The Philadelphia Flyers are presently 29th in the NHL in points scored by their defensemen. Just looking at their roster, you would think the Flyers' defensemen would be a productive lot. Why aren't they contributing more to the team's attack? There are several factors at work here.
The fact that the Philadelphia offense struggled so much earlier in the season certainly doesn't help the statistics of the defense. In the Flyers' 1-7-0 start, the team scored only 11 goals, which meant that nobody was putting up big numbers.
More importantly, the team is still adjusting to coach Craig Berube's new system.
"We’re kind of reinforcing the idea of supporting the attack and really having that second wave of offense coming and supporting the rush," defenseman Braydon Coburn told Rob Parent of the Delaware County Daily Times.
Berube's system does allow defensemen to join the rush at the proper time, but this seems to be the aspect of the game that it is taking the players the longest amount of time to adjust to, in part because it was not a part of Peter Laviolette's attack.
"It's something you have to practice," Berube explained to Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News. "They haven't done it. They aren't used to it."
The Flyers are also not getting much offense from the two defensemen they expected to be the most productive, Mark Streit and Kimmo Timonen.
Streit spent the last five seasons with the New York Islanders and even led the team in scoring in 2008-09. But Streit is adjusting to new teammates as well as a new coach since he just joined the Flyers last summer.
This season, Streit has just one goal and 10 points in 28 games, or 0.36 points per game. He was averaging 0.59 points per game entering this season.
Berube thinks Streit should be able to be more productive. "I think [Streit] is capable of more. He knows that he is, too," Berube told Seravalli. "I think he's coming. I've liked a lot of things that he's done, too. He gets up and he joins the rush really well. I still think we can have our 'D' being more aggressive."
There are some reasons for optimism, including the fact that Streit has three points in his last five games, right at his career average.
Streit remains confident he can contribute more to the Philadelphia attack. "I want to move the puck quick, jump into the play and be a fourth forward," Streit told Seravalli. "That's something I want to do every night. I also know I will get better as the season goes on. I think I'm pointed in the right direction."
Kimmo Timonen is the other defenseman the Flyers would expect to provide consistent offensive production. Last season, the Finnish veteran had 29 points in 45 games during the lockout-shortened campaign.
This year, however, Timonen has only six points in 28 contests, and three of them came in one game. Age may be a factor as Timonen will be 39 in March. He is still logging plenty of minutes, however, averaging 21:31 per game.
Assuming the team's forwards start scoring goals at their usual pace, the team adjusts to Berube's new system and Streit and Timonen return to their past productivity, the Flyers' defensemen should improve their offensive output.
They may not have the horses to be one of the league's highest-scoring blue-line corps, but if they can just approach the league average, it should mean a lot more wins for the Flyers this season.
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