Top 5: Unlikely Successful Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers organization weren’t given the nickname the Broad Street Bullies, they earned it. Then they spent 40 of their 50 year history defending that title. It wasn’t until the 2006 season when Bobby Clarke stepped down as GM that the Bullies era came to an end. That however, means that some players simply didn’t fit the mold that the team was trying to build, yet managed to succeed despite not fitting the Bully mantra.

Number 5- Steve Mason

Whether you love him or hate him, Steve Mason was the best goaltender to grace the Flyers crease in almost 20 years. Mason was an average goalie in juniors as a member of the OHL London Knights and Kitchener Rangers before being drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2006. He made his NHL debut in the 2008-09 season and dominated immediately, eventually winning the Calder Trophy for the best rookie, and was top three in Vezina Trophy voting for the league’s best goalie. The next three-and-a-half years were anything but impressive, eventually being traded to the Flyers who were desperate for a goaltender. Mason dominated for much of the next four years leading the Flyers to the playoffs twice. He finished his Flyers career third in games played and wins, second in save percentage and fourth in goals against.

Number 4- Mike Knuble

Already a steady power forward in the NHL for nine years before he signed with the Flyers in the summer of 2005, it was Knuble’s time in Philadelphia that was the peak of his career. Knuble was starting to break out during his last two years in Boston, registering 59 and 46 points respectively. After the lockout came to an end Knuble was placed with Simon Gagne and Peter Forsberg to form the “Deuces Wild Line” where he put up his career best 34-goal, 65-point season. He would put up three 25-goal seasons and two 50-plus point seasons before he signed with the Capitals in 2009.

Number 3- John LeClair

Taken 33rd overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 1987, hopes were originally high for the standout college player. He spent three underwhelming seasons with the Canadiens before being acquired as part of a blockbuster trade that sent Mark Recchi to Montreal. LeClair was put on a line with Eric Lindros and the rest is history. Along with Mikael Renberg, the trio formed the Legion of Doom line and dominated the NHL for the next three years. LeClair became the first American-born player to record three consecutive 50 goal seasons, followed by two 40 goal seasons. Hopes were always high for John LeClair, but nobody expected him to be so dominate for over a decade.

Number 2- Kimmo Timonen

Drafted in the 10th round in 1993, he wasn’t exactly a promising prospect for the Kings. Timonen was an undersized defenseman for the time, yet continued to improve every season until he hit his career highs in 2003-04 with 12 goals and 44 points with the Predators. Timonen was traded to the Flyers during the summer of 2007 and immediately became a force on the blueline, so much so he was still the team’s top Defenseman at the age of 39. After the diagnosis of blood clots, he fought back and won the Stanley Cup in his very last NHL game. A fairy tale ending to a career that spanned 16 years, that probably shouldn’t have happened at all.

Number 1-Dave Poulin

Originally undrafted because of his small size (5’11, 190lbs), which in today’s game isn’t that small, he started his professional career in Sweden after his college career at Notre Dame came to an end. He impressed during his only season in Sweden, and his coach at Rogle BK, Ted Sator, just so happened to be a scout for the Flyers. Poulin was brought to Philadelphia and put on a line with Tim Kerr and Brian Propp that dominated offensively for the next three seasons. He set the at-the-time record for most points by a Flyers rookie in the 1983-84 season. Poulin spent parts of six seasons as captain until he was traded to Boston in 1990. It’s not everyday an undrafted player eventually ends up captaining a team to two Stanley Cup Finals, but Poulin proved the old adage right, give it your all every night, you never know who may be watching.

Honorable mentions

Matt Carle– Carle burst onto the scene in San Jose during the 2006-07 season scoring 11 goals and 42 points during his rookie campaign. His following season was disappointing and was eventually shipped to Tampa Bay for a 12 game tenure before again being traded to Philadelphia. The Flyers knew how to utilize Carle to his fullest, partnering him with Braydon Coburn and later Chris Pronger. While he never eclipsed his 42 point high from his days in San Jose, he did register three 35-plus point seasons and played a big role on the Flyers blueline.

Robert Esche– Esche started his career in Phoenix backing up Sean Burke before being dealt to the Flyers for Brian Boucher. Esche formed a solid due with Roman Cechmanek eventually winning the William Jennings Trophy in 2002-03. He took the starting reigns in 2003-04 and lead the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Final before falling to the Lightning in seven games. In parts of four seasons in Philadelphia he had a 60-39-10-6 record with a 2.65 GAA and a .900 SV%.

Michael Leighton– Even though Leighton had three different tenures in orange and black, he only played 33 regular season games. It was during the 2009-10 season that he rose to glory thanks to a magical run with a goaltending trio along with Brian Boucher and Ray Emery. After injuries and lackluster play nagged Boucher and Emery, Leighton supplanted them as the starter and helped push the teams into the playoffs. Leighton and Boucher formed a solid tandem in the 2010 playoffs, but Leighton’s star shined bright as they completed a comeback from a 3-0 series deficit against the Bruins. Leighton started all six games in the Final, though was pulled in games one and five before losing to the Blackhawks in six games.

 

 

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: bleacherreport.com

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