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Philadelphia Flyers: Ranking All Captains in Franchise History

Jason SapunkaCorrespondent IIJanuary 5, 2017

Philadelphia Flyers: Ranking All Captains in Franchise History

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    The recent eye injury to Chris Pronger means the Philadelphia Flyers will be without their captain for at least two weeks.

    Pronger is listed as the 18th captain in team history. The defenseman was captain of the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks prior to joining Philadelphia. His leadership abilities are unmistakable, and he is quite suitable to wear the three-inch letter on his jersey.

    Here are all the players to have worn the "C" on their chest for Philadelphia, ranked by leadership abilities shown with the Flyers.

No. 17: Lou Angotti

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    The Flyers' first captain was Lou Angotti, a 5'9", 170-pound right-winger who played just one season with the team.

    Angotti's leadership abilities helped him pick up two NHL coaching jobs, with the St. Louis Blues in 1973-74 and 1974-75. He coached the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1983-84 season.

No. 16: Derian Hatcher

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    Hatcher filled the role of captain for four months during the 2005-06 season.

    It was the first of Hatcher's three seasons with Philadelphia before a knee injury forced him into retirement in 2009. He had missed the entire 2008-09 season.

    After serving as captain and alternate of the team, Hatcher was offered and accepted the role of player-development coach.

    He still works with the Flyers today.

No. 15: Peter Forsberg

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    Peter Forsberg took over Hatcher's duties as captain before the 2006-07 season. Injuries limited the Swedish legend to just 57 games that season.

    With the team having the worst season in franchise history and Forsberg in the last year of his contract, the captain was traded to the Nashville Predators the week of the trading deadline.

    In the four seasons since, Forsberg played just 11 games in the NHL, all with the Colorado Avalanche. The injury-ridden player also suited up in 26 games for Modo Hockey of Sweden's premier league, the Elitserien.

    Forsberg had his number retired by Colorado this season.

No. 14: Kevin Dineen

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    After scoring 63 points and racking up 201 penalty minutes in the 1992-93 season, Dineen was named captain for the 1993-94 season.

    With a strike to start the next season, Dineen went to the IHL. When the NHL returned for a 48-game season, Dineen was no longer captain.

    Dineen is now head coach of the Florida Panthers.

No. 13: Ron Sutter

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    Ron and twin brother Rich were the youngest of the six Sutter brothers who played in the NHL.

    Sutter played with the Flyers for nine seasons, serving as captain in his final two, from 1990 to 1992. He was part of the trade with the St. Louis Blues in 1992 that brought Rod Brind'Amour to Philadelphia.

    Sutter is now a scout with the Calgary Flames.

No. 12: Mike Richards

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    Mike Richards was given the "C" in 2008.

    "Richie" was a fan-favorite in Philadelphia due to his mix of skilled two-way hockey and physical play. Richards dropped his gloves and fought for his team six times in that first season as captain.

    The culmination of Richards' playing career was helping the team win the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010. His game-changing shift against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 5 ranks among the most memorable Flyers playoff moments in franchise history.

    Unfortunately, Richards' leadership was often under question due not only to his potential off-ice interests, but also since the veteran Pronger seemed a more imposing locker room presence.

    These issues may have led to the trade that sent Richards to Los Angeles this past summer.

No. 11: Rick Tocchet

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    Rick Tocchet spent the last season of his first stint in Philadelphia as the team's captain before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a trade that brought Mark Recchi to Philadelphia.

    Not only was Tocchet one of the Flyers' greatest all-time scorers, he was one of the franchise's best fighters as well.

    Tocchet's ferocious playing style earned him the captaincy after seven seasons.

No. 10: Eric Lindros

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    Prior to the start of the 1994-95 season, Lindros was announced as the new team captain, taking the spot from Dineen.

    The 21-year-old Lindros had scored 97 points in just his second NHL season. In his first year as captain, Lindros tied for the NHL lead in points with Jaromir Jagr. This helped Lindros win both league MVP trophies; the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson (now called the Ted Lindsay) Trophy.

    Lindros was a physical captain much like Tocchet, and similar to Richards with the inclination to drop the gloves. DropYourGloves lists Lindros at 15 total fights for his first two seasons.

    Lindros continued to be a dominating force for the Flyers in all areas, until concussion issues led to his last playing days with the team.

    Following his criticism of team doctors, Lindros was stripped of his captaincy during the 1999-2000 season.

No. 9: Eric Desjardins

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    Eric Desjardins took over for Lindros in 2000.

    He commented on the situation, "You have to understand, you can't have the captain or anyone else on the team criticizing members of the organization and not have anything happen in return."

    Though Desjardins understood the importance of the role, he was not quite right for it.

    As Tim Panaccio put it in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "His unassuming nature seemed to blend perfectly with former coaches Roger Neilson and Craig Ramsay. However, it was in sharp contrast to the personality of Barber and the aggressive style of play the Flyers employ under him."

