No matter what sport and team you look at, there’s always that one glue guy. This player is on a team forever and does nearly everything that’s asked by their coach, but flies under the radar. During my typical nightly perusing of Twitter the other day, I noticed some fans bashing one of the biggest examples of this type of player that currently sits on the Flyers’ roster: Michael Raffl.
The biggest reason Michael Raffl flies so under the radar is likely because of his lack of scoring. However, that argument is a bit flawed in a sense that Raffl produces in more ways than just point totals.
For his career, Raffl has played in a total of 470 games. All 470 of those have been in a Philadelphia Flyers’ uniform. This total sits only behind Giroux, Voracek, and Couturier since his rookie season in 2013. Just in this past season, Vigneault asked Raffl to play 20 or more shifts 23 times as well. As we’ve read in “A Bronx Tale,” the best ability is availability, no?
Aside from the games played, Raffl has accumulated 152 points in those 470 career games, good enough for a .32 points per game average. This may not scream top-line elite goal scorer, but this is 8th on the Flyers since he joined the team.
Honestly though, most of Raffl’s value comes from off of the stat sheet…
Michael Raffl: A true team player
Raffl has another ability that not many players have. This ability isn’t anything to do with his skating and/or dangling ability. Michael Raffl can play on any line and with any linemates.
Similar to Scott Laughton, Raffl is a swiss army knife. He is able to build chemistry and compete no matter who he is paired with.
Since he’s entered the league, Raffl has seen time on all four lines. Now that the Flyers are an objectively better team than any of the past teams since 2013, I can admit that Raffl may not sniff the first line much. However, he’s proven to be able to step in and compete with opposing team’s top lines. With this, let’s not forget to mention his penalty killing ability, and willingness to block shots constantly.
Friendships built along the way
As described in a Bill Meltzer article earlier in 2020, Michael Raffl is one of the most-liked players in the Flyers’ locker room. As Meltzer wrote,
“Need a player who is strong on both the forecheck and backcheck to aid with puck possession? Raffl is a career 51.9 percent Corsi player with a superior ratio of credited takeaways to charged giveaways (165/145). Despite spending all but one season of his career in a primarily defensive-oriented role at 5-on-5. The one season when he primarily deployed with high-skill linemates — the 2014-15 season, when Craig Berube played him on left wing with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek — Raffl responded with 21 goals in 67 games.”
Raffl has always described his teammates in a positive way as well. This past season, he called the Flyers’ team the “strongest he’s ever been on.”
His teammates and coaches acknowledge this as well, which allows him to be a Swiss army knife.
“He is a player that contributes to the process. Wherever you put Raff, he works extremely hard. I was told by Lappy [assistant coach Ian Laperriere] his summer that he’s a real efficient player and a good player to have on a team because he can play all positions. He tries to play the right way all the time so there’s no doubt he’s an important asset on our team.”Alain Vigneault, Oct. 21, 2019.
Michael Raffl calls the team “close friends.” That’s another synonym to describe the Philadelphia Flyers as a tight-knit locker room. A lot of the Flyers agree that this is one of the tightest teams over the past few seasons. There is something very special about Philadelphia’s chemistry, and a lot of this has to do with Raffl being one of the main locker room glue guys for the team.
So to respond to a couple of users on Twitter, no. The Flyers have not moved past the need for a guy like Michael Raffl. This is just a short article, but this could be pages long. The Flyers have moved past the need for people to be so negative toward a player simply because he does not produce elite scoring numbers. Michael Raffl is one of the best things to happen to this team since he’s joined, and he should remain on the team as a bottom-six guy as the team begins to have more success.
Mandatory Credit – Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire
Avid Philly fan and future educator
Student at Stockton University