Mike Who? Simmonds Simmers For Flyers

Mike Richards this, Mike Richards that. This has become the narrative among circles when it comes to Flyers talk. Hey, did you hear Mike Richards won a Stanley Cup away from Philadelphia? Sound familiar? Believe it or not, though, Paul Holmgren came out on top when he shipped his stud captain out west. And although Richards now owns a ring, the Flyers are much better off as Wayne Simmonds simmers into the playoffs.

While Mike Richards has slipped in L.A., the Flyers have watched Wayne Simmonds simmer.
While Mike Richards has slipped in L.A., the Flyers have watched Wayne Simmonds simmer.

Richards & Simmonds Post-Trade

Since the trade that rocked the foundation of eastern Pennsylvania, the sun has continued to rise in the east and set in the west. Philadelphia’s organization continued their operations, and even won a game or two. All condescending tone aside, life hasn’t only gone on for the Flyers, it’s been better.

“You’re always going to have mixed reviews on that,” said Richards’ former teammate Chris Therien. “Carter and Richards did not equal the intangibles in the players that came back. A lot of people through the course of the season said you probably wouldn’t trade Wayne Simmonds for Mike Richards again. I don’t know. Richards is a good player. He rose to a big level in some of the games in the playoffs. Was it the best thing at the time? I think it probably was.”

While it appeared at the time that the Kings were getting the better of the trade, the majority of reactions were primarily based on emotion. Richards was the face of the franchise, the captain. And with Jeff Carter already dealt to Columbus, the fan base was left shellshocked, despite the Flyers receiving Simmonds and Brayden Schenn.

“This news has stirred the sports world of Philadelphia. Nobody saw this coming, and some people still don’t believe it. But it is real, and now it is time for fans to think about what is going to happen next. If the Flyers don’t do something to replace those players, it will be disappointing. But if they do, it could be the start of a championship run. These trades have freed up money and replenished the prospects for Philadelphia. Now it’s time to bring in a player or two that can get this team back to the Stanley Cup Finals.” — Yahoo Sports

Production & Value

As Simmonds Simmers in Philadelphia, Mike Richards has yet to reach 60 points with the Kings.
Mike Richards has yet to reach 60 points as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. (Photo by Bridget Samuels).

Although the Flyers moved Richards, who had nine years remaining on his contract, to Los Angeles, the return has far out-shined the loss. While taking nothing away from Richards, or the moments he lifted his level of play, Wayne Simmonds alone has flat out produced more for the Flyers than Richards has for the Kings. That irrefutable fact wasn’t obvious, though, after the first season, despite Simmonds recording a career-high 49 points.

“My first year here I did get the 28 goals, but I think there were some lapses in the season where I’d probably go 15, 16 games (without producing much),” said Simmonds. “I think there was one time I went like 17 games without a goal, and I just try to make sure I play a more complete game and more consistently.”

But while Simmonds considered himself hit or miss that season, his 28 goals, 21 assists, and 11 power play goals edged Richards’ three power play goals and 44 points. In fact, since the trade, Simmonds’ production has overshadowed Richards’, as the former Flyer captain has been outdone by a 24 point margin. On the power play, Simmonds has been a lightning rod for the Flyers. His 32 power play goals have been of great value; more so than Richards’ 13.

“He’s been a very good player for us. One of our most consistent guys,” said Flyers coach Craig Berube.

The consistency Berube is speaking of is most recognizable on the Flyers’ power play. A unit that ranks eighth overall in the league, and an NHL best 25.2 percent on the road. With 15 power play goals on the season, Simmonds finished the 2013-14 campaign trailing only Alexander Ovechkin and Joe Pavelski in power play goals. That’s four more than Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, and five more than Richards’ teammate in L.A., Anze Kopitar.

Size Can Be Deceiving

Wayne Simmonds is listed at 6-2, 183 pounds. In person, he looks like 183 pounds soaking wet. But don’t let his smaller frame fool you. In three seasons in orange and black, Philly as watched Simmonds simmer to the tune of 22 fights. In his first year in Philadelphia, Simmonds adopted the Broad Street Bully mentality by dropping the gloves against tough guys such as, David Clarkson, Brandon Prust, and Brian Boyle. In his six fights this season, Simmonds hasn’t lowered his standards, taking on Bryan Bickell, Steve Oleksy, and Sheldon Brookbank, among others.

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Although Simmonds is often outsized when it comes to fisticuffs, it’s nothing he’s not grown accustom to. His role on a scrappy Flyers team often positions him in front of the net, where the pushing and positioning take place.

“One of the things you like about how they’re using Wayne Simmonds right now, the Flyers put him in that paint area around the goaltender and then they move [Claude] Giroux and [Scott] Hartnell off to the circles,” said Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly.

“It forces teams to go out there and guard against the pass across to Hartnell, so they’re giving Simmonds space down low and he’s really taking advantage of it.”

Simmonds’ toughness is unquestionably an intangible that the Flyers have fed off of, especially to get out of the cellar from their worst start in franchise history. But that’s not to say Mike Richards lacks toughness. Richards’ six fights as a member of the Kings may not match up with Simmonds’ fight totals, but it’s also important to note that Richards’ role is different than Simmonds’. Still, Richards threw fists nine times in his last two seasons with the Flyers, which is impressive considering he was the captain.

The Complete Package

In a top 10 list of NHL fighters last year, the Hockey News ranked Wayne Simmonds seventh. Although the list was compiled of fighters on a pound-for-pound basis, the Hockey News ranked him ahead of Ottawa Senators enforcer Chris Neil, and fellow teammate and scrapper, Zac Rinaldo.

Simmonds’ role with the Flyers has not only made him valuable to his team, but fantasy hockey owners as well. Simmer recently wrapped up his second season in which he’s topped 100 penalty minutes with the Flyers, logging 106 this season. Since coming over from L.A., Simmonds has spent a total of 302 minutes in the sin bin. This season alone, only Zac Rinaldo has spent more time in the penalty box.

In comparison, however, Simmonds’ offensive numbers make his penalty minutes much more valuable than Rinaldo’s. Valuable enough to earn him a six-year deal back in 2012, worth $23.85 million.

“I think it’s been a great place for me,” Simmonds acknowledged. “I signed this extension just hoping that we could bring a Stanley Cup to Philadelphia. I just want to be another piece of the puzzle. I think we have a great young core put in place. Obviously this is where I want to be for a long time.”

If the Flyers want to match Mike Richards’ Stanley Cup, they’ll certainly need Wayne Simmonds’ production and mentality. With a career year, the Flyers are watching Simmonds explode in the prime of his career. At 25, the Scarborough, Ontario native is four years younger than Richards. And with a little under $46 million to spare from dealing Richards, yes, the Flyers came out on top.