The Worst Flyers Team Possible

When you think about the Philadelphia Flyers, chances are you can name the greatest players in franchise history off the top of your head. Eric Lindros, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne, the list goes on. But what about the worst players? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look at the Flyers all-star team of the worst players in franchise history!

The selections were based on longevity, performance, the role they played, and their original expectations vs reality on the team.

Center

Vincent Lecavalier 133GP, 28G, 30A, 58PTS

When the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out the last seven years of Lecavalier’s deal in the summer of 2013, his point totals had already declined for four straight seasons and it was pretty obvious the speed of the game had overtaken his usefulness as a player. That didn’t stop the Philadelphia Flyers, lead by Paul Holmgren, from signing the then-33-year-old to a five-year, $22 million deal. Head coach Peter Laviolette was fired three games into the season and Lecavalier clashed with new head coach Craig Berube for much of the following two years. He was dealt to the LA Kings in January of 2016 and he retired at the end of the season. Lecavalier posted 28 goals and 58 points in 133 games in orange and black.

Chris VandeVelde- 250GP, 17G, 28A, 45PTS

Who else still has night terrors about VandeVelde? He was brought to Philadelphia during the 2013 preseason when he signed a professional tryout with the club. Although he wasn’t awarded a contract immediately out of camp, he signed a deal with the Flyers’ minor league team the Adirondack Phantoms. After a strong start in the AHL he was signed by the Flyers in December to a one year deal. VandeVelde played 18 games with the Flyers to finish out the 2013-14 season and was re-signed in the summer to another one year deal. Once Dave Hakstol got his grubby little hands on him, the North Dakota chemistry they shared from 2006 to 2010 rose to the surface once again. He was vastly overused by Hak in situations he had no business being in. All in all, Vandevelde played 250 games for the Flyers over the course of four seasons scoring just 45 points.

Jiri Dopita- 52GP, 11G, 16A, 27PTS

Dopita was actually drafted into the NHL twice, once to the Bruins in 1992 and again to the Islanders in 1998. With little interest in coming to the NHL, or the NHL having interest in bringing him to North America, he stayed in his native Czech Republic and sharpened his teeth in the Czech Extraliga. When Czech won the gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics, he drew interest from NHL teams, mainly the Flyers, who acquired his rights from the Panthers at the 2001 entry draft. The Flyers leveraged former Vsetin HC teammate Roman Cechmanek and Dopita, now 33-years-old, finally submitted and came to North America for the first time in his career. He only managed to score up 11 goals and 27 points in 52 games, being limited by a knee injury throughout the season. The Flyers opted to not re-sign Dopita in the 2002 offseason, rather trading his rights to the Oilers for a third round pick that would become Ryan Potulny.

R.J. Umberger- 334GP, 60G, 82A, 142PTS

R.J. Umberger had a semi-successful run with the Blue Jackets sandwiched between two lackluster runs with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was a highly touted after he finished his college career at Ohio State, opting to not sign with the Canucks, the team who originally drafted him. He chose to sign as a free agent with the Flyers in 2004 and spent the first season of his professional career with the Phantoms. He made his NHL debut the following season where he did manage to score 20 goals, but his goal totals dipped for the next two seasons. His most famous moment from his first tenure was when he was almost killed by a Brian Campbell hit. Upon his return to the organization in 2014, he was well past the prime of his career, and with Dave Hakstol at the helm, that means he was destined to be overused. He scored just 11 goals in 106 games before he was mercifully bought out in the summer of 2016.

Left Wing

Patrik Juhlin- 56GP, 7G, 6A, 13PTS

Originally selected 34th overall in 1989, Patrik Juhlin was a seemingly forgotten player who ended up playing for six more seasons in his native Sweden before finally making the jump to North America. After winning gold with Team Sweden at the 1994 Olympics where he was the top scorer, he was finally signed and brought over by the Flyers. He suited up for 42 games during his rookie season, but only scored four goals. The following season he scored four goals in 14 games but spent most of the season in the AHL. Juhlin followed that up by spending the entirety of the 1996-97 season with the Phantoms. After, he fled back to Europe, becoming nothing more than another failed project in Flyers history.

Zac Rinaldo- 223GP, 8G, 16A, 24PTS

Maybe the last real enforcer the Flyers had, it is almost impressive the Rinaldo lasted as long as he did. Rinaldo debuted for the Flyers during the 2011 playoffs and his full-time NHL debut the following season. In 2011-12, Rinaldo scored two goals but racked up an impressive 232 penalty minutes. He was apart of the Flyers roster until the summer of 2015 when he was dealt to the Boston Bruins for a third round pick, maybe Ron Hextall’s best trades during his tenure as GM. Rinaldo’s Flyers career spanned 233 games and he posted eight goals and 572 penalty minutes, which is good enough for 33rd place in Flyers history.

