Upgrading ‘D’ by draft, trades shrewd plan by Flyers’ Fletcher

Chuck Fletcher

Yes, we know defense in the NHL involves all six players on the ice.

But when you continuously have more pucks in your own net than the other guys’, people start pointing at the two fellows hanging out around the blue line.

The Flyers know the statistics all too well.

In the past seven seasons, two things jump out at you:

/1. They’ve missed the playoffs in four of those campaigns (with no postseason wins in the other three).

/2. They’ve allowed 54 more goals than they’ve scored since the 2011-12 season, including a whopping minus-37 this past campaign.

So it wasn’t all that startling that Flyers general manager decided to emphasize defense in two recent trades and then continuing that trend by selecting defensemen with three of his first four picks in this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft.

Fletcher was at his wheeling and dealing best, first pulling off a swap on Friday night to move down only three notches (No. 11 to No. 14) while adding a second-rounder (No. 45) to replace the one he lost to San Jose in last week’s trade to get Justin Braun.

With the No. 14 pick he took highly regarded Cam York.

On Saturday, he struck again. After pulling off a trade for forward Bobby Brink, he plucked two more D-men – Ronnie Allard in the third round and Mason Millman in the fourth.

All this despite the fact the Flyers went big on defense last year (in Dallas when Ron Hextall was at the helm) and also that they already have a loaded stable of young guns trying to establish themselves in the NHL.

If you consider the Flyers added Braun and Matt Niskanen from the Capitals, it’s clear Philadelphia is looking to improve its defense, not only now but the future.

Assistant general manager Brent Flahr said at the conclusion of Saturday’s second session at the draft that there was no preconceived plan for things to work out the way they did.

“That’s just how it fell,’’ he explained. “We wanted York and we felt strongly about Allard and Millman, two Ontario guys.’’

All this has to be positive news for impending second-year goaltender Carter Hart, who at times was left on an island left year and seemed to be facing 40-plus shots on a nightly basis.

The Flyers have replaced two veterans – Radko Gudas and Andrew MacDonald – with two other veterans who have Stanley Cup Final experience.

And they have loaded the cupboard with enough young defensemen to possibly use one or more as trade chips down the road.

A relatively new front office, a new coaching staff and now some new players, both on the Flyers and in the development system.

The first order of business will be to change all those red numbers into black ones.

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About Wayne Fish 2471 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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