At the end of the 2019-20 season, it seemed as though the Flyers blue line was about to go through some drastic changes. With Justin Braun and Robert Hagg’s contracts set to expire and Shayne Gostisbehere’s name on the trade block, it seemed as though recently re-signed 25-year-old defenseman Mark Friedman would get his opportunity to crack the Flyers roster full-time.
Then things changed when Matt Niskanen retired and the Flyers, seemingly in a panic move, re-signed Hagg and Braun and kept Ghost around, thus pushing Friedman back down the depth chart and delaying his chance to crack the Flyers roster.
Now four games into the season, the injuries are mounting as Phil Myers is out for the foreseeable future with a broken rib. Friedman was recalled from the taxi squad and be tasked with helping replace Myers on the back end, which is a tall task, about six-foot five inches tall to be exact.
Friedman, who is a right shot with seven NHL games under his belt, will join Justin Braun and Erik Gustafsson on the right side of the Flyers’ defense, giving him a golden opportunity to show he belongs in the NHL. In the first four games, Gustafsson has been a bit of a wildcard, handling the job of quarterbacking the powerplay but is getting turned inside out at every available opportunity when trying to play defense. Braun has been tasked with playing next to Ivan Provorov, though the soon-to-be-34-year-old is a bit over his head in that role at this point in his career.
There is a gaping hole in an otherwise crowded blue line and it’s exactly the chance Friedman needs to potentially lockdown a roster spot permanently. If he can not only show up to play but rise through the ranks for as long as Myers is missing, it will help the Flyers long term and survive what otherwise is a crushing loss. Time will tell how Friedman handles this opportunity, but it’s an opportunity that could define his career.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com