The NHL Playoffs are upon us and unfortunately for Philadelphia Flyers fans, there isn’t much to look forward to as far as their beloved team is concerned after a disappointing season. However, there are several former players to keep an eye on during the most exciting postseason.
Wayne Simmonds & Dave Hakstol: Toronto Maple Leafs
Nobody wanted to see the Wayne Train leave the station and saying goodbye was even tougher knowing that it was almost necessary for the team. Wayne Simmonds scored a total of 203 goals in a Flyers uniform across eight seasons, becoming a fan-favorite through his tenacious play and relentless effort. Simmonds defined an era for many and will go down as one of the greats.
Since departing the Flyers, He has played on four teams in as many seasons and will be playing postseason hockey with the Maple Leafs. Now 32-years-old, he appeared in 38 games and scored 7 goals and 2 assists. After suffering a broken wrist earlier in the year, the veteran will be looking to make up for lost time with the North Division champions.
As a cheeky bonus, Dave Hakstol is an assistant coach in Toronto. After spending four years in Philadelphia as a Head Coach and amassing a record of 131-101-42, he joined the Maple Leafs coaching staff and has been there ever since, looking after the defense and special teams units.
Hakstol might not be the go-to when it comes to rooting for success, but an extra Flyers connection to Wayne Simmonds on one of the favorites to take a run at this years’ Stanley Cup makes it that much easier to get behind.
Michael Raffl: Washington Capitals
The most recent player to flee the Flyers and land in the postseason is Michael Raffl. Another 32-year-old, Raffl spent his entire eight-year career with the Flyers prior to being traded to the Caps at the deadline. He was never really one of the stars on the team having mostly spent his time as a bottom-six forward, but he was as solid as you could ask for.
Raffl tallied 3 goals and 5 assists through 34 games this season and has 81 goals and 79 assists through 504 career appearances. The Austrian had been a key role player for the Flyers through every rise and fall over the last eight years and losing him is certainly going to hurt a little bit.
He spent the majority of his 2020 season on the fourth line while coming up big on the penalty kill, averaging 13 minutes of ice time per game.
It’s obviously hard to root for the Capitals, especially after winning six of their eight meetings this past season. The two rivals have long been at loggerhead, but in the same breath, seeing Raffl lift a Stanley Cup would be among the most wholesome scenes imaginable.
Radko Gudas & Sergei Bobrovsky: Panthers
The #1 Cop in the Force is often regarded as ‘what could’ve been’ for the Flyers. During a tumultuous goalie carousel, Sergei Bobrovsky was exiled from the City of Brotherly Love and has made them look over their shoulder ever since. With a pair of Vezina Trophies and First All-Star nominees, he has shown no signs of slowing since arriving in Florida.
Also on the team is Radko Gudas. An ‘enforcer’ prototype if there ever was one, Gudas hasn’t exactly lost his aggressive reputation since leaving Philadelphia. In fact, he led the NHL in hits this season with a thumping 250. After spending four years in Philadelphia, Gudas played for the Caps in 2019-20 before agreeing to a three-year contract in Florida.
This might be the easiest team to root for given that as of right now, they’re playing in the Central Division so it’s not like the Flyers are rooting for a local rival or a team who has given them endless problems all season…unlike Washington.
Brayden Schenn: Tampa Bay Blues
It feels like forever-ago that Brayden Schenn was traded and he’s already won a Stanley Cup. Maintaining his spot as a top-six forward, he signed a meaty eight-year $52M extension and has frequently donned the assistant captain’s badge. The first-round picks acquired in the trade turned into Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee, so it’s not like the Flyers are without gain here.
Schenn spent six years in Philadelphia and is an easy name to get behind, but he’s already won a Stanley Cup and has his long-term future secured. His fairytale ending has already passed and he’s now started a new novel that will likely see him end his career as a key cog in the Blues offense.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare: Colorado Avalanche
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare joined the Flyers as a UDFA, so to go from an undrafted free agent to a Stanley Cup winner would be an amazing story to watch unfold…especially after coming so close during Vegas’ first season.
The Flyers lost their Frenchman to the Vegas Golden Knights during the expansion Draft after he spent two years working his way up the depth chart. He amassed 14 points in 74 games back in 2015-16 and would appear in every single regular season game one year later, earning the assistant captain badge and penning a new two-year contract.
He departed for Colorado last season and ended up posting a career-high in goals (9) and a total of 22 points. Advancing to the Conference Semi Finals, ‘PED’ once again got so close to completing the fairytale.
Will he be able to finally hoist the cup in what would be his fifth playoff run? Who knows…But it would be fun to watch.
Rooting against: Ron Hextall & The Pittsburgh Penguins
Ron Hextall might be a Flyers great but his tenure as team GM was rocky at best. The vision was clear, but a long-winded process left fans itching to see their team restored to its former glory, something that felt further and further away with each passing season. After being pushed out of the position, Hextall would later join the Penguins, Philly’s biggest rival, as their GM.
To add salt in the wound, the Penguins signed Mark Friedman off waivers. He spent most of his time down at Lehigh Valley, but that’s not the point. He has gone on to appear in 5 games for the Pens, scoring twice and averaging 11:04 of Ice time. What’s worse is the fact that FOUR of those games have been against Philadelphia. Why?! Hexy took his former third-round pick and decided to try and really sting his once beloved franchise.
For that reason, I hope their playoff run is as successful as the 2019 remake of The Lion King.