For the second time in as many years, Flyers fans are left untethered come playoff time. Because of the fluid nature of roster movement in this league, there are tons of ex-Flyers (and the same goes for other teams) around the league. Sometimes, seeing those guys win a Cup is sweet, like when we shipped long-time Flyer Kimmo Timonen out for one last run and he won it with Chicago in 2015. Sometimes it’s bitter, like when we traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in the same offseason and they won with the King the very next year. Sometimes, it’s just a nothing burger—Luke Schenn won the last two Stanley Cups! But it’s almost always bittersweet. So, here, ranked in order from most sweet to most bitter, are the teams I’d most like to see win the Stanley Cup based on which ex-Flyers they employ:
1. Florida Panthers (Claude Giroux, Radko Gudas, Sergei Bobrovsky, Robert Hägg)
This is the obvious choice here. There’s nothing that we as Philly fans inherently dislike about the Florida Panthers as a franchise, so there’s nothing holding us back from rooting for our former captain’s new team. In addition to Claude Giroux—who had 23 points in 18 games for Florida after the trade and has already scored a goal in Game 1 of their series against the Washington Capitals—the Panthers also have former Flyers Radko Gudas (who, with 20/20 hindsight, it’s become clear the Flyers should’ve kept), Sergei Bobrovsky (I mean, same), and Robert Hägg (it’s not that they should have kept him, they just shouldn’t have traded him away for what they did). The Panthers have the most former Flyers this post-season, the best former Flyers still playing, we have no ill will towards the franchise, and they’re the odds-on favorite to win the entire thing. They’ve also got 42-year-old Joe Thornton, who has played 24 years in the NHL without winning the Stanley Cup. I am not just going to be rooting for this team, I will likely be sitting down to watch all of their postseason games.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs (Wayne Simmonds, Petr Mrázek)
A lot of people hate the Toronto Maple Leafs. They’re kind of the NHL’s preeminent franchise, but with basically no history of success. I think it’s a lot more popular in Canada to root against the Maple Leafs no matter what in the same way that people in America will root against the Yankees or the Lakers no matter what. But for me? I don’t really care too much about them. It’d probably be good for the sport if the Maple Leafs were good, but being the current employers of one Wayne Simmonds is good enough to put them as the team I’d like to see win the whole thing the second most. Simmonds has a grip on the heart of Philadelphia that truly has not relinquished in the three and a half seasons since they traded him away; the only thing better than seeing our boy hoist the Cup for the Flyers would be seeing him do it for his hometown team. He’s an effective enough bottom of the lineup player at this point in his career, but pretty soon he’s going to be just ineffective and just expensive enough to not be worth it for contending teams, especially cap-strapped ones like Toronto, so who knows how many more chances he’ll get after this.
Plus, Petr Mrázek.
3. Dallas Stars (Michael Raffl)
After Giroux and Simmonds, Michael Raffl is probably the most well-liked former Flyer without a Cup in these playoffs. Most of the other guys were only here for a short period of time, have already won a Cup, or play for a hated rival. Raffl was in Philly for eight seasons before last year’s trade deadline sent him to Washington. It’s a pretty tough road for the Stars, but I’ll be rooting for them out of the West.
4. Edmonton Oilers (Derick Brassard)
Derick Brassard only played 31 games as a Flyer—all of them this year. I have no emotional investment in Brassard winning a Cup. The 15-year veteran of 10 different NHL teams has made it to the finals once in his career—with the New York Rangers in 2014 when they lost to the Kings. But, if Derick Brassard wins a Stanley Cup, that’ll probably mean that we as viewers just saw an exciting NHL playoffs because it probably means that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl played well. And that prospect is exciting to me. More exciting than seeing any of the other guys on this list win.
5. Colorado Avalanche (Nic Aube-Kubel)
Nic Aube-Kubel was a mostly bottom six guy for 100-ish games over parts of four seasons with the Flyers before they put him on waivers early this season and the Colorado Avalanche scooped him up. He’s played fairly well in a similar role for the favorites out of the West, scoring 22 points in 67 games for them this season.
6. St. Louis Blues (Brayden Schenn, Craig Berube)
Both Brayden Schenn and the St. Louis Blues have already won a Stanley Cup. That is already a knock against them, but, to me, I like Schenn more than basically the rest of the guys on the list and wouldn’t mind seeing him win a second. Schenn played six seasons in Philadelphia before netting us Jori Lehtera and the Blues are not a franchise that I dislike enough to care whether or not they have one or two Stanley Cup wins. They’re also coached by former Flyer player and former Flyer coach Craig Berube.
