Over on Hockeybuzz.com Eklund, the anonymous rumor guru, gave us his usual rumor update. I enjoy reading his blogs, however, I usually take what he has to say with a grain of salt. When it comes to rumors regarding the Philadelphia Flyers, I pay more attention because he does seem to have some reliable sources/info from within the organization. In his rumor blog today he had this to say about the Flyers blue line:
A good source tells me the Flyers are looking hard to add a physical force to their blue line. someone who can help clear the porch for Mason. Currently that role is supposed to be played by Luke Schenn and Nicklas Grossmann, but the team is looking more for a “Luke Richardson” type.
Both Luke Schenn and Nickals Grossmann provide a “physical force” for the Flyers blueline. They are big, slow, and effective (when they keep their game simple) stay-at-home defensemen. With Schenn, Grossmann, and Coburn, the Flyers have enough size on the back end, what they lack is skill. Names like Dustin Byfuglien and Dimitry Kulikov are thrown out in trade rumors because of this glaring need. I agree that changes need to be made on the blue line. However, instead of a trade, the first move I would make would come from within: Give Erik Gustafsson a permanent spot in the lineup.
Here are the facts –
Flyers record: With Gus – 11-7-2 Without Gus – 13-12-2
Flyers Goals Per Game: With Gus – 3.15 Without Gus – 2.26
Defensemen Points Per Game:
Streit – .43
Mez – .37
Gus – .35
Timonen – .30
Coburn, Gorssmann, L Schenn, Gill – <.20
Corsi For % (via ExtraSkater.com):
Timonen – 55.0%
Coburn – 51.6%
Gus – 51.0%
L.Schenn – 50.3%
Streit, Mez, Grossmann, Gill – <50.0%
The bottom line? The Flyers shoot more, score more, and win more when Gustafsson is on the ice.
When it comes to the play of Gustafsson, I could go on and on with both “traditional” and advanced stats to show how valuable he is to this team. For a lot of the advanced stats on Gus, I would recommend following Bob Roberts, @BobRbrts, on Twitter. He knows his stuff.
Gustafsson, who turned 25 a month ago, is also the second youngest defenseman on the Flyers roster. Having been an NHL/AHL ‘tweener’ for the past couple of seasons, he has only been given glimpses at the NHL level. He played 30 games in the 2011-2012 season and 27 games last year. The only chance that he has had to show the Flyers what he can do for an extended period of time was at the end of last season. The Flyers blueline was depleted by injuries and Gustafsson was skating on the top pair with Kimmo Timonen. In the final month of the season, 13 games, Gustafsson averaged 22:08 TOI, had six points (3G, 3A), and was +7.
It is clear what this kid (he’s four years older than me, so I probably shouldn’t call him a kid) can do when he plays with confidence. I do not think that Gus is a top pair guy for the future, but he does bring a lot of good things to the table. So far this season, he has been put in the lineup for stretches at a time, then pulled out after a bad performance. When developing defensemen, there will be bad performances along the way. How is a player supposed to develop on such a short leash?
With the three contracts of Timonen, Mez, and Gill expiring after this season and Gustfsson being an RFA, it seems clear that Gus is part of the future for this team. The Flyers need him to develop, and he can’t do that from the pressbox.