As Injuries Decimate the Roster, Flyers Bring In Some "New Guys" >

by Nick Arnold

Sunday, April 07, 2013 --

Over this season the team has failed to fire on all cylinders. Individual players have stepped up, but the whole team hasn't clicked at the same time. With their backs against the wall and their playoff hopes all but dead, a slew of injuries looked to be the last nail in the Flyers' coffin for this year.

Coburn, Meszaros, Grossmann, Talbot, Briere and Rinaldo all went down with injuries in the last few weeks ranging from a separated shoulder to a broken leg. Timonen is now playing injured after blocking a shot in the tilt in Toronto a couple of nights ago while Luke Schenn was busted open after he took a puck to the helmet in Saturday's game vs. Winnipeg.

We are essentially playing with one-and-a-half Top 6 defensemen. On top of that, we are missing a high powered, high energy role player in Zac Rinaldo, an excellent and intelligent offensive and defensive forward/penalty killer in Max Talbot, and...well, Danny Briere.

To fill in the holes in our roster, the Flyers brought Gustafsson back up from the Phantoms and called up the 6'6", 220 pound Danish beast of a defenseman Oliver Lauridsen for his first taste of NHL action. Holmgren also made moves to pick up/trade for Kent Huskins (D), Adam Hall (RW) and Jay Rosehill (LW).

Homer also traded Michael "We'll Never Forgive You For Patrick Kane's Weak OT Goal" Leighton and a 2015 third round pick to Columbus for Steve Mason, a 24-year-old net minder who won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year for the 08-09 season.

Many of these additions have been met by fans with confusion and irritation. "How are guys like Hall and Rosehill going to replace Talbot or Rinaldo? Who the hell is Kent Huskins and why didn't we trade for Yandle or Shattenkirk? Oliver Lauridsen? Is he going to be able to keep up in the NHL? Steve Mason...that doesn't sound like Pekka Rinne!" Well, friends, let's take a quick look at these new guys and how they've played in their few games as Flyers.

Hall & Rosehill

Adam Hall was picked up off of waivers from TB on trade deadline day as a depth move after Max Talbot went down with a broken leg. When Hall was acquired, many Flyers fans had never heard much about him and therefore didn't care for his presence on the team. He isn't that top 4 d-man we wanted the Flyers to trade for. He isn't Bobby Ryan. Why did we pick this guy up?

Hall's NHL career isn't exactly amazing. Prior to joining the Flyers, he played 26 games this season in Carolina and Tampa Bay, scoring 0 goals and 4 assists. He has 147 points in 592 career games and has a +/- rating of -59. His highest scoring season was in 05-06 on the Predators when he scored 29 points (14 G, 15 A) in 75 games.

The trade for Jay Rosehill brought even more groans from Flyers fans. Homer sent Harry Zolnierczyk to Anaheim for Jay Rosehill on Monday, April 1st. Rosehill played the entirety of this season on the Ducks' AHL affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. He isn't known for his scoring prowess (2 G, 3 A in 72 NHL games before the trade) and is more just a big, bruising forward.

So... how have they done so far in the Orange and Black?

Skating on a line with Couturier, Hall and Rosehill have brought a lot of much needed grit to this struggling team. It has been stated many times by fans that the Flyers haven't seemed to have that fire or heart this season that they are usually known for. This line has been surprisingly effective so far.

In the Toronto game, Hall and Rosehill worked very well in getting the puck in deep and grinding along the boards, winning battles and hitting hard. The best part of their game is the net presence they bring. Hall and Rosehill were a terror for Reimer, causing lots of trouble around the crease and setting up screens.

Their work paid off when Rosehill set up in front of Reimer as Hall skated from behind the net to disrupt the Toronto goaltender who was edging out of the crease to see around Rosehill's big frame. Couturier blasted a shot that deflected off of Rosehill and past Reimer who was tangled up with Hall.

With the goal credited to him and a fight in the game Rosehill was an assist away from a Gordie Howe hat trick in his first game as a Flyer. Unfortunately the game in Winnipeg didn't turn out as well as the Flyers dominated the first period but unraveled after Luke Schenn took the shot to his face in the second. Despite this, the line of Rosehill, Couturier and Hall still played very well in the first and part of the second period, giving Pavelec some trouble and getting a few shots on goal.

It's only been two games so it's hard to tell how they will continue to play. In the meantime most fans have agreed in being more than happy with the performances these two have brought to the table thus far. Their net presence is outstanding, they hit hard, and they grind along the boards and win battles.

"Corn" Huskins

Kent Huskins was acquired on March 30th from the Red Wings for a conditional seventh round pick in next year's draft. He was on the 2007 Stanley Cup Ducks team. Not known to be an offensive machine, the stay-at-home defenseman had 67 points (13 G, 54 A) before his move to Philly. He had no points and a -3 rating this season in Detroit.

In 4 games with Philadelphia, Huskins has impressed the club. Playing on the bottom pair for the most part, he's averaged a little over 17 minutes of ice time and has a handful of blocked shots. His positioning has been solid, taking away passing lanes and causing turnovers.

