Philadelphia Flyers: 10 Greatest of All-Time and Their Modern Day Counterparts
The Philadelphia Flyers are a franchise that builds their team through a strict philosophy: tough, team oriented, skilled players that play with heart and character.
While the vaunted Broad Street Bullies have not won a Stanley Cup championship since 1975. They have remained a contender year in and year out, missing the post-season a mere six times since the early 70's.
The 1987 team did everything but win the title falling short in seven games after picking themselves up off the mat from a three games to one deficit.
Their philosophy of team-building has shifted slightly especially with the recent attention to the ever important goaltender position however they are notorious for their style of play.
Despite a 36 year drought ( I hate thinking how long its been) the Philadelphia Flyers have given their fans plenty of great hockey which is all one can ask from a front office.
For purposes of this presentation, keep in mind that this is to compare former greats, with those players deemed able to fill their molds. There will be players left off this list because I cannot find a modern day player to compare with. For example no Bernie Parent.
Without further adieu allow me to present, the 10 Greatest Flyers and their modern day counter parts.
Following the death of Pelle Lindbergh the Philadelphia organization stumbled on up-start rookie Ron Hextall.
Posting a career Save % of .895 and a Goals against average of 2.97 Hextall is a one-time Vezina and Conn-Smythe trophy winner.
While his numbers were rather average Hextall did shoulder a Flyers team in 1987 to a heroic seven game stand against arguably the best team of all time, the Edmonton Oilers. Also the game was a tad more open in those days, without all the trap and defensive play we see today.
Even if his stats are mediocre Hextall did know how to mix it up with the opposing team. Registering a career 584 penalty minutes due to his famous fiery attitude and willingness to fight.
My personal favorite moment of Hextall is his slash of Kent Nillson, because Glen Anderson slashed Hextall earlier and he mixed up Nillson for Anderson. Oh and his fight with Chelios the next year for Chelios making a dirty elbow hit on Brian Propp's head was one for the ages.
Hextall also was the first goal tender to score a goal which he did twice.
Despite his days ending as a back-up Hextall was a guy that never disappointed even if it meant getting a little crazy out there.
After watching this video is there any doubt Ilya Bryzgalov is Ron Hextall's replacement?
They are both 6ft 3 inches tall and weigh over two hundred pounds. They play identical styles of hockey. Hextall has a Vezina and Bryzgalov is a runner up for it. They both are arguably borderline psychotics.
Yes goalies are always a tad crazy by tradition. Ever see Slap Shot? Their goalie was a basket-case. Okay so the Chiefs team portrayed in the movie stunk and were a minor-league team, the movie was a satire on the realities of hockey.
Goalies have to be missing screws. How else does someone try and get hit with a block of hardened rubber flying at them around 100 mph?
I once saw an interview with Patrick Roy where he claimed to speak with the goal posts. If that's not nuts I don't know what is.
Bryzgalov while noticeably less crazier than Hextall has put up better career stats posting a career save percentage of .915 and a goals against average of 2.55.
While Hextall is a Conn Smythe trophy winner he had his less than spectacular moments in the playoffs then bounced back. Ilya Bryzgalov did stand in for Giguere during the Anaheim Ducks' Stanley Cup run and helped them win a Cup only to have two dismal appearances against Detroit with the Phoenix Coyotes.
What Flyers fans need to see is if Bryzgalov can overcome those bad performances like Hextall did.
Ed Van Impe
Ed Van Impe probably wrote the book on Philadelphia style hockey. Not quite an offensive powerhouse like Bobby Orr from the blue-line, Van Impe was a master of physical defensive zone hockey.
In the video you get a sampling of Van Impe's handiwork as he levels Valeri Kharlomov the Soviet National team's star player. The hit resulted in the team leaving the game in an attempt to boy-cot the game.
Like it or not the rough and tumble style the Flyers played had tremendous success as they won two consecutive titles and appeared in a third they lost. In the 1976 series they had neither Van Impe or legendary goalie Bernie Parent.
This is probably one of the few comparisons where the modern day Flyer has surpassed the predecessor, but when it comes to Chris Pronger there aren't many that are better.
While the video displays a penalty it is Chris Pronger's way of telling the other team they can't push his around.
Pronger is not only a veteran leader, and offensive threat, but he personifies what Flyer hockey is.
Despite recent injury epidemics his toughness is unquestionable and he knows how to make the other team show respect. Only a few can match his tenacity even then they are not wanting more.
When Pronger is absent his team noticeably plays differently at least they did last year. After Saturday's 5-1 over Carolina let's hope they continue to play well even with number 20 in the press-box.
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
A one-time Hart trophy and Lester B. Pearson winner Eric Lindros was arguably the most skilled Flyer ever to don the flying P.
