This offseason, the Flyers thought they made a smart, under the radar move by acquiring former Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ole-Kristian (O-K) Tollefsen. Tollefsen had never been a scorer when he switched from Columbus to Philadelphia, so it was unreasonable to expect him to add anything to the Flyers’ scoring column. However, there was a common belief among Flyer masterminds that O-K Tollefsen would lend another dependable body to what appeared to be a very strong Flyers defensive corps. Keep in mind that at this time the great Randy Jones was also in the mix to land the coveted “Sixth Defenseman” tag in the Flyers’ line-up. However, with the battle for the sixth spot well behind this team and the current situation in place, it has become all too clear that the club doesn’t have the personnel to hold a sixth defensive spot in the NHL, let alone a fifth at this point. While the top half of the Flyers’ defensive unit (Pronger, Timonen, Coburn, Parent, Carle, occasionally Syvret) have been average, the bottom half (Tollefsen, Bartulis) have been at times dreadful. Which brings us to our focus in this particular post: Mr. Tollefsen
It’s no secret that the acquisition of Tollefsen has been a bust. He has been continuously hurt off and on this season, and when he appears in games for the Flyers, he might as well not set foot on the ice to help benefit the team. Obviously, when he came here from Columbus, it was hard to get a feel for him. He missed all but 19 games last season with an injury for the Blue Jackets, and only put up one point – a helper – in that timeframe. So far with the Flyers this season, Tollefsen has only appeared in 16 games, tallying two points – both assists – while posting a Minus-2 to his name. He hasn’t been a pleasure to watch when he’s out on the ice, either.
In fact, I take Flyers fans back (and this is no exaggeration) to the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals, when one Kjell Samuelsson was absolutely atrocious for the Orange and Black, so bad that I give two of the Red Wings’ goals in the first two games in Philadelphia to his credit. Moving from the past to the present, it seems that Tollefsen is lost on the ice. Yes, there are legitimate arguments that perhaps the Flyers rushed him back from (yet another) injury and threw him into the fire. With Ryan Parent battling back injuries (out for 6 weeks to recover from surgery) and Danny Syvret gone likely until after the Olympic break with a separated shoulder, the Flyers have had no chance but to put Tollefsen into the line-up. By doing this, they hoped he’d instill some sort of confidence on the blue-line for the Orange and Black. Instead, Tollefsen is consistently beaten to the outside by opposing forwards, he has absolutely no presence defensively in moving forwards out of the way of goaltender Ray Emery’s sight, and his whole physical pedigree that we heard so much about all off-season has been little to non-existent.
Tollefsen will compete for his native Norway at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, and it’s assumed the Flyers are hoping – no, praying – that O-K finds his game and gets into some sort of rhythm against the best players in the world. His defensive partner Oskars Bartulis occasionally shows glimpses of why the Flyers decided to keep him around for another three years with a contract extension, but O-K Tollefsen has purely shown the Flyers that they should decide to cut ties with him when this 2009-2010 season comes to a close.
The Flyers have been said to be in the hunt for a top-6 defensemen. It’s hard to tell at this point what will come of that situation, but it’s reasonable to expect that General Manager Paul Holmgren will find a way to get something done. With that being said, when the Flyers make a deal – assuming Parent and Syvret both return to normal health and their productive selves – it will be Bartulis and, you guessed it, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen becoming the regular healthy scratches of Head Coach Peter Laviolette.
Until then, Tollefsen will remain as the single-greatest irony on the Flyers roster, for when #55 in the Orange and Black is out on the ice, the situation for the Flyers is far from O-K.