Having only a few days to compile a Flyers’ All-Decade Team that included hundreds of players and games certainly keeps the holiday week from getting dull.
Especially when it comes down to those tough decisions: Mike Richards or Brayden Schenn? Brian Boucher or Carter Hart? Shayne Gostisbehere or Mark Streit?
Here’s the criteria we used (sort of) to make the final calls – a player only had to appear in a Flyer uniform for at least one season (from 2009-2019) and was judged by the impact he had or has had in his time with Philadelphia.
We’ve set it up in the same form which is used for a game night roster.
So here goes:
1st line: Claude Giroux (LW), Sean Couturier (C), Jake Voracek (RW).
2nd line: Scott Hartnell (LW), Danny Briere (C), Wayne Simmonds (RW).
3rd line: Simon Gagne (LW), Jeff Carter (C), Travis Konecny (RW).
4th line: James van Riemsdyk (RW), Mike Richards (C), Jaromir Jagr (RW).
1st pairing: Kimmo Timonen (LD), Ivan Provorov (RD).
2nd pairing: Matt Carle (LD), Chris Pronger (RD).
3rd pairing: Shayne Gostisbehere (LD), Braydon Coburn (RD).
1st: Brian Elliott.
2nd: Brian Boucher.
1st: Peter Laviolette.
Forwards: Brayden Schenn, Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, Michael Raffl.
Defense: Mark Streit, Radko Gudas, Travis Sanheim, Andrej Meszaros.
Goaltenders: Carter Hart, Ray Emery, Steve Mason, Sergei Bobrovsky.
Now, of course, there is some explaining to do.
It starts with the aforementioned 2009-10 season, the last time the Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
In fact, since that season, the Flyers have only made it to the second round twice (the 2010-11 and 2011-12 campaigns).
Boucher is best remembered for kicking off that parade to the 2010 championship round by defeating future Hall of Fame goalie Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers in a shootout to determine which one of the two teams was going to the playoffs.
Big performance in a big moment.
No doubt, Hart’s future looks very bright but since it’s hard to pick someone who’s barely past his first year of action, we’ll hold off on that one.
Also in 2009-10, Richards led the Flyers in scoring with 31 goals and 31 assists for 62 points. People were predicting he would be the next Bobby Clarke.
Ultimately, it didn’t work out that way. But Richards did play a significant role in each of his two final seasons in Philadelphia before he was shipped to Los Angeles for Schenn and Simmonds.
Schenn never quite reached his potential with the Flyers, although he did make noteworthy contributions in the Stanley Cup won by the St. Louis Blues last June.
Getting back to goaltending, this was by far the hardest category to figure out.
We went with Elliott as our No. 1 because he’s not only a good performer on the ice but a leader in the locker room.
While Emery, Mason and Bobrovsky all had their moments, Elliott has been the most stable character in the bunch (and with Flyers netminders, that’s rare around here).
Aside from Richards-Schenn, there wasn’t much debate for the top 12 forwards.
One might wonder about the Jagr pick. Well, just ask Giroux or Hartnell about what Jagr’s presence on their line meant to them.
Hartnell enjoyed a career year, scoring 37 goals. Giroux registered what was then a career-high 93 points.
Not only did Jagr teach his linemates about stuff on the ice, he inspired the entire team with his tireless workout regimen.
Imagine if those 12 forwards had all played together in their prime. For goodness sake, the third line of Gagne-Carter-Konecny would be a first line on most teams even today.
Equally formidable were the six selections on defense.
While Pronger was here for only a short time, he, like Jagr, did a lot through leading by example. If not for the eye injury he suffered, who knows how far that 2011-12 team would have gone?
Aside from a dream tandem of Mark Howe and Eric Desjardins, it’s hard to imagine any better pairing than Ivan Provorov and Kimmo Timonen.
In a way, they’re similar players: Cerebral, crafty, opportunistic, articulate and proud to wear the Flyers’ logo.
As for Laviolette, he reminds us more than a little bit of another somewhat stern coach by the name of Keenan.
Laviolette got the most out of the talent on that 2009-10 team. If not for a bit of turmoil in goal, the Flyers might have won that series with the Chicago Blackhawks and Laviolette would be getting mentioned in the same sentence with the late Fred Shero.
The past decade wasn’t all that kind to the Flyers but they certainly had more than their share of exciting players pass through their doors.
And, come to think of it, the start of the next decade looks rather promising, too.