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Constructing a Flyers team of the decade

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With the “10’s” decade nearly over, let’s see who the best of the best have been.

2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series - Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

This decade has been a very tumultuous one for the Philadelphia Flyers.

It started with a Prince of Wales Trophy and a Stanley Cup Final berth in what would ultimately be a disappointing series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. This was quickly followed by an “all in” attitude, from both management and ownership, which ultimately caused more problems than solutions. The years following in the middle of the decade were spent trying to rescue the club from cap peril, and in the process of rebuilding, set the Flyers up for a dynasty. However, despite the success in the former, the Flyers’ pursuit of the latter was marred by a dogged obstinance on part of the very same man who put them in a position to succeed. Ultimately, both he and his protege were disposed of, and the Flyers would end the decade with a renewed sense of optimism.

Through thick and thin, there have been both very good and very bad players who have laced up their skates for this storied franchise. According to Hockey Reference, from 2010 (counting the 2009-10 season since it partially took place in the decade) until this current season, 2019-20, there have been 129 skaters and 19 goalies who have played at least one game for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Of those skaters, only two, Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk, were with the team when the decade started. Even then, Van Riemsdyk was traded and played a majority of the decade in Toronto. This is all to say that time can indeed be cruel to a hockey player, and many of the best talent to have graced us in the 2010’s have either been traded, left in free agency, or retired.

With this in mind, I wanted to reflect on these past ten years of hockey and follow a trend that I have seen crop up recently: naming a team of the decade. I am now 22, meaning that during the 2009-10 season, I was 12 years old and therefore I can say that I have a very clear memory of all the players to be listed in this piece. Though I still may be blinded partially by nostalgia goggles, I think I can be clearly sure that the following is a pretty good team of the decade. Note that for both forwards and defensemen, I am ignoring position, as I think this makes the list more fun.

Forwards:

Line One:

Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

Giroux and Couturier are an obvious pairing to have on the top line, as they are arguably the two best forwards of the entire decade. Giroux has been with the team since 2007-08 (he played two games that year), has been the captain since January 2013, and is 4th all time in points scored for the franchise. Couturier, ever since breaking in with the Flyers in 2011-12, has been a consistently excellent defensive forward, and now that he has found his offensive game, is one of the best two way forwards in all of hockey.

The third spot gave me a bit of trouble. There were a few candidates who I was considering putting at that spot, but ultimately I had to go with Wayne Simmonds. I chose Wayne not only for his longevity with the team (seven seasons with the Flyers from 2011-12 to 2018-19), but because of the legacy he has left on this team’s identity over the course of the decade. Of this current iteration of the “core”, Simmonds has perhaps been the most loved Flyer by fans. His toughness, willingness to fight, and scrappy play brought fans back to the days of Bob Clarke and Dave Schultz, and suffice to say, Philadelphians loved it. Simmer is absolutely fit for the 1RW spot.

Line Two:

James Van Riemsdyk - Brayden Schenn - Jake Voracek

I would be remiss to not include Brayden Schenn in my top six. He spent six years here, and we all assumed he would be a part of this team heading forward until he was shockingly traded in a one-for-one move bringing Jori Lehtera to Philadelphia (haha lol). Of course, we now have Morgan Frost thanks to that move, but Schenn was a key part of the Flyer lineup up until then. He amassed 246 points in 424 games for this club, and I was very happy for him when he won the cup with the Blues this past summer.

As I mentioned up top, Van Riemsdyk did spend a majority of the decade with the Maple Leafs, but he fittingly ends the decade back in Philadelphia where he started it. JVR is certainly one of the most talented forwards the Flyers have had from a goalscoring perspective, and he deserves to be on this list. Equally, Jake Voracek has been a part of the Flyers core ever since he was acquired in the Jeff Carter trade back in 2011. Voracek has since scored his 200th career NHL goal, and is the franchise’s all time points leader for a European born player.

Line Three:

Jaromir Jagr - Danny Briere - Scott Hartnell

Wanna hear something incredible? Jaromir Jagr is still playing professional hockey. Folks, it is 2019, soon to be 2020. Counting his years before the NHL, when the calendar hits 2020, Jagr will have played in five decades of professional hockey dating all the way back to 1989-90.

Earlier in autumn, Jagr (at the spry age of 47) started his 31st professional hockey season playing in the Czech Republic’s Extraliga, the nation’s top league, for his hometown club HC Kladno (of which he is president and club owner). This comes after Jagr scored four, four, goals in a promotion game last season to send Kladno to the top flight for the first time since 2013-14. As of me typing this sentence, Jagr has 8 goals and 7 assists for 15 points in 21 games, good for second most on Kladno.

While in the present day Jagr is bossing it in the Czech league, back in 2011-12, he made his return to the NHL after a three year absence with the Flyers, scoring 54 points in 73 games. He was pivotal to the success of the Flyers’ top line that year, playing alongside a young Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell. For that season, along with his incredible longevity in the NHL and otherwise, Jagr has to make this list.

Centering this line will be Daniel Briere. He played four seasons in this decade for the Flyers, though he makes this list solely for his performance in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs where he notched 30 points (which led all players in the postseason). Though his best season in orange and black was by far his first back in 2007-08, Briere is still well deserving of a spot on the team of the decade, even if his star was fading as the Flyers ushered in a new guard of talent around the middle of the decade.

