburn, Philadelphia's back line would possess greater skill from top to bottom.

After playing a chunk of games in 2011-2012, it's about time the Flyers let the 23-year-old Swede play his way into a permanent role in Philadelphia.