The first year that the NHL held the draft lottery happened to be the year that the Flyers were slated to pick first. The Chicago Blackhawks were in the fifth position. Then the lottery balls were mixed up and selected.
The Blackhawks were awarded the first overall pick over the Flyers, even though they outperformed the Flyers by 14 points in the 2006/07 regular season. Had it not been for the new lottery system being implemented, the Flyers would have had the first overall pick.
American talent was aplenty in the first round. Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty, James van Riemsdyk, and the coveted prize, Patrick Kane, were all taken in the first round, just to name a few. There were a then-record 10 American players taken in the first round of the 2007 draft.
The Blackhawks took Patrick Kane first overall, followed by the Flyers selecting James van Riemsdyk. While hindsight is 20/20, the pick sat well with the Flyers. What if the lottery system hadn’t been implemented just yet? What if the Flyers had the first overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft? How drastic of a shift in the franchise could Patrick Kane have sparked? Let’s find out.
The Stats Speak for Themselves
Patrick Kane has been one of the best forwards in the game since entering the league. He’s played 973 games, all for Chicago. In those games, he’s racked up 389 goals and 633 assists for 1,022 career points. He’s a nine-time All-Star, Calder Trophy (2008), Hart, Ross, & Pearson Trophy (2016), and Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2013). To top it all off, Kane is a three-time Stanley Cup champion.
James van Riemsdyk’s career hasn’t quite been what Kane’s has. In two less seasons, van Riemsdyk has tallied 247 goals, notched 234 assists for a total of 481 points in 741 games. JvR doesn’t have any of the awards Kane does, hasn’t been to the All-Star game, and has only been to the Stanley Cup Finals once, against Kane in 2010.
When it comes to playoff performances, Kane is the clear-cut better player. In 127 playoff games, Kane has 123 points (50g, 73a). JvR has 18 goals and 11 assists in 59 career playoff appearances. Kane has reached the 20-goal plateau in all 13 seasons, while JvR has reached it six times in his 11 year career. JvR has reached 30 goals twice, while Kane has done so five times.
To put it in perspective, disregarding the lockout season, Kane’s worst point total of his career came in 2014/15. He only posted 64 points (27g, 37a) during the season, but only played in 61 games as well. JvR’s best season came in 2016/17. van Riemsdyk tallied 29 goals and 33 assists for 62 points. That came while playing all 82 games.
JvR Traded to Toronto
As a Flyers fan, you all know about the JvR-for-Schenn trade. Philadelphia sent van Riemsdyk to Toronto for some defensive help in the way of Luke Schenn. Drafted one year and three spots later than JvR, Schenn was supposed to come in and be the defenseman the Flyers had needed, and the defensemen that made him the number five overall pick in 2008.
JvR went on to have six decently successful years in Toronto, tallying 294 points in 413 games. Schenn played about three and a half seasons for the Flyers before being packaged with Vincent LeCavalier and shipped to Los Angeles to shed salary for the Flyers. Schenn tallied three times as many giveaways as takeaways during his tenure with the Flyers, but dished out just over 700 hits.
Had the Flyers drafted Patrick Kane, needless to say, they would have never shipped him away for Luke Schenn. Could they have shipped him out for a more proven defenseman? Chances are, absolutely not. While the Flyers may have lacked the depth on defense, they would have had a phenomenal top-six forward group with Kane in tact.
2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs
During the 2007/08 season, the Chicago Blackhawks failed to earn enough points for a playoff berth. The Flyers, on the other hand, got in as the sixth seed and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their leading scorer on the year was Mike Richards with 75 points. Kane tallied 72 points on the year, which would have been good for a tie with Danny Briere.
The Flyers ended up losing the Eastern Conference Finals four games to one. The Penguins were the better team, make no mistake. However, adding Patrick Kane to the equation, as a Flyer, may have proven good enough to get the Flyers past the Penguins and into the Stanley Cup Finals. Detroit would await the Flyers then, and it would be a very similar series to the Penguins.
Both Pittsburgh and Detroit were stacked during the 2008 playoffs. It’s hard to say that one player would have made much of a difference for the Flyers. That being said, since that one player is Patrick Kane, it can be fathomed that the Flyers would have had a solid chance at competing for Lord Stanley.
2010 Stanley Cup Finals
Proceeding with caution since this brings back an immense amount of heartache for any Flyers fan, there’s no doubt that this series would play out differently if JvR was a Blackhawk and Kane was a Flyer. Kane posted 28 points (10g, 18a) in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, while van Riemsdyk posted six (3g, 3a). Had Kane been a Flyer, he would have trailed only Danny Briere in playoff scoring, who had 30 points.
Kane had a great series against the Flyers. He tallied eight points in the six Stanley Cup Final games. JvR scored two points in four games for the Flyers against the Blackhawks. Kane was the Blackhawks’ second leading scorer, trailing Jonathan Toews by one point. JvR was tied for 12th with Dan Carcillo.
Now to get to the worst of the heartbreak, the game six overtime goal. Without being too obvious, the goal wouldn’t have happened if Kane were a Flyer. Duh. Do the Blackhawks even get to a game six with JvR instead of their second leading scorer during those playoffs. Chances are, they do. However, does this series go to seven games? More likely than not, it does. Chicago was a deep team, icing Dave Bolland, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, even Marian Hossa.
It’s hard to say with certainty that the Flyers would have won the 2010 Stanley Cup had JvR and Kane switched roles. However, it’s totally within the realm of possibility that they could have taken home Lord Stanley. The Flyers already had four players with over 20 points in the playoffs, and adding Kane would give them their fifth. With Kane, the Blackhawks had three.
One thing is for certain, fans at game six wouldn’t have been left in a state of limbo as the refs un-iced the puck that had snuck past Michael Leighton at 4:06 in overtime.
There’s no doubt that the Flyers would be a completely different team with Patrick Kane over James van Riemsdyk. A prolific scorer and smooth skater, Kane would have been a phenomenal compliment to Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek on that top line during the 2010’s.
While the contracts don’t match, it’s hard to believe that the Flyers would let a talent like Patrick Kane out of their grasps. Chicago has managed to hold onto Kane, the Flyers probably would have been able to as well. Also, it goes without saying at this point, but a Patrick Kane for Luke Schenn trade would have never happened as well. You all can exhale now.
2020, and Patrick Kane is a Flyer. Fans may have been able to celebrate two potential Stanley Cup victories. Maybe they make it a few more times. It’s all-but a certainty that the Flyers would have been better off had they drafted Patrick Kane, given the opportunity, over James van Riemsdyk. This isn’t an indictment on JvR, more a testament to how good Kane is.
Mandatory Credit – © Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports