Possible Flyers Defense Pairs

The largest makeover the Philadelphia Flyers underwent during the busy 2021 offseason came on the blue line as Chuck Fletcher overhauled a very stale, underwhelming unit. He replaced half the bodies from last season with veterans who all held leadership roles on their previous teams.

We know Alain Vigneault loves to shake up his lines frequently, and the rebuilt defense gives him some new options to play with. We’ve had an in-depth breakdown of the defense already, but now it’s time to arrange the bodies on the blueline A few weeks back, we broke down what the possible Flyers forward lines could look like, but what are some possible combinations that emerge from the new-look D-core?

The Plain

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

Keith Yandle – Justin Braun

This is the basic, to be expected linuep at the start of the season. Ellis is the veteran stabilizing presence Ivan Provorov needs, the veteran offensive-defensive duo on the third pair, and whatever the hell that second pair is going to do. theoretically all three pairs should work out and bring a perfect mixture of offense and defense, but it’s not without its questions.

The Shakeup

Travis Sanheim -Ryan Ellis

Ivan Provorov – Rasmus Ristolainen

Keith Yandle – Justin Braun

This is the alternate reality that was proposed by Anthony SanFilippo on Brotherly Pod and, although it is a natural shakeup to the original plan, it does feel odd. Theoretically, this is a solution to help both Sanheim and Ristolainen. Sanheim gets put with the stable veteran, and Provorov gets to carry Ristolainen. It may not be the sexiest option, but if Provorov can return to form as a top defenseman, and Ellis can stabilize Sanheim, it could work out well in the end.

The Bailout

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis

Travis Sanheim – Justin Braun

Keith Yandle – Rasmus Ristolainen

So far, there has been only one player that has brought the best out of Travis Sanheim and it is Justin Braun. This keeps Provorov with Ellis and sets Sanheim up to succeed if his time with Ristolainen doesn’t go well. It also limits Ristolainen’s minutes, but potentially forms a defensive blackhole putting him with Yandle, neither of which are the most responsible players in their own zone. This may be a unit that is put together on a game-to-game basis if Sanheim is struggling particularly hard that evening, but otherwise is best avoided.

The Mid-Season

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis

Travis Sanheim – Rasmus Ristolainen

Cam York – Justin Braun

It’s only a matter of time before Cam York shows up to the party and putting him on the third pair with the responsible veteran Justin Braun makes the most sense out of the gate. Keith Yandle is currently chasing the ironman streak which he’ll snag in mid-January, plenty of time for York to get some leges under him in the AHL before he makes his jump to the NHL. Once he breaks the streak and if York is tearing up the AHL, expect the torch to be passed soon after.

The We Need To See It

Ivan Provorov – Ryan Ellis

Samuel Morin – Rasmus Ristolainen

Travis Sanheim – Justin Braun

Is this the best? No. Would it be fun? Absolutely. Putting the two biggest, most physical defensemen on the team on the same pair would bring back some old school hockey vibes. It would keep the Provorov-Ellis duo together and force Sanheim down with his rock Justin Braun, but most importantly put Morin and Ristolainen together. It may not be ideal from a defensive standpoint, but it’s something we have to see just once. Imagine the carnage Morin and Ristolainen can cause together? It’ll be glorious.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: nhl.com / atozsports.com

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