Murphy faces challenge with Flyers defense

Gord Murphy. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

As a former NHL defenseman, new Flyers assistant coach Gord Murphy will be looked on to help a unit that has experience, but not a lot of speed.

It will certainly be a challenging job.

Murphy, who began his NHL career with the Flyers in the 1988-89 season, replaces John Paddock as an assistant coach.

The 47-year-old Murphy, who was fired as assistant coach in November with Florida along with fellow assistant Craig Ramsay and head coach Kevin Dineen, has an extensive coaching background.

Before Florida, he was an assistant in Columbus from 2002 until June of 2010.

Not surprisingly, Murphy had positive comments today when speaking of the Flyers defense.

“It’s a strong unit,” Murphy said. “I believe there’s a good veteran group.”

It’s a group that didn’t have the best of postseasons in the first-round loss to the New York Rangers.

Here are the playoff plus/minus totals of the defensemen who played the most against the Rangers:

Mark Streit 0; Braydon Coburn -6; Andrew MacDonald -2; Kimmo Timonen -2; Luke Schenn +1; Nicklas Grossmann (0, in four games).

“I think it’s a strong group collectively and the sum of the parts is very good,” Murphy said. “They’re big, they’re strong, they move the puck well and they bring a lot of good elements to the hockey club.”

Nobody expected Murphy to criticize the defense or the rest of the team during his first day on the job.

No doubt he will look at hours of tape, to see all the pluses and minuses of his players.

The Flyers have young promising defensemen in the system such as Robert Hagg, who is 19, last year’s first round pick Samuel Morin, who turns 19 next month and Shayne Gostisbehere, 21,

Murphy was also asked something, the fans have been wondering for a while – what about working in some young players on the back line. Again, Murphy preached caution.

“We will take a look but we want to make sure we don’t’ rush these kids,” he said. “You don’t want to get overwhelmed and give them too much too early.”

When asked if the defense is the strength of the team, Murphy measured his words carefully.

“I’m not saying it’s the strength of the team, but that’s a strong unit back there,” he said. “It’s very competitive. They’re big. I think they play well.”

It’s a unit that will have to play better than last season for the Flyers to take that next step.