The Philadelphia Flyers have been changing a lot of aspects of their organization this offseason. General manager Ron Hextall has done a great job at beginning to rid Philadelphia of their bad contracts and improve the quality of the team. He’s done some solid work, but there is still a lot to do. Much of the Flyers blue line will be different in 2015-16, and that’s not to say they will be any better, but almost all of their key forwards will return. One of those key building blocks is the physically imposing Wayne Simmonds.
He is considered one of the most talented and effective power forwards in the league currently playing. Simmonds is a well rounded player, but there are a few areas of his game that need to improve. While he’s one of the best forwards with a man advantage, his even strength play has left much to be desired.
During the 2013-14 season Simmonds played in all 82 games, scored 29 goals and assisted on 31 more. However, only 10 of those goals were scored at even strength, with the rest coming on the powerplay. In 2013-14 he scored .58 goals per sixty minutes played at even strength and 3.18 goals per sixty on the powerplay.
Then last year, Simmonds did fail to play all 82 games, only skating in 75, but statistically it was his best season to date. Not in terms of sheer points because in 2014-15 Simmonds finished with only 50 points and 2013-14 he scored 60. However, you see a big difference in his actual play and his goals for per sixty minutes. While at even strength in 2014-15, Simmonds improved his scoring to .75 goals per sixty minutes played and 3.8 goals per sixty while on the man advantage.
Expectations for 2015-16
Simmonds is known as a leader in the Flyers locker room and he’s never afraid to speak his mind. He spoke earlier this offseason about how Philadelphia will be back in the playoffs next year. Then just a few days ago, he revealed what his personal goal for the 2015-16 season will be. Wayne Simmonds wants to top 30 goals next season. However, he’s has retained his team first mentality and is willing to sacrifice personal achievement for team success.
Thirty is a definite goal for me. I’ve come close a couple of times. As long as we’re winning games and making the playoffs, I really don’t care how many I get.
So now can Simmonds score 30 goals in the upcoming season? From the numbers it looks like he would have actually hit that mark last season if he had not missed seven games due to injury. He took less penalties last season than in 2013-14, was more effective while playing, but seemed to focus less on play making and more on scoring.
But he has been playing on the second line and some think that him being on the top line could be “lethal.” At the same time, the Flyers would be deploying almost all of their best players on their top line. Teams will see that and start to respect the second line less if Simmonds takes Brayden Schenn’s spot.
So if you’re talking purely about goal scoring, Simmonds should top 30 goals, if he stays healthy. However, there still will be questions about his even strength play and where he fits in the lineup. There’s a lot to be excited about the Flyers 2015-16 season and Simmonds is definitely part of that.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers