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UPDATED Meltzer's Musings: Meszaros Injury, Flyers Family Ties, Knuble

August 7, 2012, 6:12 AM ET [688 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Six days ago, when the Flyers had their media conference call to announce the contract extension signed by head coach Peter Laviolettle, general manager Paul Holmgren was asked for an update on the health status of defenseman Andrej Meszaros.

"He's fine," Holmgren said of the defenseman, who was coming off back surgery.

Today it turns out that Meszaros isn't doing so well after all. He tore his Achilles tendon while training in Slovakia last week. Yesterday, Meszaros underwent surgery.

Achilles tendon injuries are serious ones. Meszaros will miss, at minimum, about half of next season. Depending on the progress of his recovery, he may end of missing most of the regular season. This is another big blow to the defense, as the Flyers were counting on a healthy and productive season from the 2010-11 Barry Ashbee Trophy winner.

As of now, the Flyers top six on defense will be Kimmo Timonen, Luke Schenn, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossmann and two among Erik Gustafsson, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Bruno Gervais. However, it would be reasonable to suspect they may dip into what's left of the free agent defense pool and sign a player such as (injury-prone) Carlo Colaiacovo.

If need be, the Flyers could put Meszaros on long-term injured reserve along with Chris Pronger. Meszaros carries a $4 million cap hit.

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When Brayden and Luke Schenn play their first game together for the Flyers in the 2012-13 season (whenever it begins), they will become the fourth brother combination to be teammates on the Flyers.

Wayne and Larry Hillman (1969-70 to 1970-71): Older brother Larry and younger sibling Wayne were both defensemen who enjoyed fairly lengthy careers in the NHL. Larry, the slightly more talented and offensive-minded of the two, posted 31 points for the Flyers in 1969-70, and played 791 games in the NHL (143 with the Flyers). Wayne logged 691 NHL games (258 with Philadelphia). Another brother, Floyd, played briefly with the Bruins in 1956-57. Wayne Hillman passed away in 1990 after a bout with cancer.

Joe and Jimmy Watson (1973 to 1977-78): The Watson boys from Smithers, BC were mainstays on the Flyers' two Stanley Cup champion teams. Joe, nine years Jim's senior, was an original Flyer and a two-time NHL All-Star Game selection. Jim, more naturally gifted than Joe, was one of the best defensemen in team history: a five-time NHL All-Star Game selection and a member of Team Canada at the 1976 Canada Cup.

Ron and Rich Sutter (1983-84 to 1985-86): The Sutter twins were the youngest of the six Sutter brothers to reach the NHL, following Brian, Darryl, Duane and Brent. Of course, the clan from Viking, Alberta has become a multi-generation NHL family in the last decade. The Flyers selected Ron with the fourth overall pick of the 1982 NHL Draft, while the Penguins chose Rich six picks later. The following year, Flyers GM/coach Bob McCammon traded Ron Flockhart, Mark Taylor, prospect Andy Brickley, a 1984 1st-round pick (Roger Belanger) and a 1984 3rd-round pick (Mike Stevens, who is the younger brother of Scott Stevens) to Pittsburgh in exchange for Rich Sutter, a 1984 2nd-round pick (Greg Smyth) and a 1984 3rd-round pick (David McLay). Ron, the somewhat more talented of the twins, enjoyed the superior career both on the Flyers and elsewhere in the NHL. However, both brothers were mainstays on the team in the mid-80s and both brought the grit and intensity for which all the Sutters are known.

Kimmo and Jussi Timonen both played for the Flyers but not at the same time (unless you count the 2007 preseason). Younger brother Jussi was drafted by Philly in 2001 (146th overall) and played in the organization from 2006-07 until part of the way through the following season. Jussi played 14 NHL games for the Flyers in 2006-07. He was still in the organization at the time when the Flyers acquired Kimmo from Nashville in the summer of 2007 but was demoted to the Phantoms during the next preseason. The Flyers traded Jussi to the Dallas Stars organization during the 2007-08 season. Today, Jussi plays in Finland for KalPa Kuopio, where Kimmo is a minority owner.

The Flyers have also had a host of players who have brothers who've also played in the NHL, but never in Philadelphia. Two, Eric Wellwood and Tom Sestito, are current Flyers. Alphabetically by surname, the others are:

Mikael Andersson
Dave Babych
Harvey Bennett
Brian Benning
Martin Biron
Mike Busniuk
Vyacheslav Butsayev
Drew Callendar
Mike Comrie

Kevin Dineen (brother Peter was drafted by Flyers but never played for the team at the NHL level)
Gilbert Dionne
Ron Flockhart
Mark Greig
Derian Hatcher
Randy Holt
Mark Howe
Dan Kordic
Mark Laforest
Daymond Langkow
Eric Lindros
Jean Potvin
Keith Primeau
Joe Sacco

Jim Vandermeer (older brother Pete was a teammate on the Phantoms and later, on the Phoenix Coyotes, but never with the Flyers)
Roman Vopat
Blake Wesley
Gord Williams



OTHER FLYERS FAMILY TIES

Apart from brother combinations who played for the team, the Flyers have had numerous personnel with overlapping ties (either concurrent or at separate times) to others in the organization. This includes:

* Winger Kevin Dineen played under head coach father Bill Dineen for part of the 1991-92 season and all of 1992-93.

