Wayne Simmonds is arguably the toughest player on the Philadelphia Flyers, a player so feared that videos exist of his opponents telling their teammates that they “cannot fight Wayne Simmonds”.
But when his boss calls him into his office, Wayne Simmonds loses all of his trademark aggression and does what he is told. So when General Manager Ron Hextall told Simmonds that he should begin wearing a visor on the ice in order to prevent injury, Simmonds listened.
Some players find a routine that works and are hesitant to change even something as minuscule as a visor, but if Simmonds’ first 10 games of this season are any indication, the “Wayne Train” will keep on chugging along, even if it has a new front grill.
*This article can also be found on TheSportsDaily’s Philadelphia Flyers page, Flyzette!*
Simmonds began his Flyers journey 6 years ago, when he was traded to Philadelphia along with Brayden Schenn in exchange for ex-Flyers captain Mike Richards. Billed as a gritty third-line winger that could kill penalties, Simmonds quickly potted 2 goals and 5 points in his first 10 Flyers games, also picking up two fighting majors in the process.
Coach Peter Laviolette saw something in Simmonds, and promoted his feisty winger to the second line and the top power play unit. Simmonds never looked back, totaling a career-best 28 goals and 49 points in his first year in Philly.
Simmonds hit the ground running in 2012 and 2014 as well, but his less-than-stellar starts to the 2013 and 2015 seasons earned him the dreaded moniker of a “slow starter”. Despite this, Simmonds never scored less than 28 goals in a full season in Philadelphia.
Entering the 2016-17 campaign coming off of a 32-goal, 60-point season fueled by a hot start, Simmonds has had his best beginning to a season yet so far this year. He leads the NHL with 6 goals, including an NHL-best 4 power play goals, and is second in the league with 11 points. Simmonds has even done an admirable job at staying out of the penalty box; he has yet to pick up a major penalty in any game.
While Simmonds is as dependable as ever, things have changed around him. His only teammates left from his first year in Philadelphia are Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Matt Read, and Brandon Manning. Simmonds is now an alternate captain, a top-line power forward, and a fan favorite.
But at the same time, Wayne Simmonds is the same old player despite all that’s changed. While some players get swellheaded as they rise through the rankings, Simmonds is the same humble presence. He is easily the most clutch Flyer, always there when the team most needs a goal, a defensive block, or even a fight. This season, Simmonds has received limited time on the penalty kill, a throwback to his early days in the NHL.
Yet has anyone outside of Philadelphia really noticed all of Simmonds’ accomplishments? Simmonds’ remarkable consistency and clutch have endeared him to local fans, but it seems as if the national media is barely beginning to see just how talented the man his teammates call “Simmer” really is. Simmonds has yet to be nominated for an NHL All-Star Game despite his penchant as a top goal scorer, something that seems likely to change this year.
Simmonds may be one of the most unassuming players in the National Hockey League during interviews, but the chance at making his first All-Star team in the city that traded him away (Los Angeles) would have to make Simmonds smile.
The future is now for the Flyers. Young prospects Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov have made their presence felt on the team, more young guns are on the way, and the team has begun the process of supplementing its core with veteran free agents necessary to escape the “rebuilding” stage.
However, Wayne Simmonds’ goal always remains the same: he simply will not rest until he and his teammates are hoisting the Stanley Cup. They say that the only constant thing in the world is change, but Flyers fans can attest that Wayne Simmonds is as close to a constant as you’ll ever get.