Philadelphia Flyers: Five Wings, Please.

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

The wing positions outnumber the center on a given line by a 2:1 ratio.  As such, an argument can be made that a center is only as good as the wingers that flank him as they go into battle. Is that true for the Philadelphia Flyers?

The Philadelphia Flyers are in need of some serious scoring talent at the wing position.  The team finished sixth out of eighth last year in the Metro division in Goals For with 214, and this places them further back in the statistics than most of their major rivals including the Washington Capitals, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, the New York Islanders, and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In contrast, the Flyers finished third out of eighth last year in the Metro in Goals Against with 218.  These statistics are pretty close with only a difference of four, but they are in the reverse order the Flyers would like them.  The club obviously wants more goals for their team rather than goals scored against, and to make this switch happen they need to add a winger who has a nose for the back of the net, and the natural ability to put it there.

Over the years, there have been many standout wingers who helped the Philadelphia Flyers achieve success.  If the Flyers could gain a winger that is even half as good as these players, then their trouble at wing would be over.  As it is the best prospects the Flyers have are…  waiting in the wings.  Some of these wingers helped the Philadelphia Flyers to their cup victories in the mid 70’s and were so good they had nicknames.  Others set NHL records or were part of a line that had a nickname.  Let’s take a look.

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Bob Kelly

The Flyers selected Kelly in 1970, and he played for the team from 1970-1979.

Was he so good he had a nickname?  Yes.  How does “the hound” sound?  Kelly was called the hound for a few reasons.  One of these reasons came from Fred Shero, the Flyers head coach at the time, who had a philosophy of “taking the shortest route to the puck carrier and arriving in an ill-humor.”  The hound accomplished this feat and more.

In the 1972-73 season, Kelly racked up 238 penalty minutes in 77 games while scoring ten goals and assisting 11 players.  That’s the kind of player the hound was.  I saw the hound at an alumni game last year, and he maintained his intensity all these years.  The hound provided grit in a time where grit was not the norm.  Here is some more information on Bob Kelly.

Dave Shultz

The Flyers selected Shultz in 1969, and he played for the Flyers from 1971-1975 under Shero.  Was he so good he had a nickname?  Yes.  How does “the hammer” sound?  Shero’s philosophy of play holds with Shultz as it did Kelly, but the reason why Shultz is nicknamed the hammer is best explained by Shultz himself.  Shultz’s son, Chad, was in organized hockey as a child, and Shultz wrote Chad the following in 1982:

"Let me say, first of all, that as a player your dad was not an angel. Far from it. I set a National Hockey League record for penalties and was nicknamed The Hammer because of the manner in which I bounced my fist off the enemy’s head."

But Shultz was also a goal scorer, and he made sure to let his son know where he stood regarding how he thought hockey should be played:

"Only the skills should be encouraged and not physical intimidation."

This last quote is interesting because it speaks of the current argument to remove physical intimidation from the game back in 1982, which is another article for another day.  What this also shows is personal growth.

Shultz knew Shero branded him a goon, but Shultz had the inner strength and desire to change his style of hockey towards the end of his career.  That takes character.  The Flyers could use another winger like that.

You can read Shultz’ full letter to his six-year-old son here.  It is quite interesting.

Bill Barber

The Flyers selected Barber seventh overall in the first round of the 1972 draft (do you see a pattern with drafting here?)  Barber played for the Flyers from 1973 to 1983 under coach Shero just like Kelly and Shultz did.  Okay, but was he so good he had a nickname?  He was on a line so good the whole line had a nickname.  They were known as the LCB line.  This line gained its nickname after three players on the line:  Reggie Leech, Bobby Clarke, and Bill Barber.

Barber scored six goals and recorded 15 and 13 points in each Stanley Cup post-season drive he was a part of.  Barber played a well rounded game and did every job asked of him; he played good offense, good defense, and good special teams.  He was a lynchpin in the Flyers successful cup runs, and it goes to show what a good selfless winger can do for a franchise (translation:  help towards a Stanley Cup victory).

John LeClair

LeClair played for the Flyers from 1993 – 2003.  Was he so good he had a nickname?  He is the second player on this list to be on a line so good the whole line had its own nickname.  John LeClair, Eric Lindros, and Mikael Renberg.  They were called the legion of doom.  Bill Meltzer explains

"Big and strong and virtually impossible to contain, they cycled the puck at will."

For those that do not know, cycling the puck is basically moving it around between several team mates in a cycle (hence the name) to keep it away from the other team and maintain possession for your own.

LeClair helped hold this line down and broke a record to become the first American-born player (born in St. Albans, VT) and the second Flyer to score three consecutive 50 goal seasons.

He boasts a total of 333 career goals.  This is the exactly the type of scoring the Flyers need.

You can read Meltzer’s piece about the legion of doom here.  You can read more about cycling the puck and what that entails here.

Simon Gagne

The Flyers drafted Gagné in the first round of the 1998 NHL draft.  Gagné played for the Flyers from 1999-2009 and returned to the team for one year in 2012-2013.

Was he so good he had a nickname?  He is the third player on this list to be so good that he was a part of a line with a nickname.  They were called the deuces wild line because of the numbers on the back of their jersey’s.  The other two players were Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble.

Gagné boasts 291 goals but has 310 assists.  It proves that not only could he score goals, but that he was a team player as well willing to help out others as needed.

The analysis

Four out of the five players on this list were drafted by the Flyers.  Ron Hextall preaches and practices patience and views intelligent drafting as one of the best way to build a team.

Next: Should they Trade a Goalie?

These players or the lines they were on were given nicknames like the hound, the hammer, the LCB, the legion of doom, or deuces wild because each of these players contributed at wing.

The Flyers need contribution from their wingers.  They have some good wingers on the team already, but they need more.  It is a crucial area, and it is lacking.