NHL Rumors: Will the Philadelphia Flyers Miss James Van Riemsdyk?

James van Riemsdyk was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs this offseason in a deal that brought the Philadelphia Flyers a young, maligned defenseman in Luke Schenn.  While the move reunited Schenn with his brother, trading James van Riemsdyk was a risky and confusing move.  While the Philadelphia Flyers’ greatest weakness last season was certainly defense, Luke Schenn has done little to prove he is a capable NHL defenseman.  What’s more, James van Riemsdyk, though frequently injured, could have been a top-line forward with the Flyers this year if healthy.  At the end of a disappointing offseason, the Philadelphia Flyers may miss JVR more than we initially thought.

The 2012 offseason has been an endless string of missed opportunities for the Philadelphia Flyers.  They missed out on Shea Weber when the Nashville Predators matched a front-loaded offer sheet.  Weber was a restricted free agency plan B for the Flyers, who pursued the Preds’ top defenseman only after Ryan Suter and Zach Parise chose Minnesota over Philly.  Jaromir Jagr left via free agency and the offense that carried thier shakey defense took another hit.  After four top-players opted not to play in Philadelphia, losing a player of the caliber James van Riemsdyk could loom large in 2012-13.  The defense is still in shambles with Chris Pronger injured and Andrej Meszaros out indefinitely, but now the offense looks relatively mediocre as well.

James van Riemsdyk has already proven he can produce at the NHL level, something Luke Schenn had yet to do before being run out of Toronto.  In four seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Schenn has yet to produce more than 22 points.  14 goals in four years point to the fact that he’s simply not an offensive defenseman.  However, a career +/- of -22 points to the fact that he’s not quite a defensive specialist either.  While +/- isn’t always the most indicative statistic for defensive performance, four mediocre seasons of being on the ice for more goals allowed than scored says something about Schenn’s defensive abilities.  After another disappointing campaign in 2011-12, Schenn was on the ice for the least minutes of his young career before being traded to Philadelphia.

On the other hand, James van Riemsdyk is a proven scorer.  Brian Burke called him a “thoroughbred” when the Leafs gladly acquired him for their overpriced defenseman, and with good reason.  JVR is just one injury-riddled season removed from scoring 20 goals.  Before his injury, James van Riemsdyk had already accumulated 24 points in 43 games last season.   Considering that the only Flyers skater with more than 50 points last season besides Claude Giroux was Scott Hartnell, who had never scored 60 points in any other season, it’s hard to say that JVR won’t be missed offensively.

JVR has a body, is young, will continue to develop, and could have made a difference in the top-six for the Philadelphia Flyers this year.  Luke Schenn is a bottom-pairing defenseman, and the Philadelphia Flyers still need to fill a Pronger-sized hole on the blue line.  Ultimately, Luke Schenn doesn’t make the Flyers a better team, but James van Riemsdyk could have if he stayed healthy.

Look for James van Riemsdyk to approach 50 points this season on the high-powered Toronto Maple Leafs offense.  Look for Schenn to post another minus season and continually disappoint as part of an extremely mediocre Flyers defensive corps.  Look for Claude Giroux to wish he had more offensive firepower playing alongside him after Scott Hartnell struggles to stay on his skates, let alone replicate last year’s success, while Giroux falls well short of 100 points.

This offense is going to miss James van Riemsdyk, even though they were able to produce without him last season.  The Flyers are simply not as dynamic offensively as they were a year ago, and this desperate offseason proves their nervousness.  If Scott Hartnell cannot replicate his improbable success of last season, the Flyers have one legitimate scoring threat left on their roster.  The trade for Schenn weakened the offense, but didn’t better the defense nearly enough to account for the steps backward the Flyers took offensively.  While the rest of the division got stronger, the Flyers took another step backwards.

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  • http://espn.com jake

    sounds like this guy doesn’t watch much or really know much about the sport of hockey.

    MAYBE he doesn’t realize that 6 of the 7 flyers who scored 18 or more goals this season will be back?

    MAYBE he doesn’t realize that of those 6 guys returning…. Briere, Schenn and Couturier are not included on that list.

    MAYBE he forgot Hartnell’s 2nd season for the flyers he scored 30 goals and had 30 assists…. which IS more than 50 points.

    MAYBE he doesn’t realize that Read-25, Giroux- 24, Voracek and Simmonds- 22, Schenn-20 and Couturier-19 were all young bucks last year and will be a year BETTER this season.

    So to anyone reading this article, take it with a grain of salt and understand that not only does this guy NOT know his hockey, but he can’t even get statistics that are printed in the form of PUBLIC INFORMATION correct.

    • Vince

      Well said Jake, most of this article sounded like it was rushed. I agree with him about the Flyers D being weaker, but I don’t believe that our offense will slump as well. Our young guns will show up, count on it.

  • Steve McNeice

    I will trade you JVR, Kessel, Lupul, Grabovski, MacArthur, & Kulemin for Read-25, Giroux- 24, Voracek and Simmonds- 22, Schenn-20 and Couturier-19 any day!!! Top 6 for top 6. Luke will be a top 4 defenceman for Philly when he gets his confidence back. He is one of the top hitting defenceman in the whole NHL. He is a “shutdown type” and will never be an offensive defenceman. Don’t forget that almost every Maple Leaf had a minus +/- in the last 4 years.

    • http://www.thefastertimes.com/hockey markdonatiello

      Nobody is arguing about the Flyers’ top six. Giroux is worth the entire Maple Leafs franchise. What I do think is that the Flyers could use a scorer like JVR (should his potential pan out) more than they need a defenseman of Schenn’s caliber. After the offseason went so quietly, I think they’ll miss JVR.