We’ve all been there. You’re talking with your Dad about players from different eras. “Sidney Crosby is nowhere near the player Wayne Gretzky was!” It’s a tough question to answer because the game today is so different from what the norm was in the 1980’s. In this article I’ll take a look at Flyers Forwards, and their offensive contributions. How good was Bobby Clarke compared to more modern guys like Claude Giroux or Mark Recchi? Quantifying their defensive merits is pretty darn tough, but we can get a picture of offensive output.
Last Time: Top Offensive Defensemen
A lot of people have tried to adjust goal scoring rates over the years to compensate for highs or lows. The most recent attempt was over on r/hockey. Reddit user RadMarchand97 compiled quite a lot of data, and tried his best to tilt said data based on how many goals were scored in the NHL during different years. He averaged team scoring to 3.00 goals per game. In the 80’s it was close to 4.00 and today’s teams score more like 2.70 every game. Since scoring has dropped recently points today are worth a lot more than in the 80’s when everyone was chalking up 100+ point seasons.His original spreadsheet is over here.
The Top Five
The ‘Big E’. In terms of raw scoring per game played by forwards.. there’s never been a better Flyer. Due to concussions Eric only played 486 games with the Flyers, but he’s 5th all time with 659 points. No one is close to that number of points per game. If we sample just his time with Philadelphia Lindros is 4th in the entire history of the game with 112.1 adjusted points per 82 games. Only Gretzky, Lemieux, and Crosby have been better scorers over their careers.
If you factor in the rest of his injury-riddled existence, after Philly, Eric drops down to about 10th or so. It was amazing he was left out of the Hall of Fame for even a few years. He likely got snubbed because he didn’t win Cups like the guy that was part of the package he was traded to the Flyers for below.. and of course because he was difficult to deal with.
The Forsberg experiment didn’t really work out for the Flyers because of nagging foot injuries. For the time “Foppa” was with Philly though, we was magnificent centering Simon Gagne and scoring 115 points over 100 games. During his entire career Forsberg was even more impressive with an adjusted 109.3 points per 82 games. That sort of number slots Peter in at 4th all time among forwards.
It’s a real shame his health limited the impact he could make, but he did allow the Flyers to rebuild quickly. The organization had a horrible season in 2007 and since Forsberg’s future was in doubt they flipped him to Nashville for Ryan Parent, and Scottie Upshall, with 1st and 3rd Round picks. Following the season the Preds didn’t like the idea of spending big dollars on Timonen and Hartnell so they sent their rights to the Flyers in exchange for getting that 1st Rounder back.
Lindros, Forsberg, Leclair, Recchi, Giroux.
5th in goals (333) and 7th in points (643) is enough to tell you Leclair was an amazing player for Philadelphia. His 3 straight 50-goal seasons is an absolutely stunning achievement at a time when no one was scoring and the Devils were winning Championships by way of the trap. John was a valuable member of the ‘Legion of Doom’ complimenting Lindros’ aggressive play with some of his own. He owned the front of the net and had the skill and physicality to dominate during the clutch and grab era. There will be serious consideration for Leclair when the next Hockey Hall of Fame vote comes about.
Just a fraction of a point behind Leclair, Recchi was another member of superpowered 90’s Flyer teams.. and again we have a Flyers’ star who was traded for another Flyers’ star! Recchi was part of a fantastic ‘Crazy Eights’ line with Lindros during Eric’s first couple of seasons in the bigs before being traded to Montreal. In return the Flyers got John Leclair and Eric Desjardins. Then a few years later the Flyers reacquired Mark in exchange for Dainius Zubrus! There were some kind of crazy trades going on. His 627 points ranks him 8th in total Flyers scoring, but like Leclair he shines in this adjusted ranking.
We’ve dealt with some pretty big stars so far, and to have Giroux slide in at number 5 should tell you he’s elite. Over the last 5 years Claude has had the most points out of any player in the league. Even if he isn’t leading the NHL he’s been consistently one of the best scorers and has stayed healthy missing just 10 games in 5 seasons. Very few NHLers have had such an offensive impact, and his adjusted 80.4 points per 82 games puts him just under a point per game. His contract runs another 6 years and he’ll be 34 at its completion which means we will see some tapering in his point production. If we err on the side of caution and account for possible injuries he’ll probably have another 250-300 points in those 6 years. That would put Claude behind only Brian Propp, Bill Barber, and Bobby Clarke.
Rounding Out the Top Ten
Mr. Philadelphia Flyer himself; the Broad Street Bully. 1144 career games, 1210 career points and 1453 penalty minutes all in the orange and black. If Claude Giroux kept up his scoring pace during the second half of his career (unlikely) and ended up playing Clarkie’s 1144 career games he would still be 180 points short of 1210! Heck, there’s only 43 guys in the history of the game with more than that.
He wasn’t just an offensive forward though he could play in all situations and is basically the ultimate grinder. He gained true notoriety when he led the Flyers to their first Stanley Cup by matching up against (and for the most part shutting down) Bruins legends Phil Esposito and Bobby Orr. The Bruins had the top 4 scorers in the entire NHL that season, but Clarke was 5th.. and Philadelphia won the Cup.
