Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Prepare to be Clutched

The Flyers added three new names to the defense: Derian Hatcher from Detroit (4-years at $14 million), Mike Rathje from San Jose (5-years at $17.5 million) and Chris Therien (1-year at the veteran minimum).

Are these guys an upgrade from Marcus Ragnarsson, Mattias Timander and Vladimir Malakhov? Honestly, I am not so sure. To me, other than the elite guys, NHL defensemen are in one of two buckets: can't play and can play. If Hatcher is healthy, he is the aforementioned elite player. The money they are paying Rathje- more than Hatcher- suggests someone in the Flyers' organization thinks he can potentially really play.

But Ragnarsson, Timander and Malakhov were all guys in the "can play" bucket. You could run each out there, shift after shift, and not worry about them. Not you gotta worry: is Hatcher healthy enough to get through a deep play-off run? and just where is Therein's head at today? in the "can't play" bucket? Rathje admittedly seems like an upgrade.

Regardless, the Flyers like their veterans- particularly on the blue line. And, well, they are bigger on "D" anyway. One thing these signings prove- Clarke believes the commitment to the new "clutch, grab and obstruct" rules will mean nothing come May 1st or so. Mind you, I agree with that myself. The best part about the NHL play-offs is that tackling becomes allowed in the third period of one-goal games.

Still, I don't mind Hatcher honestly- seen here playing for his country- the United States of America. Clearly the upside to this sort of signing is tremendous- although being yoked to this guy until he is almost 38, in a cap environment, is sort of scary. He was never exactly mobile pre-injury- and maybe he was one of those guys two full years away from the grind of hockey will really help. I actually sort of like the fact he's only played 15 NHL games (and some minor league games) in two years. And if he's healthy, he's a no-doubt about A-level defensemen.

Therein? In the picture to the right, we see him cringing to avoid contact with a small-ish Ottawa winger. Also, all readers must shotgun a Molson- as I have forced you to look at that fink "Czech-magic"! Gosh, I dunno- isn't he an experiment the Flyers really tapped out? Didn't he play an awful lot of games with the Phantoms before being traded out of here? I guess at $500,000 he provides NHL-quality depth- as I'd hate to see a legit run at the Cup foiled by having to play Kapenen back there again. But I've seen this guy a lot- ugh- really... there is nothing better in his price range?

I don't know much about Rathje- including his first name candidly- those guys out west might as well be on another planet. But again, the money suggests the League thinks the guy is a player. And in the East, you cannot go wrong having lots of mature vets play the shifts that count.

Bottom line- the Flyers defense now consists of the three guys above- plus veterans Desjardins and Johnsson and the developing Pitkanen and Dennis Seidenberg. Pretty good. Hatcher on your second pair is probably a real plus- and saves minutes on those legs. Johnsson is a bonafide world class player. Good veteran depth. Not much offense- the power play will still be problematic- but size and that key competence in consistly getting the puck out when the Devils-do you think the Flyers really consider Tampa their rivals to win the East?- pitch it in.