In Saturday's game against Winnipeg he set up the team's only goal as he whipped a shot towards the net that was deflected in by Ruslan Fedotenko. It was Huskins' first point as a Flyer and first of the season.

With Coburn, Meszaros and Grossmann all still out with injuries, Huskins has done an admirable job in his first week as a part of this Flyers team. While he may not be dropping anyone's jaws with his play, it has to be noted that he has been a solid addition to this ailing team.

"The Great Dane" Lauridsen

I don't want to get ahead of myself or get everyone's expectations up very prematurely, but this kid excites me about our future defensive core. At six and a half feet tall and over 200 pounds, Lauridsen could be one monster of a d-man if developed properly. In his first stint in the Big Club, he has 1 assist and a -1, though he was +2 until Saturday's abomination of a game in the 'Peg.

His average TOI isn't high, but that's not surprising with him being the least experienced of our blue line bunch. His play has been spotty, but overall positive. The Great Dane has a long reach and a very physical style of play. He doesn't shy away from hits and blocks shots as well as his defensive partners.

Like Huskins, Lauridsen is known as a stay-at-home defenseman. His positioning and puck play are very good for someone who's never played at the NHL level before. He was shaky at first with out-letting the puck from our zone, but after a game or two he was completing great stretch passes to set up offensive chances.

Coach Laviolette had this to say about Lauridsen's first NHL game: “I think when a young player comes in, you want to watch him and see how he’s doing in his first game and see how he progresses….and he did a good job defensively. If you have a guy that’s playing a good game and doing what he’s asked to, it doesn’t make sense  keep him on the bench and change things up in the final five or ten minutes. He played a strong game for us.”

I don't like singling players out because at the end of the day, it is a team game and you win or lose as a team. However, it has to be noted that since our "top" defensemen Coburn and Meszaros went down, our defense has actually looked stronger. Maybe it's because we are fighting for our lives to make the playoffs so everyone has finally hit that "do or die" mentality. Maybe it's because the new guys want to prove themselves by giving 150%. Whatever it is, Huskins, Lauridsen and even Gustafsson - who we have had our issues with earlier this season - have stepped up in a big way in the absence of our top blue liners.

"Stone" Mason

Steve Mason's career NHL stats are a bit of an enigma. In his rookie year in 2009 he posted a .916 SV% and 2.29 GAA in 61 games for Columbus, leading them to the first and only playoff berth in team history and winning him the Calder Trophy. He went 33-20-7 that year and posted 10 shutouts.

Since then, he has had mediocre numbers. His NHL career SV% sits at .903 and his GAA at 2.89. Not exactly elite starting goaltender stats. Remember, however, that he was on an abysmal Blue Jackets team which hasn't had another good season until this year. He is only 24 years of age and you've got to believe that he has the potential to be a #1 net minder in this league.

Mason stirred up a bit of commotion in the internet community when fans read a quote from him stating his intentions in Philly: "My job is to come in here and become the goaltender that the organization believes I can be: And that’s to be a No. 1 goaltender. I’m fully prepared to put the work in." For one reason or another, everyone went nuts, saying that Mason had just caused another goalie controversy.

But that's not how I see it at all, and hopefully that's not how it plays out. The way I see it, Philadelphia has had a goaltender controversy for a few years now. Past that, we haven't had a true elite #1 net minder in God knows how long. But honestly, to say that Mason's quote was to "stir things up" is laughable.

What else would you want your newly acquired goalie to say? "I'll do my best to warm the bench behind Bryzgalov!" To me, his attitude of wanting to work his ass off for a new start as a true starting goaltender on this team is refreshing and uplifting. Bryzgalov has been on the receiving end of some pretty strong criticism since he started here. He has had so many zany quotes that everyone has had a field day with that I've often forgotten he was our goalie. I thought we had signed a court jester to cheer up the team after each loss.

I have no hatred towards Ilya. I loved him in Phoenix and I've defended him here when he's had all the blame put on him no matter how terrible the rest of the team played in front of him sometimes. Despite his numbers, Bryz has played relatively well this season. But as we've said before on our page, 2013 Bryzgalov is not the issue. 2017-2020 Bryzgalov and his 5.6+ mil cap hit are the issue.

Does this mean Mason will be our starter? Who knows? He is currently in talks to sign an extension with the Flyers and will most likely be taking a slight pay cut, and he understands that. He wants a new start and a new chance to become the #1 goaltender. So who knows?

In his only period so far as a Flyers, he stopped all 9 shots he faced. His positioning was good, his puck-handling was far better than Bryzgalov's has been at times, and his rebound control was excellent. It was only one period of play so it's impossible to gauge this kid's future with the team, but at the very least he didn't look like a cold goalie that wasn't ready for the job.

With Saturday's loss in Winnipeg, the Flyers sit at 11th place with 37 points, 5-points out of 8th place. It's hard to say how they'll bounce back on Tuesday against the Islanders, but it's safe to say these newcomers have been a very positive part of this team so far. Here's hoping they continue their strong play in this final push for a playoff spot. 

Let's go Flyers!

Rosehill & Hall Cover Photo.jpg 

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