Philadelphia Flyers' fans knew how important Andrej Meszaros was going to be to their team's defense this season. The last thing that they wanted to learn is that he tore his right Achilles tendon while training last week.
Ryan Howard tore his left Achilles tendon at the end of the Philadelphia Phillies playoff series against the St. Louis Cardinals last October and didn't return to major league action until early July. While it's good that Meszaros had successful surgery today, if he recovers at a rate that is similar to what Howard experienced, he wouldn't be back with the Flyers until after the playoffs have already begun. (This assumes that a new collective bargaining agreement allows the season to start on time, if at all.)
Summer school lessons
General manager Paul Holmgren made a large offer to Nashville Predators unrestricted free agent defenseman Ryan Suter during this offseason. He rejected that overture and chose to become a member of the Minnesota Wild instead.
Less than one day later, Matt Carle was allowed to join the Tampa Bay Lightning via free agency.
Then 'Homer' set the hockey world ablaze through his aggressive pursuit of Predators restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber. That team's captain did sign the Flyers' offer sheet, but the Predator's ownership group reached into their collective pockets and prevented Weber from moving to Philadelphia.
Hardly lost among more current news is the lingering fact that Chris Pronger remains out of action with ongoing concussion symptoms. While money matters related to his 35+ contract and the cap are reconciled by the Flyers' front office staff, those people and all fans realize that 'Prongs' likely permanent absence continues to cause problems.
Combine all of the above information with the loss of Meszaros, who was recovering from back surgery as well, and defensive depth issues have become even more glaring.
Two defenders at a time will play in front of Ilya Bryzgalov (or backup Michael Leighton) during the 2012-13 season. No hockey fan needs to be told that three pairings of defensemen, for a total of six blue line men, will be used by head coach Peter Laviolette during most games. (A team may occasionally dress seven defensemen, depending upon certain circumstances as well.)
Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann, Luke Schenn, Bruno Gervais, Andreas Lilja, Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Bourdon (currently a restricted free agent) and Brandon Manning now comprise what remains of the Flyers' defense.
After Timonen, Coburn, Grossmann and Schenn, Laviolette does have serviceable players who can fill his fifth and sixth defensive spots. But, the loss of any of his top four defenders for an extended period of time could be devastating.
Holmgren may opt to sign, or trade for, another defender before the season begins. With whatever he decides, at least two of his young defensemen seem likely to gain far more ice time than anticipated as the upcoming season unfolds.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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