Ranking the 5 Greatest Defensemen in Philadelphia Flyers History

Dan FremuthContributor IIIMay 31, 2013

Ranking the 5 Greatest Defensemen in Philadelphia Flyers History

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    The Philadelphia Flyers may have had issues on defense this past season, but that hasn't always been the case.

    At times in their 45-year history, the Orange and Black have been among the stingiest defensive teams in the league.

    And whether it's been the hulking towers of power on the back end or the smooth-skating offensive defensemen, Philadelphia's history features some of the game's finest blueliners.

    Here's a look at the five greatest defensemen in the long and storied history of the Philadelphia Flyers.

5. Andre Dupont

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    Andre Dupont was a mainstay on the Flyers blue line during the franchise's most successful era.

    "Moose" patrolled Philadelphia's back end during 10 of his 13 NHL seasons and was a part of the team's back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.

    Dupont's most productive offensive seasons came with the Orange and Black (97 points over three seasons from 1974-1977), and he always provided a physical presence for the Broad Street Bullies.

    He accumulated 1505 penalty minutes in 539 games in a Flyers sweater. In true Philadelphia fashion, that includes a stretch of five straight campaigns with better than 200 penalty in minutes from 1973 to 1978.

    Winner of the Barry Ashbee Award as the team's best defenseman following the 1976-77 season, the Trois-Rivieres, Quebec native ranks sixth all time among Philadelphia skaters with a plus-269 rating.

4. Kimmo Timonen

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    Since the Flyers acquired Kimmo Timonen in the summer of 2007, he has far and away been the club's top defenseman.

    A model of consistency, Timonen has played in 442 of a possible 455 regular-season games during his six-year tenure with the Orange and Black while averaging just under 23 minutes of ice time per game during that stretch.

    A consistent offensive contributor, the Kuopio, Finland native has paced all Philadelphia blueliners in scoring in four of his six seasons with the club and has been rewarded with the Barry Ashbee Trophy following each of those campaigns.

    All told, Timonen has registered 32 goals, 203 assists and 235 points with the Flyers and will likely conclude his stellar career in the City of Brotherly Love.

3. Jimmy Watson

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    Like Dupont, Jimmy Watson was instrumental on Philadelphia's back end during the Flyers' most successful period.

    The Smithers, British Columbia native spent his entire NHL career (10 seasons, 1972-1982) with the Orange and Black and was not only a part of the team's back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975 but a member of four conference championship squads as well.

    Watson ranks fifth all time among Philadelphia skaters with a plus-295 rating and was a steady offensive contributor on the back end, averaging nearly 25 points per 82 games.

    Watson earned the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team's top defender following the 1975-76 and 1977-78 campaigns.

2. Eric Desjardins

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    Eric Desjardins was acquired by the Philadelphia Flyers along with John LeClair during the 1994-95 season and would play the final 10 seasons of his illustrious NHL career in Philadelphia.

    A two-time All-Star with the Flyers, Desjardins won the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team's top defenseman a record seven times, including six straight honors from 1995 to 2000.

    The native of Rouyn, Quebec currently ranks eighth all time among Philadelphia skaters in games played (738), while his 396 points with the Orange and Black are good for second all time among Flyers defensemen.

    Desjardins' most productive offensive seasons came in Philadelphia, where he registered back-to-back 50-point campaigns during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons and recorded seven of his 10 career 30-point campaigns in the City of Brotherly Love.

1. Mark Howe

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    Mark Howe is the indisputable best defenseman in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers.

    The son of NHL legend Gordie Howe, Mark ranks first all time among Philadelphia defensemen in scoring with 480 points (84 ahead of second-place Desjardins). What's more, the Detroit, Michigan native ranks eighth all time among Philadelphia skaters with 342 assists.

    Howe spent 10 of his 16 NHL campaigns with the Orange and Black and claimed the Barry Ashbee Trophy four times during his time in the City of Brotherly Love.

    A four-time All-Star, Howe registered 50 or more points during each of his first six seasons with the Flyers and still holds the club record for most points by a defenseman in a single season (82 in 1985-86) and the best plus-minus by any Philadelphia skater in a single year (plus-85 in 1985-86).

    Howe was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in November of 2011 and saw his No. 2 jersey retired by the Flyers less than four months later.