James van Riemsdyk had an inconsistent season for a Philadelphia Flyers team that was underwhelming in 2020-21. He played well on the line with center Sean Couturier and Joel Farabee in January and February but struggled to maintain his good play once Philadelphia began to struggle in March. Earlier in the year, though, van Riemsdyk earned NHL player of the month for his play from Jan. 13-Feb. 7, when he collected 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points.
The Farabee-Courtier-van Riemsdyk line was the top forward unit for the Flyers during the early part of the season when the team was playing well. Courtier is the best two-way player in Philadelphia, and Farabee and van Riemsdyk were the benefactors. However, van Riemsdyk and the majority of the Flyers roster lacked consistency on a regular basis.
Inconsistent Play From van Riemsdyk
Van Riemsdyk began the season with a strong start but it was plagued by bouts of instability.
From March 17-22, van Riemsdyk had zero points through four games. After having two assists in a game on March 23, van Riemsdyk endured an eight-game pointless streak. Towards the end of the season, he did not have any points in six of seven games.
Once head coach Alain Vigneault began to shuffle the lineup and changed the four lines in order to provide a spark, van Riemsdyk’s production spiraled further down the rabbit hole.
Back in April, van Riemsdyk discussed his lack of production, “If you have that consistency as far as being good on the walls, making good decisions with and without the puck… my process, I like some things about that; obviously I’d like some more production.” (from ‘Flyers hoping to get van Riemsdyk back on track,’ Bucks County Courier Times, 04/08/2021)
Vigneault commented about van Riemsdyk’s inconsistent play, “He’s getting in my estimation, maybe not as many looks as he was early on but he’s getting some looks. I believe he’s working hard right now, he’s trying to do the right things. JVR has, throughout his career, been streaky at moments.”
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If Vigneault’s comment about van Riemsdyk’s unreliable play throughout his career rings true with general manager Chuck Fletcher, van Riemsdyk’s future with the Flyers may be in question. The Flyers may leave him unprotected in preparation for the expansion draft or look to trade him during the offseason.
Van Riemsdyk turned 32 earlier in May and will earn $7 million in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons. $7 million is an expensive salary for a player who is not getting any younger. The Flyers also have several other players who will be restricted or unrestricted free agents in the next couple of seasons, like Oskar Lindblom, Couturier, and Farabee.
Van Riemsdyk’s Offensive Production
Despite van Riemsdyk’s inconsistent play, he tied for the lead in points on the Flyers, finishing with 43 points along with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, and also led the team with 10 power-play goals. The Flyers had a lackluster power-play unit, finishing 18th in the league with a 19.2% success rate. Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere finished second on the Flyers with five power-play goals, followed by right-wing Travis Konecny, who had four.
It is evident that when the Flyers began to struggle in March, van Riemsdyk’s offensive contributions took a hit. He benefited from playing on the same line with Couturier and Farabee and often found himself in a good position on the forecheck. Van Riemsdyk was one of two players, along with defenseman Ivan Provorov, to play in all 56 regular-season games for Philadelphia.
Flyers Face an Uncertain Future
The Flyers offense was disappointing this year in comparison with the 2019-20 season. Fans could tell that the team lacked the aggressiveness and confidence on the forecheck. While van Riemsdyk tied for the team lead in points, his production was not dependable. The players need to learn from the mistakes made this year and have a good offseason.
It is uncertain if van Riemsdyk will be on Philadelphia’s roster come opening night for the 2021-22 season. He could be a trade candidate this offseason or be selected by the Seattle Kraken if Philadelphia elects to not protect him in the expansion draft on July 21.
Chuck Fletcher needs to determine what veterans on the team are worth holding onto as the organization is at a crossroads following a season that did not live up to expectations of the coaches, the players, and the fanbase.
Matt covers the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Hockey Writers. Matt’s priority is to contribute exceptional content about the Flyers and Penguins for THW and its readers. Matt writes for The Globe newspaper at Salt Lake Community College. To see more of Matt’s writing, visit his portfolio. For interview requests, follow Matt on Twitter that appears at the end of articles for THW.