* For a time when they played in the NAHL, the Philadelphia Firebirds were the secondary minor league affiliate (the AHL's Richmond Robins were the primary farm team) of the Flyers. The 1974-75 Firebirds featured Dale MacLeish (Rick's older brother) and Ray Schultz (Dave's older brother). The club also had Mike Clarke and John Barber, but they were not related to Bobby Clarke or Bill Barber.

* Current Phantoms defenseman Blake Kessel is the brother of Maple Leafs star forward Phil Kessel and the cousin of David Moss.

* Former Flyers forward Brian Savage is the nephew of former Flyers defensemen Larry and Wayne Hillman.

* Former Flyers center Chris Gratton and winger Josh Gratton are cousins. Although both suited up for the Flyers, they played here at different times.

* Bob Clarke was the father-in-law of ex-Flyer Peter White. White's ex-wife, Jodi, is Clarke's daughter.

* The Flyers have often invited the brothers, sons and other relatives of current and former players to their various summer rookie camps and preseason training camps. For example, Tomas Sinisalo (Ilkka's son) received a minor league tryout by that means. This year, Greg Coburn (Brayden's brother), Trevor van Riemsdyk (James' brother), John Stevens Jr. (John's son) and Chase Hatcher (Derian's son) were all prospect camp invitees.

* Nick Luukko, the Flyers sixth-round pick in 2010, is the son of Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko. He also attended this summer's prospect camp.

OTHER NHL FAMILY TIES/MISCELLANEOUS

Here is an incomplete list of current or former Flyers personnel who have other other family ties (apart from brother who were fellow players) with non-Flyers playing, coaching or front-office ties in the NHL.

* Mark Howe, of course, is the son of "Mr. Hockey", Gordie Howe. Gordie was a teammate of sons Mark and Marty on the Houston Aeros (WHA) and Hartford Whalers (WHA/NHL).

* Ron Hextall is the grandson of Bryan Hextall Sr., the son of Bryan Hextall Jr. and the nephew of Dennis Hextall. Ron's son, Brett, was a Phoenix Coyotes sixth-round pick (159th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. If he ever plays in the NHL, Brett Hextall will be just the second fourth-generation NHL player.

* Former Flyers forward Eric Chouinard is the son of Guy Chouinard. Eric and cousin Marc Chouinard were teammates with the Minnesota Wild in 2003-04.

* Former Flyers captain Ed Van Impe is a second cousin of former NHL defenseman Darren Van Impe.

* Darryl Sittler and Ryan Sittler could have become the first two-generation Flyers players if the latter had made it to the NHL. A Flyers' first-round pick in 1992, Sittler's career was set back by a pair of serious injuries and he never advanced beyond the AHL level.

* The Flyers' first general manager, the late Bud Poile, was the father of Nashville Predators GM David Poile. An NHL player in his younger years, Bud and brother Don both played for the Detroit Red Wings but not at the same time.

* Now the head coach of the Phantoms, former Flyers defenseman and head coach Terry Murray is the younger brother of Ottawa Senators general manager, Bryan Murray. Both Murray brothers have coached the Washington Capitals.

* Reggie Leach is the father of former NHL forward Jamie Leach.

* 1960s Flyers forward Wayne Hicks is the father of former NHL forward Alex Hicks.

* The late Fred Shero was the father of current Penguins GM, Ray Shero.

* I have seen conflicting information on whether former Flyers forwards Kimbi Daniels and Scott Daniels are cousins or unrelated. Both have First Nation heritage at any rate. Kimbi is a Manitoba native, while Scott hails from Saskatchewan.

* Anton Statsny was originally drafted by the Flyers (1978, 198th overall). According to Full Spectrum, Ed Snider made a concerted effort in the summer of 1978 to secure the defections of all three Stastny brothers to the U.S. to play for the Flyers. In 1978, the Flyers made a serious attempt to get all three Stastny brothers to defect, paying a Toronto based Czechoslovakian expatriate named Louis Katona to arrange it. The Flyers had five- year contracts waiting for Peter Stastny (at $1.25 million over the length of the deal), Marian Stastny (same) and Anton Stastny ($850,000).

Philadelphia paid Katona $20,000 up front, with another $300,000 upon successfully delivering the brothers to Philadelphia. But Katona never delivered. He simply pocketed his twenty grand advance and refused to return it.

The next year, the NHL declared the Flyers' draft selection of Anton to be invalid on the basis that Stastny was too young in 1978 (at the time, players had to be 20 years old to be drafted). As a result, the Quebec Nordiques were able to draft Anton 83rd overall in 1979. Of course, all three Stastny brothers defected to the West, and became teammates on the Nordiques. Peter went on to a Hall of Fame career.

* In the 1997 Eastern Conference Finals between the Flyers and Rangers, Philadelphia forward Trent Klatt drilled brother-in-law (and former University of Minnesota linemate) Ken Gernander so hard with a clean hit, the latter was knocked out of the series.

* Former Flyers goaltender Jeff Hackett is the uncle of Minnesota Wild goalie, Matt Hackett.

* Former Flyers goaltending prospect Jeremy Duchesne is the son of the late Gaetan Duchese, an NHL forward.

* Former Flyers defenseman Terry Carkner and current Ottawa Senators defenseman Matt Carkner are distant cousins.

* Don Luce, the Flyers former Director of Player Development, played as a teammate of brother-in-law Mike Boland on the Buffalo Sabres in 1978-79.

* Former Flyers defenseman Kerry Huffman, who still makes his home in the Delaware Valley, is the brother-in-law of former St. Louis Blues defenseman Mike Posavad.

* The late Rick "Jumbo" Lapointe, who played defense for the Flyers for two years (1977-78 to 1978-79) in the late 1970s, was the brother-in-law of longtime Minnesota North Stars defenseman Brad Maxwell.

* Mika Pyörälä, who passed briefly through the Flyers in 2009-10 before returning to Europe the following season, is the brother-in-law of standout Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. Pyörälä is married to Rinne's twin sister.

* Pavel Kubina's father-in-law, Frantisek Cernik, was one of the elite goal-scorers in Czechoslovakia during the mid-70s to mid-1980s. A mainstay on the national team, Cernik was finally allowed by the communist government to come to the Detroit Red Wings (at age 31) for one season in the mid-80s. Today, Cernik is the owner and president of Czech Extraliga team HC Vitkovice. That is where Kubina got his start in hockey and may play next season if he's unable to land a new NHL contract and/or there's an NHL lockout.

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Mike Knuble was always a popular player among teammates, fans and media alike during his four-season stint with the Flyers. The late-blooming forward, who has scored 224 of his career 274 regular season NHL goals from age 30 onward, scored between 27 to 34 goals in all four of his seasons in Philadelphia. Off the ice, Knuble was a locker room leader and one of the NHL's most articulate and analytical players.

Now 39 years of age, Knuble remains an unrestricted free agent. He is coming off a brutal year in Washington, in which coach Dale Hunter demoted him to the fourth line and then made him a frequent healthy scratch. Knuble slumped from 24 goals in 2010-11 to just 6 in 72 games this past year.

Not surprisingly given his age and rough season last year, Knuble has found it tough this summer to find an NHL team willing to commit to a one-year contract. The Capitals let it be known ahead of July 1 that Knuble would not be re-signed.

Could Knuble come to the Flyers on a tryout basis in training camp? Although it may be tough for him to win a spot, I do think it's a possibility. He is still well-liked around the organization.

Knuble's presence could help the club replace the locker room elder statesman role that Jaromir Jagr performed with surprising aplomb last season. But would there be much of an on-ice role for Knuble at this point? I don't see it.

Knuble's biggest asset is his ability to park himself in front of the net and collect goals on deflections and rebounds, especially on the power play. The Flyers already have the younger Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds to perform those tasks. Also, Knuble was never a fast skater even in his prime and appeared to slow further last year.

Nevertheless, a case could be made that it may come in handy to have the veteran around as a short-term stopgap in case of injuries or slumps in the forward corps.

Knuble will play any role asked of him and, in fact, has spent chunks of his NHL career on all four lines. He's really not an ideal checker or penalty killer at this late stage of his career (he was a pretty good one as a young NHL role player) due to his declining mobility but he did average 1:09 of penalty killing ice time per game last season in Washington. At times in the playoffs, fourth liners Knuble and Joel Ward were among the Capitals' more effective players. The two even combined for the series-winning goal in the first round of the playoffs against Boston.

Knuble is only one year removed from a 24-goal season and reeled off eight straight seasons of 21-plus goals from 2002-03 through 2010-11. He hasn't forgotten how to score goals. The question is whether there's enough left in the tank to rebound from last season.

In late June, Knuble was the lone still-active NHL player to participate in this year's Flyers Alumni Golf Invitational. While the main purpose of his participation was to help raise money for charitable causes, let's just say that doing a little old-fashioned networking at such events can't hurt a popular veteran player looking for a job.

I would say the odds are against seeing Mike Knuble finish out his NHL career in Philadelphia, but I would by no means be shocked if he ends up in the Flyers' camp and tries to show Peter Laviolette and Paul Holmgren he still has something to contribute as an NHL starter. I don't think either he or the Flyers would have interest in seeing him be a part-time player in the 13th forward role.

Whatever happens, Mike Knuble deserves to receive more respectful treatment than he received from Dale Hunter last year. Knuble is too much of a quality person and has had too good of a playing career to go out being treated like dirt. But Knuble handled the situation with dignity and class. That's something he can always been counted on to do.

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