Five Defenders Who Would’ve Made Great Flyers

Apr 18, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) passes the puck against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 18, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) passes the puck against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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There are times you watch a hockey game and think, “Man, I wish he was on our team.” Looking around the league, if money was not a problem, what defenders would look great wearing the Flyers orange and black. I chose these five guys as people who would quickly become fan favorites here.

Now, obviously, you would automatically go for all-star caliber players; and most of these guys are. But not every guy who is a great player would be a great fit for this team and this fanbase. That was what I was going for most. Who would really fit in and be a great Flyer?

Shea Weber

In 2012, GM Paul Holmgren swung for the fences. With Chris Pronger’s career effectively over because of concussions, the Flyers needed a big name on defense to keep them in contention. Holmgren offered a then record 14 year, $110 million contract, $68 million as a signing bonus, to lure Weber away from the Nashville Predators. This was an restricted free agent deal, so it would’ve cost the Flyers four first round picks or a trade.

Had he been signed, the next 10 years of the Flyers would’ve been drastically different. Weber paired up with Kimmo Timonen would’ve been awesome. The Flyers would not have overspent money on the lackluster Andrew McDonald two years later. Had they coughed up the four first rounders, that means Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, German Rubtsov, and Sam Morin would never have been drafted by the Flyers.

Weber has been an all-star four times and flipped to Montreal for PK Subban. He’s been awarded the Mark Messier award for leadership in 2016.  His name has never been engraved on the Stanley Cup and it appears that injuries may have put his career in serious jeopardy. But during the last 10 years, he scored 20+ goals twice and had over 50 points twice. He could’ve captained the power play that for years has been anemic and been a stout brick wall on the penalty kill. He could’ve been the blueliner that the Flyers had been looking forward to seeing for ages.

For years afterwards, I saw on Flyers message boards and fan groups hope that somehow Weber would’ve made it to Philly. Perhaps some deal could’ve been made to secure his services. Obviously, it didn’t happen. But man, he would’ve looked great wearing our jerseys.

PK Subban

Speaking of Weber, the guy he was traded for would’ve been a nice fit in Philadelphia as well. Subban is a high octane guy. He is not a scoring threat, like Weber, but is more of your stay at home defender type. He punishes opposing forwards coming into the zone and is not afraid of a scrap or two.

Subban has bounced around a lot over the years, being traded to Nashville from Montreal as well as signing on as a free agent in New Jersey. He is still currently a free agent. Despite his declining skills, his leadership is invaluable. To a young corps of defenders, Subban would’ve been a great mentor to have. I’m not sure what his asking price is at present, but it is probably higher than what he is worth at present. However, if he could be snagged for $3 million or less, it might be worth moving a contract away in a trade to secure his services.

Subban was key to helping the Predators rise into one of the Western Conference’s power teams and was a major cog in their Stanley Cup run in 2017.  But still, I can imagine seeing a tough guy like Subban sharing the ice with Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier. That would’ve been some major muscle on the ice. I think he would’ve fit right into the culture here and been a major fan favorite.

Brent Burns

If I had asked you, “What would a hockey player look like if you could take him from the hilliest hills of West Virginia?”, you would probably come up with something that looked like Burns. He has the most glorious hockey beard this side of Calgary great Lanny McDonald. He also has the greatest toothless smile since our very own Bobby Clarke.

Burns has been the core of the San Jose Sharks run of playoff teams for the last decade. He has become a six time all star and Norris Trophy winner since being traded away from the Minnesota Wild; traded away by none other than Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher.

From 2014 to 2019, Burns had an incredible run as a blueliner. He scored over 60 points in each season, including 83 points in 2018-19. Burns was a major part of the 2016 run by the Sharks to the Stanley Cup finals. I’m also sure that had the pandemic not have happened, he would’ve topped 60 points in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

With the Sharks in shambles, they traded him to Carolina, where he will replace Tony DeAngelo as their top defender. Still, I can’t help but smile to think of Burns as a Flyer. He seems as if he could’ve been the most fun Flyer since Scott Hartnell. He would’ve been super popular with his teammates and with the fans. He is 37 and his contract will run out when he is 40. But man, he would’ve been great here.

Brett Pesce

Sometimes, some of the best players you can have on a team are those that are quietly good. They don’t stand out and light up the stat sheet. They don’t dazzle you with their abilities. But somehow, they are the sort of player you want to have on your team. Scott Laughton is one of those guys. He’s solid and steady and sort of the role player you need to have. Carolina Hurricanes defender, Brent Pesce, is another one.

Jaccob Slavin gets all the attention in Carolina, and for obvious reasons. He’s a solid guy who can defend and never gets in the penalty box. Pesce is his line partner and a great compliment. He has more of a scoring touch than Slavin does, but is just as good as a stay at home defender.

Pesce is physical without being reckless. Where Slavin can anticipate where the play is going to be and can break it up, Pesce is the guy who helps the Canes transition into attacking. He is a solid guy who is not flashy. If you’ve been watching the Flyers the last few years, you know that that is the sort of guy this team needs. While I’d be happy with either Pesce or Slavin on the Flyers, I think Pesce is the better fit for what this team needs.

Zdeno Chara

He has broken Chris Chelios’s record for most games ever played as a defender. He has been playing in the NHL since my freshman year. And unlike me, he is aging well. While he has lost a step or two, he still is an imposing physical presence as the tallest guy ever to play in the league (6’9″….taller on skates).

Chara was never one of the best defenders, but he will most likely be a hall of famer because of his longevity. He is a six time all star, but hasn’t been named as one since 2012. He has won a Norris Trophy, Messier Award, and his name is engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Because he is such a mountain of a man, he has been highly effective as a blueliner. Just getting past him is an effort in futility. His size allows him to level hit after devastating hit on opposing players. Oh, you wanna fight? Try reaching up and punching him.

Chara’s physicality has made him a fan favorite in New York, Ottawa, and Boston. He is back on the Islanders and ready to play again at the age of 45. There must be something in the waters of Czechia that allows players like him and Jaromir Jagr to continue playing 10 years after many players are retired.

But at any time in his long, long career, Chara would’ve looked great patrolling the ice at the Wells Fargo Center. He would’ve been great had he played with Eric Desjardins, Kevin Hatcher, Pronger, Timonen, or Provorov.

Roundup

While many of these guys are well past their prime, all of them would’ve been beloved here in Philadelphia. They are the type of guys that play their heart out and leave it there on the ice. That’s the sort of player that always makes it here in Philly.

There is a part of me that can always imagine Burns’ toothless grin smiling after a big play, Chara slamming someone into the glass, Subban getting scrappy with an opponent, Pesce making a block on a power play shot, and Weber scoring an overtime winner that makes me smile and wish that these guys could’ve been Flyers.