    Still, Desjardins was responsible enough to resign when he felt inadequate. He did not leave the team on bad terms and will always be remembered as one of the greatest defensemen in Flyers history.

No. 8: Jason Smith

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    After the Flyers' terrible 2006-07 season, Jason Smith took over the captaincy from Forsberg.

    In his one year with the team, Smith's leadership proved to be an effective and essential factor in the turnaround, as Philadelphia made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008.

    Smith had previously served as captain of the Edmonton Oilers from 2001 to 2007, and Flyers fans quickly learned why.

No. 7: Chris Pronger

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    Though Pronger has played just eight games with the "C" on his jersey, he's been a team leader since joining the Flyers.

    His presence on a team is undeniably intense. The first year he was with the Flyers, the team went to the Stanley Cup Finals. It was the third time in his career a team had gone that far in Pronger's first year with the team. (It happened with Edmonton in 2006 and the Anaheim Ducks in 2007).

    Even when Richards was team captain, Pronger was the leader. A good example of the contrast in leadership styles was seen after a blown call cost the Flyers a win against the Calgary Flames last season.

    As Richards reacted calmly to the incident, Pronger was visibly irate during and after the game.

    In his time with the Flyers, Pronger has been an exemplary leader.

No. 6: Bill Barber

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    The Flyers' all-time leader of goals was one of two players to wear the "C" during Bobby Clarke's playing career.

    When Clarke became a "playing assistant coach" for three seasons, he could no longer be the team's captain due to NHL rules. Barber was one of two players selected to fill the role.

    He embraced his duties as captain to the point where he was disappointed upon giving it back to Clarke in 1982.

    Barber said at the time, "It hurts me, but if that’s what they feel is best, I’ll back it."

No. 5: Mel Bridgman

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    Mel Bridgman was not only a tough two-way hockey player, but he was smart as well.

    While playing for the Flyers, Bridgman took college classes and earned a Master's degree.

    This combination of intelligence, hockey skill and on-ice determination, made Bridgman a fitting candidate for captaincy in Philadelphia.

    He served two seasons in the role when Bobby Clarke was a playing assistant coach.

No. 4: Ed Van Impe

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    Ed Van Impe is widely known as the man who made the Soviets leave the ice.

    Before that 1976 game, before the two Stanley Cups, before the man who appears at the No. 1 spot on this countdown, Van Impe was the captain.

    Van Impe was regarded as a mentor and team player.

    Like recent fan favorite Ian Laperriere, Van Impe gave up his body for the team as a shot-blocker. He paid the price. According to FlyersHistory.net, "One in 1967 required 16 stitches, another in 1968 knocked out six teeth and required 35 stitches."

    Van Impe was captain for five seasons, from 1968-73.

No. 3: Keith Primeau

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    The Rod Brind'Amour trade devastated Philadelphia. They lost a two-way player who bled orange and black, playing each game with the fire and hard work that won over every true Flyers fan.

    Though Carolina turned out to be clear winners of the trade, Philadelphia's end was nothing to frown about.

    Keith Primeau was a 6'5", 235-pound monster who took over in 2001 when Desjardins resigned his captaincy. Primeau's intimidating, aggressive presence helped the Flyers get back to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004.

    It was in that series where Primeau scored one of the most exciting goals in franchise history. Trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by a goal with less than two minutes remaining in Game 6, facing elimination, Primeau tied the game.

    It was efforts like that which drew the admiration of NHL legend Phil Esposito. He told Primeau, "When you and the Flyers took the Lightning to seven games, you were the most dominating player I ever saw. More than Orr, Howe, Gretzky, or anyone."

No. 2: Dave Poulin

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    When the man who appears at No. 1 on this list (anyone have a guess?) retired to become the team's general manager, Dave Poulin is the player he selected to take his spot.

    Poulin served six seasons as Flyers captain, tied with Lindros for second-most in franchise history.

    Current assistant coach of the Flyers and former teammate of Poulin, Craig Berube, said of the captain, "Dave made sure everyone felt like a member of the team. No one got special treatment, and everyone was there to do their job to reach the same goal, which was winning hockey games."

No. 1: Bobby Clarke

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    He had the drive to win. He played hard. He played well. He scored, he checked, he fought. He led.

    His sweat and blood made him the only Philadelphia Flyers player to hoist the Stanley Cup with a "C" on his jersey in this franchise's long history.

    Bobby Clarke is the Flyers' all-time point leader by a ridiculous margin. His assists total alone (852) would put him second on the list. He leads Barber 1,210 to 883 in points.

    Doubt Clarke's ability to give everything he has with aims to lead his team to victory? Take a look at his 1,000th career point.

    FlyersHistory.net describes the event as follows: "On March 19th, 1981, Clarke got struck by a slap shot off the stick of hard shooting Reggie Leach. A few minutes later Clarke reappeared, stitched up with his jersey spattered with his own blood. A short time later he would score a goal that would be the 1,000th of his career."

    Video can be found here.

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