After months of speculation and rumors galore, Chuck Fletcher finally pulled the trigger, and sent Wayne Simmonds to the Nashville Predators for Ryan Hartman, and a fourth round pick. And folks, I have some emotions I need to get out.
Wayne Simmonds was the quintessential Philadelphia Flyer. He gave you his all night in, and night out, and his effort never wavered. He gave his blood, sweat, and tears for this organization for eight seasons filled with many memories. If you looked up the phrase “fan favorite” in the dictionary, Wayne Simmonds’ face is plastered right next to it. This is not going to be any analysis of the trade, whether it was right to trade him or not, none of that. This is not a deep dive analysis on what this means for the team moving forward, or any of that jazz. For a second, I want to ignore the noise, and give a proper thank you to one of the best Flyers of the past decade.
A seemingly rare breed nowadays, Simmonds had all the intangibles that hockey men crave, along with the skill to back it up. His Philadelphia story began in 2011, when he was traded along with Brayden Schenn to the Flyers for captain Mike Richards. At that point, Simmonds was coming off a 30-point season with the Los Angeles Kings, and had only a career high of 16 goals. The grit and energy brought by a guy like Richards was immediately replaced with the Wayne Train, who at age 23 was prepared to make a strong impression in his new home, and he wasted no time creating himself into a fan favorite.
The Clarkson Fight
In the second game of the 2011-12 season, the Flyers had just defeated the Boston Bruins for their first win in the post Jeff Carter/Mike Richards era. Their next opponent was their divisional rivals in the New Jersey Devils. Simmonds wasn’t brought in just as a tough guy, but we all knew he could drop the gloves and take care of business when needed. Around the halfway mark of the third period, with the Flyers up 3-0, Simmonds endeared himself to Flyers fans everywhere.
He didn’t just knock David Clarkson out once, he did it twice. With two big right hooks, the winger had created a bond with Flyers fans, and set the stage for what would be a fantastic first season in orange and black. Simmonds would go on to score a career-high 28 goals and become a power play specialist on one of the most exciting offensive teams in the league. His fight vs. Clarkson wouldn’t be the only highlight of his first season in the city of brotherly love. In fact, here’s every single point he scored in his first season in Philly.
Becoming a part of the core
Simmonds continued to perform at a high level the following season in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign. He posted 32 points in 45 games, a 0.71 points per game pace which was a significant improvement from his 0.60 in 2011-12. Although the Flyers would miss the playoffs that season, Simmonds was rewarded with a six year, $23.85 million deal that has taken him to this season. With his new contract, the gritty winger not only topped his career high in goals yet again in 2013-14, but he demolished a career high in points. Simmonds scored 60 points as the Flyers made it back to the postseason, where the Wayne Train delivered quite possibly his greatest moment as a Flyer.
With the New York Rangers leading the first round series 3-2, and the Flyers needing a game six victory to send the series back to the Big Apple, Simmonds delivered a playoff hat trick as they crushed the Rangers and forced game seven. They would fail to win that game, but Simmonds had solidified himself as a part of Flyers lore.
After a minor setback in the 2014-15 season, Simmonds set a new career high the following season with 32 goals, his first 30-goal campaign. He reached the 60-point plateau yet again, and behind first year head coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers had made the playoffs yet again after missing the previous year. They’d be bounced by the Washington Capitals in round one, but Simmonds continued to be a major part of the Flyers core.
Another 30-goal campaign followed the next year, with a 31-goal and 54-point season as the Flyers missed the playoffs. This was Simmonds’ last great season as a Flyer, before his injuries last season took a toll on his body, and performance. This season has been rough to watch for the 30-year old, as he’s on the lowest points per game pace of his career at 0.44. But you know what we’re not going to do? Dwell on that.
This is a thank you to one of the most dedicated members of the Philadelphia Flyers of the decade, and someone I have truly enjoyed seeing play hockey for my favorite team. He represents a mix of old school and new school, and for a good stretch, he was one of the most effective power forwards in the game of hockey. He came here helping fill the void of the Flyers captain, and he did more than enough to fill that gap. He turned into one of the key leaders of this hockey team, and someone we all loved to watch.
Last season, Simmonds played through numerous injuries that severely impacted his play. Sure, it probably would have been best for him to sit out, rest, and get healthy rather than play through it or risk further injury. We could debate whether that’s smart or not, but we’re not going to. What we are going to do is admire the effort this man put in for the hockey team. He didn’t play through all that pain for personal satisfaction, he did it because he thought that was the best way to help his team. He’s a warrior who was not going to come out of the lineup unless forced to.
A lot of the time, effort and grit can be overblown when it comes to evaluating hockey players. But that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate effort when it’s smacking us right in the face. Wayne Simmonds was all effort, all the time, and that is to be appreciated and respected.
Thank you, Wayne
Thank you for the memories, the fights, the goals, the big hits, every last moment you created. With the current state of sports, sometimes we don’t take a second on trades such as this to appreciate the player leaving, and focus more on the new assets coming in. And I get that, hockey is a business after all and getting new players is typically fun, but at the same time business be damned.
In his final stretch of games as a Flyer, Simmonds demonstrated the leadership and passion that made us fall in love with him in the first place. After Anthony Mantha laid a cheap hit on Claude Giroux in the first of the Detroit Red Wings back-to-back, the alternate captain started the second half off by dropping the mitts with Mantha, and setting the tone for the game. Then on Saturday night, he set the tone again with a big hit on Brian Dumoulin.
We are fans of this hockey team first and foremost, and the fan in me is sad that Wayne Simmonds is no longer playing for my favorite team. After Saturday’s game, Scott Gordon was asked about him, and he stated, “He makes everyone play braver.” The Flyers absolutely played brave as that game went on, and especially after Simmonds’ hit. If that quote doesn’t sum this guy up in a nutshell, I’m not quite sure what does.
The only better way his final game in orange and black could have ended, was if he was the one who scored the OT winner. But a comeback, down 3-1 victory over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins for the team’s first outdoor game win? Not a bad send off at all. So thank you, Wayne Simmonds, I hope Nashville fans cherish you with the same fervor as we did, and you get that pay day you deserve.