The sweeping changes made by Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers during the wild offseason saw many players come and go but there are a few who survived the chaos. One of the last men standing is 32-year-old forward James Van Riemsdyk, who has been a vexing character since his return to Philly.
With the current forward corps fairly top heavy right now and the depth on the wings at a level unseen in recent Flyers’ history, everyone will have to fight and claw all season long for ice time, and James Van Riemsdyk will be no exception, but it won’t be easy for the New Jersey native.
Van Riemsdyk is the poster boy for streaky scoring. In the past, his typical formula is racking up a bunch of points in the span of a few games, then going silent for a couple of weeks. Look no further than the 2019-20 season to prove that theory.
-Opened the season going pointless in seven games.
-Recorded three goals and six points in three games in late October.
-Only recorded one goal and three points in the following 14 games.
-Had a stretch of 8 goals and 14 points from Thanksgiving until Christmas.
-Went on an 11 game goalless drought with only two points from the post-christmas break to January 18.
-He had four goals and eight points in five games from February 8 to February 15, then only recorded two points in the team’s final seven games of the season.
That’s about as consistently inconsistent as it gets. Though he changed up his usual calling card in 2021. He was the Flyers’ most consistent offense producer for the first two months of the season before going absolutely ice cold for the last two-and-a-half months.
He had 13 goals and 29 points in the Flyers’ first 19 games, then racked up only seven goals and 17 points over the last 37 games of the season. That slump included a 17-game goalless drought during which he only managed to produce five assists.
At this point in his career, 32 years old and a veteran of 797 games, he is the player he is. Though the fact JVR survived the many chances brought upon the Flyers’ roster this summer does bode well for him, at least in the short term. He is a well respected player in the room and in the community. His voice is valued and Chuck Fletcher felt that keeping him around bettered the team in one way or another.
But just because he is still on the roster doesn’t mean Alain Vigneault will be afraid to drop him down the depth chart or even bench him, because he’s done it in the past. JVR was in AV’s doghouse for the late stages of the 2019-20 season and much of the 2020 playoffs.
During the early stages of the preseason, has had been deployed on a line with Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee, and the three have at least some chemistry together. He’s being used in a mentor role, both as the veteran player on the line, but the man tasked with keeping the two young guys on the right path. When Frost got demoted to the AHL, he moved to the right wing, a position he is relatively unfamiliar with, to be on a line with Scott Laughton and Oskar Lindblom, a defensively responsible trio with a scoring upside. Van Riemsdyk proving that he is willing to be dynamic in the roles he plays is another positive sign that they may just be able to teach an old dog new tricks.
James Van Riemsdyk will still find a way to produce offense, he always does, but the leadership he brings to the team will be his biggest asset these days. He’s one of the elder statesmen on the team now and seems willing to do anything that’s asked of him, but as far as expectations levels go, it’s best they’re kept low. Maybe he could surprise everyone and string a decent season together, but his streakiness has followed him his whole career and there’s no reason to expect that to change now.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: si.com