PHILADELPHIA – Good defensemen are like umpires. When no one talks about them, it usually means they’re getting the job done.
Such might be the case with the Flyers’ Robert Hagg, now about to enter his second season in the NHL.
Last season, Hagg was among rookie leaders in both hits and blocked shots but those stats were among the best-kept secrets around the league.
To be honest, every team needs a guy who plays a physical style, be it delivering body checks or diving in front of pucks.
The Flyers have a veteran bouncer with Radko Gudas, but Hagg is just about the only other backliner who puts fear into opposing forwards.
It’s a role the Swede admittedly takes pride in and looks to continue this season.
“I mean, it’s part of my job,’’ Hagg said in his usual understated manner. “Of course, it was a big success for me. That’s something I need to do this year.
“I do look at the stats once in a while and you see your name up there. Of course, you take pride in it but at the same time, you can’t look at stats all the time.’’
When he came over from Sweden, it took a while with the Phantoms for Hagg to get used to playing so many games in a season (compared to Europe) but once he developed the endurance, it’s been smooth sailing.
“I’m a physical guy and I like to play physical,’’ he said. “If that’s what needs to be done, that’s my job I guess.’’
The experience of having played a year in the NHL should work in his favor.
“I kind of know what to expect now,’’ he said. “This will be a big year, too. I like to play a lot. It’s easier for me to get into my game.’’
Coach Dave Hakstol confirms that having a tough guy out there is a big benefit for his team.
“I think it’s an important element to have in at least a couple guys back there,’’ he said. “I mean, you want to have some sandpaper in everybody, some competitiveness, obviously. To have one or two guys who can play a hard, heavy game on a consistent basis is really important.
“Right from day one of training camp this year, ‘Hagger’ has had those elements. Those are staples of his game. Every day we’re seeing the finer points of his game get sharper.’’
Fourth line candidates
There has been a lot of speculation about what the Flyers’ fourth line will look like this season.
Some possible candidates for that unit include Jordan Weal (center), Michael Raffl and Scott Laughton on the wings. Dale Weise, Jori Lehtera are also in the mix.
Hakstol was asked what he’s looking for in terms of roles for these players.
“That still has to be decided,’’ Hakstol said. “There are still some players in camp that have some different elements. So they’re going to make that decision. One element will be strong two-way play. Another is going to be a penalty kill element and an element of toughness.’’
General manager Ron Hextall said on Sunday that he will make another round of roster cuts most likely on Tuesday and that might clear up the picture a bit more. Currently the roster stands at 25 players.