Jody Shelley- 89GP, 2G, 3A, 5PTS

After the Flyers lost in heartbreaking fashion during the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, they came to only one conclusion; we gotta sign Jody Shelley. He inked a three-year deal in Philly yet rarely suited up over the length of his contract. In just 89 games from 2010 to 2013 Shelley racked up a whopping 191 penalty minutes.

Radovan Somik- 113GP, 12G, 20A, 32PTS

Radovan had some level of prestige as the Flyers’ fourth-round pick in 1995 and had a few successful seasons in his native Slovakia. He finally made the jump to North America in 2002 but never really got off the ground. Somik’s rookie season was disrupted by a knee injury and a broken cheek bone, but wasn’t much of an asset when he was healthy. He was even deployed as a defenseman during his sophomore year. During the lockout he fled to the Czech Extraliga and with the prospect of playing in the NHL again looking grim, he decided to stay in Europe, ending his Flyers tenure early.

Right Wing

Pavel Brendl- 50GP, 6G, 7A, 13PTS

The former fourth overall pick was supposed to be the crown jewel of the Eric Lindros trade to the Rangers. He spent the vast majority of his professional season in the AHL, and vastly underperforming when he was recalled late in the season. The following year, Brendl played 42 games with the Flyers, only scoring five goals, before his work ethic issue forced the Flyers to dump him in Carolina in a trade that landed them Sami Kapanen. Brendl was a failed part of a failed trade that looks really bad with the benefit of hindsight.

Andreas Nodl- 127GP, 12G, 16A, 28PTS

Nodl carried some high expectations into the NHL when he was selected 39th overall in 2006 after he was posting over a point-per-game during his college career. He made his professional debut in 2008 with the Phantoms and actually had a decent start to his career with 20 points in 39 games. He was recalled by the big club but only managed to score a single goal in 39 games during the 2008-09 season. Nodl split the 2009-10 season between the AHL and NHL before becoming a full-time Flyer in 2010-11. After only scoring 11 goals in 67 games and going goalless in the team’s first 12 games of the 2011-12 season, he was placed on waiver and claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes, ending his disappointing time in Philadelphia.

Steve Downie- 89GP, 9G, 20A, 29PTS

Steve Downie can appropriately be described as a human shit stain with no actual skill in the game of hockey. He was drafted in the first round by the Flyers because he fit the prototypical Broad Street Bully mantra. Downie racked up 114 penalty minutes during his first 21 games with the Phantoms before adding another 73 minutes during his first 32 NHL games. His entire tenure in Philly was spattered with suspensions and dirty plays before he was dealt to the Lightning in November of 2008. Downie reared his incredibly ugly head again in 2013 when he was re-acquired by the Flyers. Luckily, he wasn’t re-signed by the organization at the end of the 2013-14 season and this time he thankfully never came back.

Pat Falloon- 144GP, 38G, 45A, 83PTS

Before there was Alexandre Daigle, there was Pat Falloon. Drafted second overall in 1991, he spent the first five underwhelming seasons of his career with the San Jose Sharks. He was dealt to the Flyers early in the 1995-96 season, but his luck didn’t change. Falloon posted 22 goals during his first season in Philly and only 11 goals the following season. He only played five games for the Flyers during the first three months during the 1997-98 season before being dealt to the Senators.

Defense

Andrew MacDonald- 291 GP, 11G, 61A, 72PTS

Who among us still doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night screaming in terror after having a nightmare of Andrew MacDonald trying to play defense? AMac was originally brought in at the 2014 trade deadline as an addition for the defense core for the impending playoff run. A month after acquiring him, the Flyers re-signed him to a massive six-year, $30 million dollar contract. He went on to be a burden for the Flyers’ defense for the next five seasons as he was Dave Hakstol’s favorite player. MacDonald was finally, mercifully bought out of the last year of his deal in the summer of 2019. To make it worse, the two picks they sent to the Islanders ended up being Brandon Carlo and Ilya Sorokin. Oops.

Brandon Manning- 207 GP, 11G, 32A, 45PTS

Speaking of Dave Hakstol and his favorite defenseman, Brandon Manning has joined the call. Manning signed with the Flyers as an undrafted free agent in the fall of 2010 and spent a vast majority of his first four professional season with the Phantoms. He made his full-time NHL debut during the 2015-16 season and was immediately handed minutes that were well over his pay grade. Manning’s last season in Philly actually didn’t look too bad as face value, as he recorded seven goals and 19 points, but it was fools gold. It was good enough, however, to secure a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2018 offseason. Remember the time he broke Connor McDavid’s collarbone?

