Immediately after announcing that Randy Jones would be undergoing surgery and will miss significant time, Philadelphia Flyers’ coach John Stevens hinted at the proposal of pulling apart top defensive pairing Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn in order to reinforce the banged up blue line. Friday afternoon, he made it official.
Due to the injuries to Jones and Ryan Parent, Timonen will now be paired with Finnish countryman Ossi Vaananen and Braydon Coburn will go with Steve Eminger. But the most surprising combination is the pairing of Lasse Kukkonen and rookie Luca Sbisa.
Timonen and Coburn was the Flyers’ top pairing last season and were matched up throughout training camp. The natural synergy between the two will have to take a backseat to a less top-heavy blue line.
The new combination of Timonen and Vaananen shouldn’t be too out of sorts seeing as the two are very friendly and should be able to communicate clearly. Vaananen has a big, stay at home style, while Timonen is the puck mover that can cover a lot of ground. Vaananen does not play a mistake-free game, which should be less exposed with veteran Timonen next to him.
The pairing of Coburn and Eminger may be the most mobile set on the team. Both players have a decent set of wheels and both can contribute on the offensive side. Coburn may turn into the stay at home defender, allowing Eminger to drift, limiting his mistakes. Unsure as to which Eminger will show up, the Washington Capitals castoff or skilled Kitchener Ranger, Coburn will be there to limit and gaffs by Eminger if he decides to re-live his D.C. days. Eminger is a career minus-44 and Coburn is a career plus-14. It will be interesting to see how Eminger reacts to the bump in ice time.
The combination of Kukkonen – Sbisa is somewhat of a head-scratcher. Kukkonen, despite being a relatively consistent defender, has lapses in his own end from time to time. He struggles with turnovers and would best be suited with sure-handed partner. 18-year old Sbisa on the other hand is just a rookie and apt to flash nerves in his first NHL game. More of a question mark than anything else, one should expect Sbisa to make rookie mistakes and with Kukkonen as his partner, those mistakes are not likely to be corrected on the spot. Because of the vulnerability of this proposed line, it is not likely that the pairing will see significant ice time together.
Although the lines are subject to change at a moment’s notice, the new pairings give the Flyers reinforcement down the ranks, as opposed to a top-heavy defense corps. The Flyers will test the new pairings when they open the season Saturday, Oct. 11, against the New York Rangers.