The Flyers blue line has been under construction for many years now and we are finally seeing some pieces develop into solid, full-time NHL defensemen. On the other hand, we’ve also seen mediocre ones clog up a spot for several up and coming Flyers prospects.
Here are the grades for the Flyers defensemen who played in minimum 20 games.
I don’t think anyone is going to debate the fact that Ivan Provorov was a monster this year, building off his rookie season to best his career high in goals, points, and shots while consistently squaring off against opposing teams’ best players. Provorov was tied with Dougie Hamilton in most goals scored by a defense this year with 17. He averaged just over 24 minutes a night and recorded 36 of his 41 points at even strength.
The hype around Provorov is building and he will soon be recognized as one of the top defensemen in the league for years to come.
As Wheat King and now Flyers teammate Nolan Patrick once said: “He’s the best player I’ve ever played with by a mile.”
Ivan Provorov demonstrates how to play defense on Sidney Crosby pic.twitter.com/qQDoVUE4d7
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) April 22, 2018
After a slight regression last season, Gostisbehere was back in full form for the 2017-18 campaign, crushing his career high in points by 19. He set a new career high in assists with 52, becoming only the third defenseman in Flyers history to do so, and finished fourth in the NHL in points among defensemen.
Nolan Patrick and Shayne Gostisbehere connect on the power play! pic.twitter.com/7K6nEAX8hy
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) November 28, 2017
He was an offensive catalyst all year long and a big contributor in every zone. His defensive play improved greatly and when playing alongside Provorov, they formed a near impossible duo to stop.
We’ve been through this routine for a few years now and hopefully, we will soon see the end of it. MacDonald is known to be a great teammate and leader, many analysts see him as a legitimate top-four NHL defenseman, but his inconsistent play in all three zones if infuriating to watch. MacDonald was not as bad this year as he was in previous years, but he is getting far too much responsibility and his contract is one of the worst in the NHL. He had some good games this year, but the negative far outweighs the few positives in his game.
Not many saw Hagg making the team this season, but it’s safe to say he was a bright spot. While his skating sometimes left him stranded, he is a great stay-at-home defenseman, capable of shutting guys down with physical play or by good positioning. Hagg was quietly one of their better blueliners and was used efficiently by head coach Dave Hakstol. While he sometimes had rough games, Hagg had a great rookie season and should be a big part of the d-corps down the stretch.
Manning was a disaster this season and it was a farce that he appeared in 65 games while players like Travis Sanheim sat in the press box. Too many times was Manning caught out of position, outmuscled in front of the net or simply making a bad play. There wasn’t enough criticism towards Manning by the coaching staff and it was an absolute head-scratcher as to why he played so much. His play was very shaky, to say the least. The good news is Ron Hextall said he would not be re-signing him, which means there will be an opening on the blue line, likely for Sanheim.
Hopefully, it was an off year for Gudas. In previous years he’s shown to be a reliable 4th defenseman capable of playing in tough situations and playing close to 20 minutes. This year was atrocious. Whether it was due to the suspension, playing with Manning or simply a huge drop off in his game, Gudas went from being a decent defenseman capable of slotting in as 4-5-6 guy, to someone who could barely make an NHL caliber play. People were very harsh with Gudas this year and rightfully so, he needs to simplify his game and get back to what he was last year. His play in the playoffs cost the Flyers the series in game 6.
It’s a small sample size considering Sanheim only appeared in 49 games, but he was stunning in most of them. The NHL is a game of speed and transition nowadays and Sanheim plays that game remarkably. Whether it’s making that first pass on a breakout, a stretch pass, jumping into the play to create offense, he’s capable of doing it at the NHL level with confidence.
Travis Sanheim scores his first NHL goal! pic.twitter.com/Z3TILXE7zP
— Flyers Nation (@FlyersNation) December 15, 2017
A full season of Sanheim will be very interesting, as he is a clear upgrade over Manning and would already be considered their third best defenseman.