Ryan Parent- 102 GP, 1G, 6A, 7PTS

When the Flyers centered their return for Peter Forsberg around Ryan Parent in February of 2007 they were hoping for something special. What they got was a project defenseman that had trouble staying in the NHL. When he finally made the jump in 2009-10, he was used as sparingly as possible, often seeing less than 10 minutes of ice time a night while guys like Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen were seeing well over 25 minutes. After playing just 41 seconds during his last game with the Flyers during game one of the Stanley Cup Final he was traded back to the Predators during the offseason, putting an end to a very disappointing tenure.

Nick Schultz- 189 GP, 3G, 26A, 29PTS

Nick Schultz’s less-than-fond memories with the Flyers were due to a perfect storm of age and Dave Hakstol’s over-reliance on him and his advanced age. He was a 13-year NHL veteran when he signed with the Flyers for the 2014-15 season. His first season with the Flyers wasn’t actually that bad, which led the Flyers to sign him to a two-year extension, and that’s when things fell apart. Schultz was 33 at the time of the extension and his defensive style of play didn’t fit well in the year 2015. Luckily, he was used sparingly during the 2016-17 season, the last season of his career as he would retire after the Flyers missed the playoffs. Schultz stayed with the Flyers organization, becoming a player development coach, a role he still holds today.

Mike Rathje- 97 GP, 3G, 22A, 25PTS

Once upon a time in a far away year called 1999, Mike Rathje was a top defeseman for the San Jose Sharks organization. Fast forward to 2005 and the 6’5, 250lb defenseman was slow and injury prone. After an 11-season run with the Sharks, Rathje, then 31, signed a five-year deal with the Flyers after the lockout. His first season on Philly was fine, playing in 79 games scoring 24 points, but he was already slowing down. The following season Rathje only managed to dress in 18 games, sidelined with chronic hip and back issues, which ultimately forced him to retire just two years into his deal. Rathje was a big swing for the organization, but it made little sense at the time of the signing and backfired with sub-par play and injuries.

Marcus Ragnarsson- 113GP, 9G, 15A, 24PTS

Mike Rathje’s partner during his successful run in San Jose was Marcus Ragnarsson, and while they weren’t on the Flyers’ roster at the same time, the same school of thought applies. His play didn’t fall nearly as far as far as Rathje’s did, but as the game continued to get faster, Ragnarsson got left behind. He was acquired by the Flyers in December of 2002 and stayed with the organization until the end of the 2004 season. Ragnarsson returned to his native Sweden during the lockout and decided to stay there when the NHL returned.

Goalies

*The Flyers have had their fair share of horrible goalies on the team over the years. The worst of the worst typically played very few games in the organization, which disqualifies guys like Cal Heeter, Petr Mrazek, Cal Pickard, and Neil Little.*

Ilya Bryzgalov- 99 GP, .905 SV%, 2.60 GAA

When Ilya Bryzgalov inked a nine-year deal with the Flyers in 2011, I can just about guarantee that most didn’t expect him to only play 99 games out of a possible 738. Bryzgalov’s play ranged from spectacular to sub-par during his two seasons with the Flyers. He set the franchise’s shutout streak record at 249:43 in March of 2012, that coming right after he allowed 11 goals in three games. His lasting legacy stems from the 2012 Winter Classic and the corresponding 24/7 series that focused on his views of the universe and his husky.

Antero Niittymaki- 161 GP, .901 SV%, 3.01 GAA

Even though Niittymaki had some decent stretches of play, the long-time backup’s stat sheet tells a different story. Niittymaki rode shotgun to Robert Esche and Martin Biron for the majority of his tenure with the Flyers, rarely seeing the starting job unless the former was injured. Of the 161 games he played in, he only started 52 and only won 62. Even though he has become a bit of a cult favorite, the numbers just aren’t on his side when it comes to being a top goalie in franchise history.

.

So, if you had to ice a lineup with these bozos, it’d look like-

Zac Rinaldo – Vinny Lecavalier – Pavel Brendl

Patrik Juhlin – Jiri Dopita – Andreas Nodl

Radovan Somik – R.J. Umberger – Steve Downie

Jody Shelley – Chris Vandevelde – Pat Falloon

Andrew MacDonald – Brandon Manning

Mike Rathje – Marcus Ragnarsson

Nick Schultz – Ryan Parent

Ilya Bryzgalov

Antero Niittymaki

What a crew.

.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: traderumors.com/sfgate.com/philly.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s