So we’ve reached the first team that I’d like to see win that currently has no former Flyer players on their roster. They do, though, have future former Flyer Johnny Gaudreau. Johnny Hockey’s South Jersey/Philly roots are no secret and, with this being the last year of his current contract, there’s been much speculation surrounding his intentions for next season. Does winning a Cup in Calgary make him feel free enough to come to a rebuilding team to try and win one with his hometown club? Or does it make him more likely to stay and try and win multiple? Maybe it changes some things from the Flames’ perspective. Do they need to shell out the big bucks to keep him once he’s proven they can win the big one with him? Or will his salary bump be too much for them to keep the rest of the team intact? Who knows! But I’d rather see this South Jersey boy win one than the other one still in the playoffs.
8. Minnesota Wild (Ryan Hartman, Cam Talbot)
Neither Ryan Hartman nor Cam Talbot played for the Flyers for an entire season. Hartman came over as a return for Wayne Simmonds and played 19 games before Chuck Fletcher traded his rights for Ryan Pitlick, while Talbot was traded straight up for Anthony Stolarz and played 4 games in goal in that record-setting eight-goalie season for the Flyers. I do not personally care much if either of these guys wins this year or not.
9. Nashville Predators (Nick Cousins, Phil Myers)
We’ve reached the truly apathetic section of this list. It would probably be a bad look if the Flyers traded away Phil Myers and he ended up being integral to a Cup-winning team, but that’s unlikely to happen. Myers only played 27 games for Nashville this year and will probably be a healthy scratch through most of the playoffs. Nick Cousins was drafted by the Flyers and played parts of three seasons here, but he can f*ck right off.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning (Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, Brian Elliott)
Pierre-Édouard Bellemare played three seasons for the Flyers—a fourth-line mainstay, you might call him—before he was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in their expansion. I don’t mind rooting for Bellemare, but he won a cup with the Lightning last year. Brian Elliott, meanwhile, is in his first season in Tampa. Elliott is a pretty well-traveled goaltender who spent the previous four seasons mired in mediocrity here in Philly. If Tampa wins, it’d be nice to see him lift the Cup, but he probably won’t have been a major contributor and that’d give Tampa three in a row. They’re not a franchise I think about enough to hate, but that might start to change if they three-peat.
11. Carolina Hurricanes (Rod Brind’Amour, Eric Tulsky)
The Carolina Hurricanes are young and exciting and a playoff run from them would probably be pretty exciting. They have no former Flyers on their roster, but they are led by former Flyer great Rod Brind’Amour behind the bench. They’re also publicly considered a very analytically-inclined team, so—in this copycat NHL—a Cup win could help propel that movement forward a bit. Plus, that analytics image is probably best personified through their assistant general manager, noted Flyer fan and former BSH writer, Eric Tulsky. Who knows, maybe a Cup could give him enough juice to take Fletcher’s job.
They’ve got no Flyers on or behind the bench. They’re young and on the upswing, but they’re mostly here because they’re below all the other teams (no Flyers plus recent Cup success) but above the rest (I don’t hate their guts).
13. Washington Capitals (Peter Laviolette)
The Flyers have not gotten closer to a Stanley Cup than they did with Peter Laviolette behind the bench. That said, both the Washington Capitals and Lavy have Cups and there are no Flyers players on their roster.
14. New York Rangers (Justin Braun)
The Rangers now have Justin Braun on their team. He played almost three seasons with the Flyers before they sent him to New York at this season’s deadline. He played 8 games down the stretch for the Rangers and will probably be a depth defenseman for them in these playoffs. I would not mind seeing Braun win, but I have no emotional attachment to it, and the fact that he probably won’t even be on the ice if they did puts the Rangers pretty low on this list. Plus, they’re the Rangers.
15. Boston Bruins
That’s right—for some reason, probably that I went to school in Boston and really can’t stand Bruins fans, I hate the Bruins more than I hate the Rangers. They’ve already won multiple Cups in this era, they’ve got no former Flyers, and I would like to see this core fade away with an ellipsis and not a bang.
16. The NHL decides to cancel the Stanley Cup, award no winner, and we’ll all come back to try again next year
17. Pittsburgh Penguins (Jeff Carter, Mark Friedman)
Do I like Jeff Carter? Yeah, sure, he was very good when he was in Philadelphia and I have nothing against the guy. But he plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who, on top of having won three Cups with this core already, are demons from the dregs of Pennsylvania. Carter himself has already won two Cups with the Kings, so it’s not even like I’d be especially rooting for him if he were on another team. Mark Friedman, meanwhile, only played 11 games for the Flyers and it kinda seemed like everyone else on the team hated him after he left—not that he’s even going to get much, if any, ice time these playoffs. So, naturally, the Penguins take the spot as team I’d least like to see win the Cup this year.