PHILADELPHIA – James van Riemsdyk’s second tenure in Philadelphia has seen him written off enough times to almost have an Amtrak train car ready to be named in his honor.
Yet here he stands, proudly ready to participate in his eighth season with the Flyers.
Almost since the day he signed a five-year, $35-million free-agent contract back on July 1, 2018, there have been rumors of possible exposure to the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, or a late season trade to a contending team (a la Claude Giroux) or maybe even simply being put on waivers.
None of that happened, of course, and it looks like JVR will complete the fifth season of that lucrative deal.
Thing is, he’s earned the right to stay here and play under new coach John Tortorella.
The numbers bear that out.
For instance, who was only Flyer to play all 82 games last season?
That would be van Riemsdyk.
Who led the Flyers in goals last season with 24?
That would be van Riemsdyk.
And who was No. 1 on the Flyers in power-play goals with nine (no one else had more than three)?
You guessed it. Van Riemsdyk.
Now 33, the Middletown, N.J. native became second to Sean Couturier among active players in terms of Flyers career games played once the Giroux trade was completed. He’s played in a total of 466 games in the orange, black and white since he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2007 as a consolation prize after the Chicago Blackhawks jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in the draft lottery and swiped future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane.
No doubt van Riemsdyk can still be a valuable asset to a possible turnaround year, if for no other reason than he can put the puck in the net with regularity when the Flyers have a manpower advantage.
In fact, for his Flyers career, JVR has scored 40 of his 144 goals on the power play, which works out to an almost even 30 percent.
That said, van Riemsdyk revealed he’s been working on his overall game to make him more versatile. Who says an “old dog’’ can’t learn new tricks?
“There’s always that fine line where you want to play to your strengths (like in front of the net),’’ he said, “and your identity as a player. But the more range you have as a player, the different things you can do, I think it makes you more versatile, more valuable to your team.
“I think there are situations where I can be more poised with the puck or carry the puck a little bit more, make smarter plays. The net front stuff has always been a strength but I think if I can be a little more of that attack-mindset with the puck, I think that can open some things up when I’m on the ice. Add a little bit of a different element to my game.’’
Van Riemsdyk has worked with Tortorella during their time together with the USA hockey program. JVR knows this coach has a love for the sport, which is why he’s the second-winningest American-born NHL coach of all time.
“You can definitely tell a passion for the game,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “An excitement to be back in the mix after being out for a couple years. We’re kind of excited to get things going and I’m sure he’s going to start putting his stamp even more so on things as we go along.’’