His legacy tarnished by controversy and devastating injuries Lindros was an offensive powerhouse. In eight seasons with the team, he failed to score less than 30 goals twice and those were injury shortened seasons.
He captained the Flyers to two conference finals and one Stanley Cup finals.
Had the Flyers pushed the Detroit Redwings a couple more games I feel strongly Lindros would have been another Flyer to win a Conn-Smythe despite playing for the losing team. His 26 points in 19 play-off games that year is nothing to scoff at.
As he arrived in controversy so did he leave the franchise in 2001 after refusing to accept the team's extension.
In the end I don't think another player will have so much talent to end it with so much left on the table.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
What better way to replace a great with one of the all-time greatest?
Jaromir Jagr is a man that needs no introduction. His offensive prowess and career stats are surpassed by few that bear names like Lemieux and Gretzky.
He is the all-time active NHL scorer. While he doesn't play with the nastiness Lindros did, he sure avoids the injury list and penalty box.
No knock on 88 but Jagr surpasses him in almost every category. Jagr has not only a Hart Trophy but two Stanley Cup rings.
It is difficult to draw comparisons between the two other than skill but they both use their size. Lindros to punish his opponents and Jagr to keep opponents off the puck.
Mike Powell/Getty Images
Rick Tocchet was a prototypical Flyer. He scored, threw the body around and when all else failed dropped the gloves.
He even fought Kevin Hatcher http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YGKQae4K-o with a broken jaw.
His first couple seasons lacked in the stat department but by his third Tocchet became a legitimate goal-scorer.
After requesting to be traded, Tocchet went on to win a Stanley Cup with hated rival Pittsburgh. Afterward he became a traveler of sorts seeing time with four other teams after the Penguins, before his return to Philly.
That year the Flyers put together one heckuva playoff run losing to New Jersey in seven games in the conference finals.
Tocchet belongs to an elite group of players to score over 400 goals while spending over 2000 minutes in the sin-bin.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Known by many for his ability to do nes-tea plunges on the ice, Scott Hartnell is a power forward in the mold of Rick Tocchet.
Like his predecessor Hartnell can score, throw checks and drop the gloves.
Scott Hartnell has failed to break the twenty goal mark once since his arrival in Philadelphia. In the play-offs he's shown to remain a threat.
Despite not being a true enforcer Hartnell has shown not only the ability to drop the gloves, but to hold his own in those contests.
While his name seems to be at the center of current trade talks Hartnell brings a style of play akin to the Flyers true dogma, physical.
Wayne Simmonds is a player that could soon fill this role, but he is yet to display the scoring ability of Tocchet and Hartnell.
Pelle Lindbergh before his tragic accidental death was on his way to becoming the best goalie possibly ever.
He was a jedi between the pipes pouncing with cat-like quickness on the puck. He even stoned Wayne Gretzky on a break-away. (I was unable to upload that video)
Despite having so-so career numbers Pelle Lindbergh did win a Vezina trophy in a year where he won 40 games. He didn't become the Flyers' starter until the 1985 season, the year before his death.
Flyer fans, myself included will always mourn his loss and pull their hair out thinking what could have been, had he not taken that fatal intoxicated drive.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
If ever a Flyer goalie had the quickness and agility that Pelle Lindbergh had, it's Sergei Bobrovsky.
Even though Ilya Bryzgalov is signed to a nine year deal, Sergei Bobrovsky may one day be the Flyers' number one goaltender.
Pelle Lindbergh was known to be great but the Flyers had to let him season on the pine for a few years. The same just might be happening for the Bob.
Bobrovsky possesses the uncanny ability to go post to post while in a full split like no other Flyers goalie. His quickness might even trump that which Lindbergh had. Hopefully Bobrovsky doesn't get traded or go joy riding recklessly in a Porsche anytime soon.
Peter Zezel can be compared to a lot of Flyers that came afterwards. His trade to the St. Louis Blues was one that eerily reminded me of the trades that happened last off-season.
At the ripe age of 19 Zezel made the Flyers roster out of training camp. Should be a big hint as to who is on the next slide.
He set a team rookie record registering 46 assists. He was part of a very young Flyers team much like this season's, that made the finals only to lose in five games to Edmonton.
Zezel was an all around player able to not only score but help keep the other team from lighting the lamp. His first three seasons saw plus minus totals of plus- 22,27 and 21 respectively. Very impressive for a guy barely in his twenties.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Much like Zezel before him, Sean Couturier has made the Flyers roster in his teenage years.
While his NHL career is very short lived, Couturier has made an impression. He has shown to be a viable penalty killer and defensive smarts with a scoring touch much like Zezel before him.
As I write this Couturier leads the Flyers in the plus minus department with a plus - 5.
With some much expected improved goal-tending look for Couturier to sniff the plus- 20 mark this year.
