After the Flyers dramatic run to the Stanley Cup Finals, Paul Holmgren saw several holes in the team he needed to fill this off-season. He solved one problem by retaining Michael Leighton, but he also needed to deal with issues of team toughness, goal scoring, salary cap, and most importantly padding the defense.
Here is a look at the five new faces that will be attending the 2010-11 Flyers training camp to do just that.
Shelley throws a lot of hits and can rack up a lot of time in the box. He’s ranked 17th among active NHL players in career penalty minutes. He’s known for his physicality and he’ll drop the gloves against anyone.
It’s likely that Shelley will replace replace Arron Asham, who signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He can also take the pressure off of Ian Laperriere, who does most of the fighting for the Flyers.
Shelley is not known for his goal scoring, but Flyers fans will remember he scored a goal in each of the two remaining games against the Flyers last season. As a seasoned veteran he’s learned defensive accountability. It’s likely he’ll either round out the trio, as the forechecker, with Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk or play on the fourth line as an energy guy.
After the Blue Jackets selected him fourth overall in the 2003 draft, Zherdev was believed to be on his way to becoming their newest franchise scorer. But after only two seasons, one of which he scored 26 goals, Zheredev and the team parted ways. He was picked up by the Rangers and went on to lead the team in offense with 23 goals and 58 points. At the end of the season the Rangers refused to re-sign him and he shipped out to the KHL for the 2009-10 season.
Zheredev has a reputation for a poor work ethic and slacking off in his own zone. He was brought in by the Flyers to offset the loss of offense in the Simon Gagne trade. Zherdev will most likely perform offensively, but not replace Gagne on the defensive side of the puck. There’s a big question mark on his reliability.
Zheredev apparently turned over a new leaf and the Flyers are willing to give him a chance to prove he’s matured and ready for the NHL work load. He’ll more than likely be on a line with Mike Richards and possibly do some work on the power play. It’s uncertain whether he’ll be trusted in clutch situations or anywhere else.
Meszaros entered the NHL with the Senators as a fireplug, scoring 10 goals and 39 points, good enough to make the All-Rookie team. His production dropped off the next season with more responsibility, but he played on an Ottawa team that competed for the Stanley Cup in 2007 only to lose to the Anaheim Ducks. The following season saw a slight improvement, but afterwards he was sent to Tampa Bay where he has floundered for two straight seasons.
Meszaros is hoping that a new scene will help revitalize his game. He’s got a reputation for great two-way play specializing in shot-blocking, shooting, and hitting. The Flyers will most likely start him out on the third defensive pair and in limited use in special teams, but if Meszaros plays well he should see more ice time.
O’Donnell played alongside Chris Pronger on the Anaheim Ducks team that won the Stanley Cup in 2007. He’s a big tough stay at home defender, who, even at his age, has only missed seven games in the last four seasons. He’s a fluid skater and another big body on defense for the Flyers. He’ll probably pair with Meszaros for the third defensive pairing.
Don’t look for anything special from O’Donnell, but his experience and calm make him an asset in his own zone.
Walker came over from Tampa Bay in the Gagne trade. He’s a physical defenseman who throws plenty of hits, blocks shots, and he’s also not afraid to fight when needed. A right-hand shot, the only one on the Flyers defense, could make him more useful, but he’ll most likely see limited play this season.
Walker will be the seventh defenseman entering this season and will only appear in cases of injury or if O’Donnell struggles with age down the stretch. This also means Oskars Bartulis will more than likely wind up back in the AHL with the Adirondack Phantoms.
Going into 2010-11, the Flyers have arguably the best defense in the NHL. They’ll be a tough and nasty team to play against. On paper they have a group that should score goals, but the same was true last season and their offense sputtered at times.
Aside from the defensive position, their team defense needs to be strong, but the biggest question mark remains whether Leighton is the goaltender Philadelphia has been waiting for. A bonus for next season, Peter Laviolette will have a full training camp to prepare.