Flyers: Remembering Renberg on the Legion of Doom

The Legion of Doom is one of the best lines in the history of the Philadelphia Flyers organization. They provided a lethal offensive punch, and victimized many defenders and goalies over the few years the trio were grouped together.

When hockey fans think of the line, the first name people might talk about is center Eric Lindros, a man who was given the title as The Next One in regards to what he could be able to accomplish and bring to a franchise he played for. Next to him, people would think about the contributions of left winger John LeClair, who along with defenseman Eric Desjardins, were added from the Montreal Canadiens in what is considered a top trade in the history of the Flyers.

John LeClair, Eric Lindros, and Mikael Renberg became known as the Legion of Doom line in Philadelphia. (flyersarchives)

LeClair was the next notable guy who gained attention from others. What both of these two did as Flyers was significant, and they are still considered two of the more-well-known players in franchise history.

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The third guy to officially complete the Legion of Doom line is right winger Mikael Renberg. Lindros and LeClair might’ve been the flashier names on the ice in comparison, but what Renberg did for the Flyers while he was there also deserves some recognition.

Joining the Legion

Renberg was drafted by the Flyers 40th overall in the 1990 NHL Draft, one that also featured the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, Doug Weight, and Derian Hatcher in that draft class. It would be a few seasons before Renberg would officially join the Flyers organization. He spent some time overseas suiting up for Luleå HF of the Elitserien (or SEL for short, and has since been rebranded as the Swedish Hockey League or SHL). He posted the following numbers with the club:

  • 1989-90: 1 goal in 2 games
  • 1990-91: 11 goals and 6 assists for 17 points in 29 games
  • 1991-92: 8 goals and 15 assists for 23 points in 38 games
  • 1992-93: 19 goals and 13 assists for 32 points in 39 games

He also accrued five goals and five assists in 18 playoff games with Luleå.

Renberg came onto the scene for Philadelphia during the 1993-94 campaign, and he made a statement while doing so. He chalked up 38 goals and 44 assists for a total of 82 points in 83 games. At the time, it set the record for most points by a rookie in Flyers franchise history.

Mikael Renberg #19 of the Philadelphia Flyers
Mikael Renberg, Philadelphia Flyers (Getty Images)

The Legion of Doom came into play during Renberg’s second year. Once the NHL came back from its lockout during 1994-95, the Flyers traded offensive stud Mark Recchi and a 1995 third-round pick to the Canadiens for blueliner Desjardins, as well as LeClair and forward Gilbert Dionne.

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Eventually, it was decided by then-head coach Terry Murray later in the season to put Renberg and LeClair with Lindros. Together, the trio took the league by storm. While Lindros and LeClair became the more recognized figures during the time, Renberg put up his own tallies as well. These were his stats during the era of the Legion of Doom:

  • 1994-95: 26 goals and 31 assists for 57 points in 47 games
  • 1995-96: 23 goals and 20 assists for 43 points in 51 games
  • 1996-97: 22 goals and 37 assists for 59 points in 77 games

The line itself was also a significant threat in the playoffs. Renberg himself notched 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points in 44 postseason contests between 1995, 1996, and 1997. The trio in those three-straight playoff runs accumulated a combined number of 130 points in 132 games (56 goals and 74 assists). The top of the mountain for them was 1997, each of them being a big factor in the Flyers going to the Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings. Unfortunately, the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in a sweep, but the team had something special going.

The Trade to Tampa and Eventual Philadelphia Return

The Flyers, during the summer of 1997, were interested in Tampa Bay Lightning center and former 1993 third-overall pick Chris Gratton, who at the time was a restricted free agent. Offers for restricted free agents are not commonplace in the NHL.

Only a handful of players have ever signed offer sheets from other teams, such as Sergei Fedorov with the Carolina Hurricanes or Brendan Shanahan with the St. Louis Blues. Sebastian Aho is the most recent example of a player signing an offer sheet with another team as a restricted free agent, inking a deal with the Canadiens in the summer of 2019 (the Hurricanes matched the offer).

Flyers then-general manager Bobby Clarke decided to pursue Gratton, and signed him to an offer sheet of five years and $16.5 million. The Bolts decided they would not match the offer. After what was a difficult process with the Chicago Blackhawks thinking they had added Gratton to their roster, arbitration was needed and they awarded Gratton to the Flyers.

With compensation needed for signing a restricted free agent, Philadelphia owed four first-round draft picks based on Gratton’s deal. The Flyers wanted to keep those picks, and an agreement was reached where the picks returned in exchange for Renberg and defenseman Karl Dykhuis. The Lightning immediately got behind Renberg, naming him captain of the club.

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Soon enough, though, both sides decided to switch both Renberg and Gratton back with one another. Gratton, along with Mike Sillinger, got sent to the Bolts for Renberg and forward Daymond Langkow. Renberg was reunited with his old team again, but the offensive threat he once provided was not there as strongly as it had during his first stint.

  • 1998-99: 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points in 46 games
  • 1999-00: 8 goals and 21 assists for 29 points in 62 games
Renberg did not put up the same production during his second stint with the Flyers. (cr: Rick Stewart/Allsport)

As soon as he was back, he was out the door again. Renberg was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes for winger Rick Tocchet during the 1999-00 season.

Renberg went on to play a season for the Coyotes, as well as a few campaigns for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He finished his NHL tenure with 190 goals and 274 assists for 464 points in 661 games and went back to playing for Luleå for a few seasons after that. Renberg officially retired in 2009. Between his two stints with the Flyers, he posted 128 goals and 168 assists in 366 regular-season games. As for the playoffs, he netted 14 goals and 20 assists in 50 contests.

An Overview of Renberg’s Flyer Tenure

Renberg was not a guy who had as flashy of a career as other guys on the Legion of Doom line in Lindros and LeClair. On top of that, he had to deal with obstacles like injuries that took a toll on his playing time. However, he was still a force for the Flyers, and his contributions to not only that line, but as a Flyer in general cannot be ignored.

Beyond that, though, he worked hard every opportunity he donned a hockey sweater, and that was something that ignited that line and team in general. Work ethic is something that can be contagious, and Renberg’s teammates felt that attitude he brought every day and night to the rink. These are the contributions he brought to the table. As great of talents as Lindros and LeClair were, without Renberg, there is no Legion of Doom.