It’s hardly a secret that Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald is not a fan favorite.
Since signing a six-year, $30 million deal in 2014, the veteran has drawn the ire of the team’s faithful due to his failure to live up to the contract. It also didn’t help when MacDonald spent 43 games of the 2015-16 season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms — although the decision was based more on salary cap reasons than his play.
However, fans don’t have to worry about him at least until after Thanksgiving. MacDonald will miss the next four-to-six weeks with a lower-body injury suffered while blocking a shot on Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.
His teammates, on the other hand, will miss him.
In the first game since his absence on Tuesday, the Flyers played their worst game of the young season during a 6-2 drubbing by the Ducks. While the entire lineup shoulders the blame for the lackluster performance, the new-look defense stuck out like a sore thumb.
Due to MacDonald’s injury, Flyers coach Dave Hakstol changed all three defensive pairings. The lines on Tuesday were: Ivan Provorov and Robert Hagg; Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas; Brandon Manning and Travis Sanheim.
None of them clicked.
“I think you’ve got to play a couple of games to get some chemistry,” said Gostisbehere, who had been with Hagg. “As a team, I think we could have played a little better, obviously, but I think it comes with not playing with certain guys.”
It will be interesting to see if Hakstol gives his defense that time to gel or makes more changes before Thursday’s game at Ottawa.
“Everyone has played pro for a few years now and you get comfortable in practice and you know guys’ tendencies so I don’t think it’s an excuse,” said Manning, who had partnered with Gudas. “But, it does take a little bit of time to get used to guys.”
As the Flyers adjust to life without MacDonald, they will miss his shot blocking skills and experience. The 31-year-old is second on the team in blocks (18), a respectable plus-1 in plus/minus and has logged only 200 less NHL games than the rest of the current defense combined.
He was also voted as an alternate captain by his teammates before the season.
“I think Andrew brings a little bit of everything,” Manning said. “It’s leadership, he’s been great on the penalty kill for us and I think he’s been really good with Provorov quietly helping him out.”
Ironically, fans might realize MacDonald’s value to the team and the balance he provides to the defense this season while he is out of the lineup.
“Mac is a pro,” General Manager Ron Hextall said on Monday. “I hear the fans’ criticism. It’s unfair.”