When Wayne Simmonds was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers, numerous fans of the Los Angeles Kings mentioned how he would become a fan favorite. It didn’t take long.
A couple of hits, a few good shifts, a goal or two later and Simmer officially won over many Philadelphians.
The gritty winger scored four goals in five games, enough to tie for the league lead in the preseason. He won over the hearts of his coaches too and has been penciled in to the second line, alongside Daniel Briere and Jakub Voracek. Meanwhile, Scott Hartnell, who had great chemistry with Briere, appears to be relegated to third line duties.
The general consensus is that Simmonds performs the same duties as Hartnell and perhaps does a better job at it. For all we know, this lead to the trade rumors that had Hartnell on his way out of town.
ESPN’s fantasy projections estimate that Simmonds should score about 16 goals and 21 assists in 80 games this season, which would put him three points shy of his career high of 40 points. Through his first three season, Simmer amassed 91 points, which is about on par with the 93 Hartnell accumulated over the same stretch. If he remains on the second line, it’s not unreasonable to think that he could eclipse those predictions. He could greatly benefit from Briere’s prodigious abilities and Voracek is poised for a banner season.
Simmonds could also replace Hartnell in front of the net on the powerplay. Though Hartnell is more of a proven commodity with the man advantage, a shakeup could reinvigorate last season’s ineffective units. Through the 2010 season, the Flyers’ powerplay was a lackluster 16.6%, or 19th in the league. At 14.3%, it was even worse in the postseason and factored into the team’s early departure from the playoffs.
If the powerplay is going to improve this season — and it likely will as long as Jaromir Jagr maintains a high level of play — the team will need strong contributions from guys like Simmonds.
With Blair Betts claimed off waivers by the Montreal Canadiens, someone has to eat up the team-leading 3:37 of shorthanded time that he played per game. Andreas Nodl will see increased time on the PK and Max Talbot will help here as well but what about Simmonds? Can he take on some of that responsibility?
In his rookie season, Simmonds averaged 1:09 per game on the PK. In the following two seasons, that number dropped to 0:09 and 0:05 respectively, which puts him in the same realm as Briere. That’s not to say he cannot play on the PK but there are numerous factors to consider here:
1. Fatigue: If Simmonds takes over Hartnell’s role, his ice time could easily jump 3-4 minutes per game over what he’s played in the past. Playing shorthanded could add even more time per game. Such a jump can tire a player out, especially considering the amount of energy expended on the PK.
2. Necessity: Sean Couturier and Matt Read, both of whom appear to be starting the season with the Flyers, were used on the PK during the preseason. As bottom six forwards, they may be better suited to play shorthanded than Simmonds, who would be of more use on the powerplay and at even strength.
3. Penalty minutes: It’s possible that he will accumulate over 100 penalty minutes this season (ESPN estimates 124 PIMs), which would likely put him in the top three on the team in that category. Last season, Blair Betts and Andreas Nodl combined for a total of 24 penalty minutes. Max Talbot will certainly accumulate some penalties but even his career high (66 PIMs) is lower than Simmer’s most restrained season (73 PIMs). Plain and simple, it’s impossible to play on the PK if you’re in the box.
Simmonds will probably be used on the penalty kill more than he was in his last two seasons with Los Angeles but I wouldn’t expect his average number to jump much higher than the 1:09 he played his rookie year.