Ever since Wayne Simmonds came to the Philadelphia Flyers as a part of the Mike Richards trade, he has shown glimpses of being a great player. He is a power play specialist, scoring 8 of his 17 goals this season with a man advantage. He can fight, as you can see in this example against Steve Olesky. And with 20 assists already this season, on pace for 33, he will easily pass his career high of 24, set in the 2009-2010 season. Simmonds will never be a Selke candidate, but he has done a better job of backchecking and playing defensively responsible under Craig Berube.
There has always been one major knock on Wayne Simmonds: consistency. As a guy whose primary responsibility is to score goals, Simmonds will always be streaky, to a certain extent. There is no way around it. However, Simmonds has been playing well for about a month and a half now. He has 12 goals in the last 17 games, after having only 5 in the first 33 games.
There are two ways to look at this recent uptick in production. First, this could just be another Wayne Simmonds hot streak. I was reluctant to write an article praising Simmonds back around December 17-28. He had just reeled off seven goals in five games, but those games were also going on during hot streaks by Giroux and Voracek. However, the fact that Simmonds has continued his hot streak into late January shows signs that Simmonds has found a measure of consistency. So is this current run of great games an anomaly? Or has Wayne Simmonds finally broken through into the power forward we all have hoped that he could be?
In three seasons with the LA Kings, Simmonds played in 240 games, scored 39 goals, had 54 assists, and earned 93 points (.39 points per game). Since arriving in Philadelphia, Simmonds has improved quite a bit, statistically speaking. In 177 games Simmonds has 60 goals, 58 assists, and 118 points (.67 points per game). Clearly Simmonds took a significant step in his development in 2011-2012, but even since then he has been an inconsistent player. Here is a look at the length and stats of Simmonds’ hot and cold streaks since coming to Philadelphia:
2011-2012 – 82GP – 28G – 21A – 49P
24 games – Cold Streak – 4G, 4A
9 games – Hot Streak – 6G, 2A
16 games – Cold Streak – 3G, 8A
10 games – Hot Streak – 9G, 3A
16 games – Cold Streak – 0G, 3A
7 games – Hot Streak – 6G, 1A
2012-2013 – 45GP – 15G – 17A – 32P
13 games – Cold Streak – 4G, 4A
8 games – Hot Streak – 6G, 5A
17 games – Cold Streak – 2G, 4A
7 games – Hot Streak – 3G, 4A
2013-2014 – 50GP – 17G – 20A – 37P
16 games – Cold Streak – 1G, 4A
7 games – Hot Streak – 4G, 3A
10 games – Cold Streak – 0G, 3A
17 games – Hot Streak – 12G, 10A
The pattern over the past couple of years is for Simmonds to have 7-10 games of nearly point-per-game production and then go 10-20 games with very infrequent production. It is possible, and it would not surprise me too much, for Simmonds to go cold over the next 20 games and make this article worthless and it is true that he will always be ‘streaky’ to a certain extent. However, there are three factors that are encouraging to consider.
First, the length of this streak. Seventeen games is much longer than any previous “hot streak” that Simmonds has had in his career. The fact that Simmonds has not let one bad game spiral into another (for example January 12th against the Rangers when he was held off of the score sheet) is an encouraging sign. Even with an off game here or there, Simmonds has kept his production up.
Second, Simmonds has consistent linemates. I will be the first to admit that I thought the Hartnell-Schenn-Simmonds experiment would fail miserably. However, the three of them have found good chemistry together and are consistently producing points. In previous years, Simmonds has had to shuffle around Schenn, Matt Read, Daniel Briere, and others. The consistency of knowing who he is going to be skating with every night can only help his confidence and personal consistency.
Finally, his age. Simmonds turned 25 this summer. No player develops at the same pace. If one looks at the trajectory of Simmonds’ career, it looks something like this. He broke into the league after turning 20. He had a few average years in LA (not uncommon for 20-22 year olds) until being traded to Philadelphia during the summer of 2011, when he would have turned 23. At the age of 23, and in his 4th season in the league, Simmonds had a ‘breakout’ season and nearly doubled his career high total in goals. However, at 23 it is still likely that Simmonds was still working out the inconsistencies in his game. Simmonds is now 25 and in his 6th NHL season. Although I would not necessarily label him a veteran, he has more experience than meets the eye. As a good player gets older, he adds important pieces to his game; in Simmonds’ case, he is adding consistency.
I have been a HUGE Wayne Simmonds fan ever since he came over from LA. I admit that that has colored much of my thinking towards the player. If I am too positive about him, let me know. During his cold streaks I took a lot of heat for not wanting to trade him, and during his hot streaks I would love to say ‘I told you so’. Now, however, I believe that an unbiased look at Simmonds shows that he is developing into a solid, top-6, power forward. He is finding consistency, and that should scare the other 29 teams in the NHL.