It’s rather fitting that Brind’Amour is right after Clarke because their reputations were quite similar. They were both elite shut-down centermen who matched up against the league’s best and usually came out on top. Rod the Bod’s 484 game Flyers’ ironman streak may never be broken, and I’m unsure any Flyer will ever score 2 shorthanded goals on the same penalty kill again! He was an invaluable part of the 90’s Flyers teams as a secondary weapon to Lindros, and a guy to take some heat off the top line. It was certainly tough for Flyer fans to cheer against the Hurricanes for a few seasons as Rod led them to a Stanley Cup in 2006.
Clarke, Brind’Amour, Roenick, Voracek, Barber.
Trailing just Brett Hull, Mike Modano and Phil Housley, J.R. is 4th all time among American NHLers in scoring. He played for Philly in the later stages of his career (aged 32-34), but still scored at a great pace. Then during the 2004 season there was the infamous Mironov slapshot that cracked Jeremy’s jaw and concussed him (3 minute mark). It was a horrifying play, and although Roenick returned from injury sooner than expected his time with the organization was running short. Philadelphia would trade him to Los Angeles after they surprised everyone signing Peter Forsberg.
Jake’s current contract will pay him $8.25 million until he’s 35 years old (8 more seasons).. yeesh! That’s an absolute ton of money. If Voracek can continue to produce at 60-70 points per season no one will really question that kind of price tag, but he struggled this past season and everyone noticed. The fact is he’s an excellent scorer when he’s on his game, and he’s only 27 right now so he’s probably got another 3 or 4 great years of hockey ahead of him. Once he enters his 30s that contract might really start to bite the Flyers, but for now it’s okay.
Just like Giroux has Voracek, Bobby Clarke had Bill Barber. Barber is easily the Flyers leading goal scorer (420) with a 51 goal cushion on Brian Propp, and the rest of the forwards. While most of the Bullies were busy bullying, Barber was providing much needed offense for the Flyers’ Championship teams in the 1970s. . He was a skilled winger who got up and down the ice very well playing a sound defensive game on the wing. Sadly Bill’s bid for 500 goals and 1000 career points was cut short in 1984 at just 31 years of age. He was never able to recover from a reconstructive knee surgery and was forced into retirement.
The Best of the Rest
Rick MacLeish and Reggie Leach
Two guys who people seem to confuse a lot (probably because of similar sounding names and because they played at the same time) MacLeish and Leach were both similar to Barber. They were the skilled forwards who provided the offense that the Broad Street Bullies weren’t really known for. Philadelphia may have had some mean teams back then, but the Flyers scorers were vastly overlooked and underrated.
Tim Kerr, Brian Propp, and Ken Linseman
Playing in the high-scoring 1980s really hurt these 3 in the adjusted scoring. They were certainly all accomplished players, but goals were very easy to come by during that period. Despite the fact that all of these men had some 90+ point seasons with the Flyers their adjusted scoring rates take them back down to reality. Tim Kerr is still probably the best goal scorer the Flyers have ever had, he had 4 seasons in a row of 54+ goals from 1984-87 and then had another 48 in 1989 after coming back from missing almost the entire 1988 season. There were only a handful of forwards scoring more goals at that time; Goulet, Bossy, Lemieux, Gretzky and a few of Gretzky’s linemates because Gretzky gon’ Gretz.
MacLeish, Kerr, Propp, Briere, Gagne.
Simon Gagne and Danny Briere
Simon Gagne came along at the end of the Lindros era in Philadelphia, and was tagged as one of the team’s next leaders almost immediately. He never quite reached legendary status, but he certainly was in a select group from the dead puck era that were legitimate goal scorers. Injury problems eventually nudged him out of the spotlight in Philly for younger players and free agent forwards like Danny Briere.
Knocked for being small, Briere never let it stop him from scoring as he had that knack for disappearing the offensive zone, and then reappearing for a tap in a goal. I don’t think Briere will go down in history as elite, but during his prime years in Buffalo and the first couple of seasons in Philly he was amazing. Defensively he might have been lacklustre, but in the offensive end he was dynamic.
Richards and Carter
Probably the most shocking incident in recent Flyers history was both Richards and Carter being dealt at the 2011 Entry Draft. There was a widespread rumor that the two had been partying a bit to hard, and while that’s never been confirmed it’s a more than likely story. Mid-20 year old millionaires will do that. Regardless both were still scoring at a good rate when they were traded. On ice performance was never the issue with either of them during their time in Philadelphia.
The somewhat forgotten member of the Legion of Doom, Renberg was clearly the lesser part in the machine. A very good scoring forward, but seeing him between Gagne and Richards in adjusted points puts his contribution in perspective. Lindros, Leclair, and Recchi were elite.. Renberg was just pretty good.
Just like with the defensemen I’ve thrown together a few more comparable forwards and some modern guys. I would consider most of this group to be in the ‘two way forwards’ genre of player. Wayne Simmonds is easily the most impressive here although Captain Keith was a damn good player. It’s really nice to see Simmonds so close to the level of Richards and Carter considering he was basically one of their replacements.
Another of those replacements, seeing Brayden Schenn this low is a bit worrying. I’m not Schenn’s biggest fan, but his new $5.125 million dollar contract isn’t as hamstringing as Voracek’s. I like the similar numbers for Read – Holmgren – Couturier here as well. All very defensively oriented players.