Last but certainly not least is Scott Hartnell, who like Briere, made his Flyers debut in 2007-08 after being brought in as a result of the Peter Forsberg trade. Hartnell played five seasons in the decade for the Flyers, and he was always a reliable goalscorer who was willing to go into the corners and in front of the net regardless of the punishment he would have to endure. His signature “Hartnell Down” move, turned charity, will always be fondly remembered by Flyers fans of this decade.

Line Four:

Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Michael Raffl

I can hear the arguments and angry comments in my head about why Simon Gagne, a proper Flyers legend, is listed so low.

Gagne is without a doubt one of the most talented goalscorers in franchise history. In fact, he sits just above Claude Giroux at 9th all time in Flyers goals. However, I would be leading you astray if I were to say that Gagne was best remembered for his time in the 2010’s. He only played two seasons in the decade if you count his return to the Flyers in 2012-13, and I would argue that he will be best remembered for his 40+ goal seasons in the middle of the 2000’s, forming the feared “dynamic duo” playing on Peter Forsberg’s wing. Despite this, he still makes it on to this list due to his key goals in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In particular, his game four overtime winner against the Bruins in the second round helped the Flyers stay alive, and ultimately, led to their improbable comeback in that series.

I have also included Mike Richards as a fourth liner for a similar reason. Though his best years as a Flyer were spent in the decade prior, Richards will best be remembered in Philadelphia for “the shift” against the Montreal Canadiens in the 2010 Eastern Conference Final, where he managed to score a shorthanded goal after a hearty penalty-killing display. Though he would ultimately win his Stanley Cup ring with the Los Angeles Kings, that singular moment, among many other of his displays of taciturn hard work, earns him a spot of the team of the decade list.

The last forward on the team of the decade, for me at least, has to be Michael Raffl. Raffl has been a Flyer since 2013-14, and though he won’t be remembered in the same light as more skilled players, Raffl has been a stalwart rock in the lineup for the better of seven seasons now. There are few Flyers with such tenure in this decade, and for that, Raffl earns the last spot for the forwards.

Honorable mentions:

Jeff Carter, Matt Read, Scott Laughton, Travis Konecny

Defence:

Pair One:

Kimmo Timonen - Ivan Provorov

During his seven year stint (five years in the decade) with the Flyers, Kimmo Timonen was the team’s primary offensive defenseman, a staple on the powerplay. Though blood clots would limit his time in the lineup as he aged, Timonen was excellent when he did play. He was eventually traded to Chicago in 2014-15, and in what would be his last season, he deservingly won the Stanley Cup as he was first to receive the trophy from Jonathan Toews. In an article series I did all the way back in January, I named Timonen the 2nd best ever European Flyer, a deserving title for the skilled defenseman.

Paired with Timonen will be Ivan Provorov, who is shaping up now to be this team’s #1 defenseman both from an eye test and statistical perspective. Provorov takes insane minutes on the top pairing, and though he has had his struggles in the past, Provorov is now without a doubt a legitimate #1 defenseman, a commodity which the Flyers have lacked throughout the decade.

Pair Two:

Chris Pronger - Braydon Coburn

Perhaps the only other true #1 defenseman to have played with the Flyers in the decade, Chris Pronger was awesome when he was here. Pronger helped drive the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010, and he was the anchor on the blue-line which the Flyers so desperately needed. Pronger was, as the front office hoped, aging gracefully. Suffice to say, the way his career ended was tragic and ultimately put the Flyers in a tricky situation with his contract, though while he was an active player, his displays put him fully deserving a spot on the list.

For his partner, why not put the two big guys together? At age 34, Braydon Coburn now plays in Tampa Bay, however, for five seasons in the decade, he was a great, albeit frustrating, defenseman. He was, without a doubt, a top four player talent wise, however he never truly broke through in any meaningful way to fulfill the potential we thought he had when he joined the team during the 2006-07 season. Regardless, Coburn still was able to use his skating ability and large frame when he wanted to and did so effectively, which is why he makes the second pair.

Pair Three:

Shayne Gostisbehere - Matt Carle

I can tell you now that there aren’t any other two guys you’d want on this roster other than Gostisbehere and Carle, and it’s ironic that they are a similar type of player: shifty offensive defenseman with a good shot.

Gostisbehere, ever since earning an NHL call up during the 2014-15 season, has been a stable force on the top powerplay with his cannoning shot and shifty moves. Though he can be inconsistent at times, Ghost is easily one of the most talented defenseman ever to grace this franchise. As for Matt Carle, while he may have been overshadowed by his defense partner Chris Pronger, Carle still showed flashes of talent even though he was probably a second pair defenseman at best. His best season in orange and black came in 2010-11 when he totalled 40 points.

Honorable mentions:

Andrej Meszaros, Mark Streit, Radko Gudas

(This really shows how depleted the Flyers defense has been, yeesh.)

Goaltenders:

Starter:

Carter Hart

To be honest, Hart is really the only option.

He may not be very long tenured, but to be honest, no Flyers goalie besides either Bernie Parent or Ron Hextall has. Hart is easily the most talented goaltender to play for this franchise in the entire decade, and he looks set to take his spot in goal for the foreseeable future. The Flyers haven’t had an elite goaltender since the aforementioned Bernie Parent, and having an elite goaltender can turn your team into a contender instantly.

Backup:

Steve Mason

Mase gets the nod behind Hart simply due to his five season tenure, not to mention that he was solid for a good portion of his time here. I’m convinced that Mason could have helped this team win something had it not been for the utter garbage in front of him, and I think in the end Mason got the short end of the stick. Regardless, Mason is a solid choice for backup.

Honorable mentions (lol):

Brian Boucher, Ilya Bryzgalov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Michal Neuvirth