Mr. Everything: The 5 Most Versatile Players on the Philadelphia Flyers
When GM Paul Holmgren traded away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards earlier this summer, the team didn’t simply lose two recognizable faces or its captain and an alternate. The roles played by Carter and Richards were numerous and important. The moves left holes on offense, on the power play, on the penalty kill, and in almost every other facet of the game.
The new Flyers roster includes a number of players whose roles will become clearer once training camp starts, but here are five players who can be relied upon to contribute to the team’s success in many different ways every night.
One could argue that Brayden Schenn has not earned a place on this list, or any other NHL achievement list. The league’s top prospect has only played nine NHL games in his career and does not have the numbers to warrant a slide of praise for his versatility.
But when you have the kind of bright future and high expectations that Schenn has, right or wrong, you’re going to be given recognition a bit prematurely.
Every scouting report about Schenn has trouble summing him up in a paragraph because there are so much to explain about his game and his style of play. For starters, Schenn can be a scrappy player, getting into corners, getting in front of the net, and getting into fights.
No matter how well he performs with another player in his kitchen, he’s that much more sensational when he has a little open ice. The young Schenn-sation can motor down the wing, stick handle around defenders and pepper the net with shots.
He also receives high praise for his ability to see the ice and set up teammates, though the Flyers will likely be looking to Schenn to be the one who puts the puck in the net.
Throughout his career, Chris Pronger has been a force no matter where he is on the ice, and at 6’6, 220 lbs, it’s no surprise that fearlessness and physical intimidation is a major part of his game.
Limited to just 50 games in 2010-11 due to injuries, Pronger still blocked 114 shots. He racked up 41 hits in the action he saw, though that pace didn’t come close to matching the 104 in 82 games the prior season.
Pronger is consistently a force on the power play, providing the heavy shot from the point that the team lacked prior to acquiring the defenseman from Anaheim. He has even been utilized as a screen in 4-on-3 power play situations.
Pronger’s greatest versatility, however, is his versatility as a leader. Though he was not the team’s captain, Pronger routinely addressed the media when Mike Richards refused to, and Pronger gradually became the face of the Flyers. He held players accountable in the locker room as well as on the ice.
Pronger’s offensive and defensive contributions are only half his game, and with Mike Richards now in Los Angeles, all signs point to Pronger being the new captain of the team, and most fans are in agreement that Pronger is fully capable of being a leader in all facets of the game.
If Chris Pronger is the stay-at-home defenseman who is capable of putting up big offensive numbers, Kimmo Timonen is the puck-moving defenseman whose defensively reliability often goes under-appreciated.
The 36-year-old Finn, who was one of the core pieces of the Flyers’ rebuilding process in 2007, was second on the team in both points and goals among defensemen last season, and he took 147 shots last year jumping up into the Flyers’ offensive attack. However, back in his own zone Timonen blocked 175 shots, good enough to make him seventh in the league in the category.
Fearless despite his smaller frame, Timonen racked up nearly 100 hits and caused more turnovers than he created, making him one of the most dependable defensemen in the entire NHL.
His offensive contributions are exceeded only by his defensive reliability. Timonen is not only one of the most versatile players on the Flyers, but is in fact one of the most versatile defensemen in the game today.
2010-11 was not Andrej Meszaros’s coming-out party, but it was certainly a revitalizing season for the former Lightning defenseman. Brought onto the team as a fifth defenseman, Meszaros quickly proved that he was capable of doing everything that a No. 1 blueliner would be asked to do.
For starters, only Darroll Powe threw the body around more than Meszaros; the 25-year-old Slovak, listed as the heaviest defenseman on the team’s roster, registered 189 hits over the course of the regular season.
Meszaros found more ways to punish teams than just physicality. He was ranked first among Flyers defensemen with eight goals, three of which came on the power play. To top it all off, his enthusiasm to contribute on offense paid off in two overtime games as he netted the game-winners.
In the playoffs, Meszaros was one of the few consistent performers for the Flyers. He scored two more goals, registered 20 hits and 20 blocked shots in 11 games, and was tied for fifth on the team in shots taken.
Meszaros is still young, but his game is becoming more polished with every season and he has Flyers fans confident that he will be a force on offense and defense for many years to come.
Claude Giroux is entering his third full season in the NHL, and his remarkably well-rounded style of play already has the most optimistic of scouts and fans describing him as a soon-to-be Peter Forsberg. That’s a comparison that any hockey player would find exciting.
Giroux’s greatest strength is the fact that he has no greatest strength. He has 50 career goals in two-plus seasons, indicating that he has a scoring touch. He also has 100 career assists, meaning that he’s every bit as good a setup man as he is a shooter.
At 23 years old, Giroux is already a mainstay on the power play and the penalty kill, and fans regularly witness him kill 20-30 seconds of penalty time by himself in the opponent’s offensive zone, using his crafty maneuvering and great hockey sense.
The smallest player on the roster doesn’t play like the smallest player on the roster; a hit from Giroux, at 172 lbs, might be less painful than a hit from Chris Pronger, but Giroux was a miniature wrecking ball in 2010-11 with 117 hits in 82 games.
On top of it all, Giroux is a playoff performer. During the Flyers’ Stanley Cup run in 2009-10, Giroux amassed 21 points in 23 games, and in the Flyers’ twelve playoff games in 2010-11 Giroux was good for more than a point per game.
With Mike Richards and Jeff Carter gone, the Flyers are looking for players to exhibit the kind of versatility that the departed players brought to the table. Claude Giroux appears capable of not only matching that standard, but taking it to an even more impressive level.