Where does one start with Mark Howe. From being a member of Hockey's Royal Family, historic Stanley Cup final appearances, a league changing injury to Hall of Fame appointment Mark Howe is arguably the best player to ever don the Flying P.
Mark Howe could score and clear the puck out of his zone as good as any NHL defenseman. If not for Paul Coffey, Howe could easily have won a Norris Trophy in the mid 80's.
Howe's best season was the 1985-86 season when he tallied 24 goals and 58 assists, Coffey tallied 48 goals and 90 assists. Today most forwards have trouble breaking the 80 point mark, let alone a defenseman!
As I started this slide-show I wanted to put Kimo Timmonen in this spot. But watching that play from Mezaros reminded me so much of Howe.
Like Howe, Mezaros came to the Flyers with the damaged goods tag only to turn his career around.
Since his arrival though Mezaros has reinvigorated his career.
Also like Howe, Mezaros is able to throw checks into opponents in his own zone limiting their scoring opportunities.
Mezaros has not quite produced at the level as Howe, but with expected improvement in net look for him to pinch more in the offensive zone thus producing more points.
After a four year stint in college at the University of Notre Dame, Dave Poulin began his career with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Showing the knack for keeping opposing forwards in check while wreaking havoc in the opposite end of the hockey rink Poulin was named the team's captain.
His play reminded coaches and management alike of former captain Bobby Clarke.
Poulin will always be remembered for his heroic performances in the 1987 playoffs where he fought through a horrible set of broken ribs. Even Shakespeare nor Homer before him could have written a finer tragedy.
A one time Selke winner and two time captain of Stanley Cup finalists, Poulin should only be second to Bob Clarke in terms of Flyer Leadership.
Matt Read like Dave Poulin Before him played four years of College hockey before joining the NHL ranks.
Read is still young but he shows the offensive prowess and some defensive ability that could improve as he matures.
Kudos to the Flyers' scouting department in finding this young talent.
Much like Poulin Read is a bit gravitationally challenged at only standing 5'10 and weighing under the 200 pound mark. Yet despite his small stature he like Poulin before him does not let his size slow him down.
Look for Read to take an expanded role as he matures and his game develops.
Let me just say Youtube does this hockey great no justice!
Anyway Bill Barber was crucial to the Flyers' consecutive Stanley Cup titles in '74 and '75.
In 12 seasons with the Orange and Black, Barber never scored less than 20 goals, breaking the 40 goal mark five times, in '76 he hit the 50 goal mark.
Despite being the Philadelphia version of a "Rocket" Richard, Barber worked hard in the defensive zone.
To this day Barber holds the franchise record for goals scored at 420, what a number!
James Van Riemsdyk
JVR as he is affectionately known by the Flyer Phaithful had a rough start to his NHL career. Unlike Barber he was a slow starter.
However after dominating last year's team skills competition something awoke in JVR. He admittedly gained his confidence and became a force in the second half of last year.
In the Flyers' lousy play-off performance he was one of their few bright spots last year.
Through 11 games JVR ripped off seven goals. All of them coming against world class goalies, Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas.
When watching this video one can see the aggressive drive to the net JVR has that his predecessor Barber had.
Hopefully JVR can develop his defensive game some more and truly fill Barber's shoes.
When one thinks of the Philadelphia Flyers they cannot help but think of Bobby Clarke.
Clarke, is everything a Philadelphia Flyer should be. He was tough, skilled and when the chips were down could be counted on for a play.
Aside from the Stanley Cup victories who could forget Clarke's 1000th point?
After being hit in the forehead by his own teammate's slap-shot, Clarke went to get his bloody head stitched. He returned afterwards and scored his 1000th point. Nothing personifies the word warrior more than old number 16.
Clarke only played less than 70 games once in 1982 due to a broken foot.
A three time Hart and Selke trophy winner Clarke as much as anyone left it all out on the ice game in and game out.
I included that particular video to show a side of Giroux that goes unnoticed. Everyone knows or should know Claude Giroux is a rising offensive weapon. What they might not know is that despite his 5'11 stature he can play physical.
Like his predecessor Clarke, Giroux is talented and physical. Akin to Clarke's clutch ability Giroux scored the game winning goal in a shootout against the New York Rangers in 2010.
The Flyers' erratic play through the season, required them to win the season's final game. The Rangers at the time were one of the best shootout teams in the league back-stopped by Henrik Lundqvist. However Giroux came through and the rest is history.
Watching Giroux through the first 11 games I see a player that continues to get better much like Clarke did in his early days.
Many a player has been compared to Bob Clarke over the years. The most recent was Mike Richards who early on showed signs of filling that mold only to fall off the beaten path.Giroux however is as close to Clarke as any and needs to continue progressing.
Should Giroux continue on in his emergence he will undoubtedly fill the role of the legendary Bob Clarke.
Thanks for reading and please leave comments or thoughts below! I love chatting and debating with you guys!