When the Philadelphia Flyers acquired Wayne Simmonds -in addition to Brayden Schenn- from the Los Angeles Kings for Mike Richards back in 2011, they obviously saw a piece that they valued, but it’s doubtful they predicted this.
Simmonds has scored at least 28 goals in each of the last four seasons, and five of the last six (15 goals in the lockout-shortened campaign). He was the All-Star MVP, an exhibition crown but a nod to how he’s improved year after year in Flyers’ orange.
Ron Hextall, then on the other side of the coin as assistant general manager with the Kings, admitted that Simmonds has surpassed just about all expectations on the ice and has blossomed into something very few, if any, predicted.
“I didn’t think he would become as good a player as he is. We really liked him in LA and when were talking about that [Mike Richards] deal.. certainly didn’t want to put him in it,” Hextall said on Leafs Lunch via TSN. “He was a dedicated player, he moved well. There was things in his game that he had to clean up and, to his credit, he has.”
Simmonds was more of a third-line penalty killer and grinder in LA in the early stages of his career before blossoming into a power play phenom and, eventually, an all-around stud for the Flyers.
But what exactly did he improve upon from his time on the west coast until now?
“There was a little bit too much dangle in his game, trying to beat players one-on-one, turning pucks over but he’s cleaned that up,” Hextall said.
Simmer still has some of the dangle in his game, but he only breaks them out on occasion. His puckhandling abilities are better-used in the crease, where forehand-backhand and backhand-forehand power moves are all the 28-year-old really needs to be super effective down low.
Simmonds has met and surpassed expectations so far in his career, scoring at a torrid pace while maintaining his physical prowess on a yearly basis while also continually building his status as a leader in the locker room.
“He’s scored more than I think we all thought. We knew he was going to be a good player, and knew he was going to be a valuable piece of a team because’s a power forward, they’re hard to find,” Hextall said. “He can drop the gloves if he has to, he can run you over, he can score a goal, he’s a good net-front presence. There’s a lot of good things but I can’t say that I thought that he’d be in the type of scoring range that he’s gotten himself into, and that’s a credit to the kid.”
“He’s very dedicated, he plays hard every shift, every game. He’s a glue guy; he’s one of those guys that can step up and talk to the team if he has to or give a guy a little kick in the butt to get going. He’s certainly become a big part of our team and a better player than I think most of us expected.”
Simmonds is a fan favorite on a team-friendly contract ($3.975 million AAV through 2018-19) that’s even an even better human off of the ice than he is a player on it, somehow. He continues to grow his game and status in this league and Philadelphia is damn proud to have him.
Thanks a bunch, Ron.
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