Wayne Simmonds was basically a footnote on the whirlwind summer day that transformed the Philadelphia Flyers.
It was June 23, 2011, when then-general manager Paul Holmgren pulled the trigger on three enormous transactions after a 106-point campaign that saw the Flyers ultimately bounced in the second round by Boston.
Arguably the biggest move at that point was the trade that sent captain Mike Richards, then at his peak in the NHL, to Los Angeles. Bigger in retrospect was the other whopper, which saw Jeff Carter, who had averaged 28 goals and 69 points over the three previous seasons, dealt to Columbus.
Then there was the apparent end to Philadelphia’s goaltending woes with Russian netminder Ilya Bryzgalov signing for nine years and US$51 million.
Bryzgalov was eventually bought out, but the Flyers did well otherwise that day.
While Carter remained a star and eventually won two Stanley Cups with the Kings, the players the Flyers acquired in the trade proved potent: Jakub Voracek gradually rose into one of the NHL’s top scorers â€” outscoring Carter from the time of the trade (337 points to 284) â€” and Sean Couturier quickly became a valued contributor down the middle.
Richards, meanwhile, sunk after his exit from Philadelphia, the Kings ultimately cutting ties in 2015. The Flyers not only netted Brayden Schenn, who had 26 goals and 59 points last season, in that deal, but Simmonds, who’s scored 69 power-play goals upon joining Philadelphia, bettered only by Washington’s Alex Ovechkin.
The 28-year-old was named the all-star game MVP on Sunday in Los Angeles.
“They asked me how does being an all-star sound, and I said weird,” Simmonds said. “It’s definitely an honour. There’s so many great players in our game today, to be recognized as an all-star is pretty special to me.”
Evgeni Malkin’s absence from the NHL’s 100 greatest players list drew the most scrutiny, but the bigger snub was probably Joe Thornton. Nobody has more points, assists, or power-play points than Thornton since the St. Thomas, Ont. product entered the NHL in 1997.
The 37-year-old also ranks 15th in goals in that span. He’s tied for 11th in points per-game (minimum 500 games), meanwhile, even with Mats Sundin and just ahead of Pavel Datsyuk, both of whom cracked the list. Thornton is tied for fifth in assists per game, even with Joe Sakic, another player who cracked the top-100.
“He’s come through both generations you could say,” San Jose Sharks teammate Joe Pavelski said of Thornton, who’s played for parts of the last three decades. “He’s played that hard, tough hockey and he’s put up the points consistently. It’s a position we thought he would’ve probably been in and he wasn’t. And as a teammate you kind of believed he should have been there.”
Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller has sizzled over the last month, better than anyone since late December.
His ranks among regular NHL starters (min. eight starts) since Dec. 27:
1.70 goals against average: First
.945 save percentage: First
.961 even-strength save percentage: First
Two shutouts: Second (tied)
NEW NO. 1
The New York Islanders waived Jaroslav Halak on the first day of 2017, ultimately handing the reigns to Thomas Greiss, who’s shined with increased opportunity. One of only two German goaltenders in the NHL â€” Washington’s Philipp Grubauer is the other â€” Greiss has a .935 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average in January, posting back-to-back shutouts at one point.
New York, which recently replaced head coach Jack Capuno with interim replacement Doug Weight, is within shouting distance of a wild-card spot in large part because of Greiss, a pending unrestricted free agent who also delivered a sharp .925 save percentage last season in 41 starts.
Another key contributor for the Islanders during their mini resurgence this month: John Tavares, who leads the NHL with eight goals and 13 points since Jan. 12.
CROSBY V. MCDAVID UPDATE
Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid faced off in the final of Sunday’s all-star tournament and will likely continue to duke it out for NHL supremacy for the remainder of the season (and beyond).
How’s the race stacking up at the moment? They’re pretty close in almost every regard.
Points: McDavid â€” 59, Crosby â€” 55
Points per-game: Crosby â€” 1.31, McDavid â€” 1.16
Even-strength points: McDavid â€” 42, Crosby â€” 38
Goals: Crosby â€” 28, McDavid â€” 17
Assists: McDavid â€” 42, Crosby â€” 27
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press