Hockey is filled with terms of endearment, from “first-line center” to “captain” to “agitator.” They all describe a specific player’s important role on the team and can be used to measure a player’s value.
But is there any term quite as fun as “fan favorite”?
A fan favorite is a player who wins over the crowd, for any number of reasons. He could have a blistering shot, an enthusiasm for dropping the gloves, a no-quit attitude, an iron-man streak…
The list is virtually endless.
The Philadelphia Flyers already have a plethora of fan favorites on their roster, from personalities like Scott Hartnell to beacons of leadership like Kimmo Timonen. But a (potential) new season can bring new faces to the forefront and new jersey nameplates to the stands.
Here are seven players who stand a great chance of being Philly fan favorites by the end of 2012-13.
Before we get started, I would like to nip certain discussions in the bud by establishing why certain players are not on this list.
This list is specifically about players who do not currently qualify as fan favorites for Flyers fans, but have the potential to win over our hearts over the course of the year.
Some players, for the most part, have already done that.
Anyone who is not already a Claude Giroux fan will likely not see anything this year that changes his or her mind. Scott Hartnell's relationship with the fans is already well-established. Wayne Simmonds seemed to embody Flyers hockey in 2011-12 and is therefore already a fan favorite.
Guys like Max Talbot, Sean Couturier, Kimmo Timonen and many others have also, by my count, done enough already to earn the label.
Thus, the following seven players are seven Flyers (or, to be more accurate, six Flyers and a Duck) with a chance to win over a crowd that generally has no reason to fawn over them, yet.
Okay, this one seems a little far-fetched at the moment, given the fact that Ryan laces up the skates in SoCal instead of South Philly.
Ryan already gets a ton of local love for his roots in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a town sandwiched between the Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers’ practice facilities in Voorhees. A homecoming would make Ryan an instant local celebrity.
No one is saying that there is a strong likelihood of Ryan arriving in the City of Brotherly Love, but trade rumors featuring Ryan and the Flyers have lingered for the last few months. If Anaheim looks to move Ryan midseason, expect Philly to be on the short list of buyers.
Philly needs defensive depth, badly.
Marc-Andre Bourdon is listed as one of the Flyers’ seven defensemen to start the season on the NHL roster, meaning that an early shot at a role on the third pairing is not outside the realm of possibility for Bourdon.
Bourdon came onto the scene in 2011-12 when the Flyers’ roster was depleted by injuries, and amidst the chaos of roster uncertainty, he proved to be a reliable defender who can use his medium size effectively.
Bourdon has heart, grit and reliability, traits that Flyers fans traditionally love and desperately need to see on their defense in 2012-13.
All eyes are going to be on Luke Schenn from day one.
The former Maple Leaf, who seemed to plateau early in his development in Toronto, has a chance to break out and achieve his full potential in the Philly system.
Schenn will undoubtedly be a popular player for Flyers fans, who can appreciate his hard-hitting style and leadership. But in order to become a true fan favorite, he will need to be smart when defending. With the team missing out on Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, Schenn is the biggest upgrade the Flyers could make to their defense.
Of course, it won’t hurt his public persona if his growth corresponds to that of his brother.
Luke's little brother Brayden received a big introduction when he was traded to the Flyers from Los Angeles, as many fans were informed that Schenn had the potential to turn into a Mike Richards type of player. The news was a bit befuddling, of course, as the Flyers had traded Richards himself to acquire Schenn and winger Wayne Simmonds.
Schenn took his time bursting onto the scene, waiting for the 2011 calendar to turn before netting his first goal, which took place at the Winter Classic. He finished the season with 18 points and was a contributor in the playoffs, but getting comfortable on NHL ice isn’t the reason fans will love him.
As the year wore on, Schenn showed his willingness to get dirty. He began throwing the body around and getting himself into jawing matches with players 10 years older than him.
In 2012-13, there is little doubt that Schenn will really display those qualities that drew the positive Mike Richards comparisons.
The prodigal son has returned home, two Stanley Cups richer.
Ruslan Fedotenko began his NHL career with the Flyers in 2000-01 and is perhaps most notable for scoring one of the team’s two total goals in the entire five-game playoff series against the Ottawa Senators in the 2002 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
There is something special about a player returning to the city where his career started, even if he played for three division rivals during the hiatus.
A little third-line production could result in plenty of public love for “Rusty.”
Playing alongside Claude Giroux can make any player likable.
The Flyers put their faith in Voracek long-term by signing him to a four-year extension last month, and the folks in the stands will put his jersey on their backs if Voracek and Giroux find any amount of chemistry.
Both players are excellent puck handlers, and Voracek’s lateral speed could open up plenty of ice for Giroux. By the same token, Giroux’s knack for dishing the biscuit should help Voracek easily eclipse the career-high 18 goals he scored last season.
Voracek is on the verge of being one-third of the Flyers’ most popular line since the Legion of Doom.
Disclaimer: The title of this article address players who could be fan favorites by season’s end.
This particular player could also be metaphorically driven out of the city.
Ilya Bryzgalov, as we all know, did not live up to his big contract in the 2011-12 season. There are many possible reasons for this, including the uncertainty that came with splitting time with backup Sergei Bobrovsky and the adjustment from the apathetic atmosphere of hockey in Glendale to the rabid media of Philadelphia.
Either way, a new season is (hopefully) upon us, and Bryzgalov has a second chance to prove himself to the people of Philadelphia.
He now knows what to expect and the goalie hierarchy is squarely established in his favor.
If Bryzgalov can finally become the goalie that Philadelphia has been searching for since Hextall, Bryz will be an undeniable fan favorite.
If not…well, no hiding spot in the universe will keep Mr. Universe safe from the wrath of the fans.