Wayne Simmonds had a painful year – and really, the Flyers getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs was only part of the story. Once the power forward’s season ended, it was revealed that he played through a broken ankle, a pulled groin and a torn ligament in his pelvis. He’s still on the road to recovery, but the goal is clear.
“I want to be at my best by the time the season starts,” Simmonds said. “I’ve had all my surgeries, I’m healed up and ready to go. It’s just working on getting my legs back on the ice and things of that nature.”
Despite all his maladies, Simmonds still potted 24 goals last year and with Philadelphia nabbing James van Riemsdyk in free agency, the Flyers’ offensive attack looks as dangerous as it has been in many years. For Simmonds, it’s just a matter of cohesion.
“We have a good young squad and we’re coming together well,” he said. “We signed JVR and that will allow us to do different things with the lineup. It’s just progression and everyone needs to be better this year.”
Up front, the Flyers found magic last year by promoting shutdown ace Sean Couturier to the top line, where he centered captain Claude Giroux on the left wing. That meant an opportunity for rookie Nolan Patrick to get solid looks without being overwhelmed. Considering Patrick was taken second overall in 2017, it was a nice luxury to have Couturier ahead of him, especially since injuries had dogged Patrick in his pre-NHL days. Simmonds played a significant amount of minutes with Patrick and he’s optimistic about the big, two-way pivot.
“He’s a great player and he’ll only get better,” Simmonds said. “Toward the second half last year, he really turned it on.”
Add in Jakub Voracek to the aforementioned names and you’ve got quite the top-six going in Philly. And with Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere continuing to grow into big roles on the blueline, the Flyers have a real nice thing going. Goaltending, of course, is a question, but if we’re assuming that Carter Hart makes his NHL debut in the next couple of years, then there isn’t much left to pick apart for GM Ron Hextall’s project.
With Simmonds healthy and JVR back in the fold, Philadelphia will be a nightmare to handle around the net, as both players make a living there. Simmonds praised JVR’s hands in tight and both players can really damage the opposition on the power play. While the Flyers may not quite be Stanley Cup contenders, they’re not far off, either. A healthy Simmonds would go a long way to achieving that dream.
Of course, Hextall will have to sign him to an extension first. Simmonds is entering the final year of a contract that comes with a very team-friendly hit of $3.9 million. Surely he’ll seek a raise from that, though Simmonds would prefer to keep those conversations limited to his agent and the team. Either way, it’s hard to find the combination of goal-scoring and toughness that Simmonds can provide. He’ll get his money one way or another.