Six Past Players Who Would’ve Been Great Flyers

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27: Felix Potvin #29 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Chicago Black Hawks during NHL preseason game action on September 27, 1994 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Toronto defeated Chicago 2-1. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 27: Felix Potvin #29 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Chicago Black Hawks during NHL preseason game action on September 27, 1994 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Toronto defeated Chicago 2-1. (Photo by Graig Abel/Getty Images) /
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There are times you watch a hockey game and think, “Man, I wish he was on our team.” Thinking back on the players that I grew up with in the 90s and early 2000s, there are some guys that I know would’ve been fan favorite Flyers. So, thinking of some of these sort of players, I came up with a front forward line, a solid defensive line, and even a goalie who would’ve been fun to watch.

Now, before I begin, I am staying away from Hall of Famers. Of course it would’ve been easy to say, “Well, imagine a line of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Joe Sakic up front”. No kidding. That’s not much of a stretch there buddy. Way to go out on a limb there.

I’ve tried to focus on players who were tough and all out. Some may have been all-stars or all-star caliber. Some are not.  Others may be, because of how they played, the sort of scrappy guys that Flyers fans would cheer for. So, let’s see who would’ve been great in Orange and Black.

The Forwards

Matthew Barnaby

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “Are you serious? Matt Barnaby? The same guy who used to wail on Eric Lindros and others? One of the dirtiest players in the league?” Yep….that guy.

I used to hate him too. I thought he was one of the dirtiest players in the game, right up there with Tie Domi, Rob Ray, and Darius Kasparaitis. He also played for some of our biggest rivals, including the Penguins, Rangers, and Sabres.

He was also involved in my all-time favorite hockey fight. The Flyers were playing the Sabres on March 29, 1996. Shawn Antoski shoved Barnaby into the net and Barnaby collapsed on the ice.  Brad May then starts a fight with Antoski. While they are going at in, Garth Snow starts poking Barnaby with his stick. Barnaby, who was playing possum, jumps up and attacks Snow. Rod Brind’amour comes over and gives it to Barnaby. It was a great fight.

So why would I say that he’d be a great Flyer? A few years later, Barnaby was a commentator on the Versus Channel (which would later become NBC Sports). A Flyers game was on and he was doing the in period analysis. While talking, he said something to the effect of, “I’ve never played in Philadelphia, but I would’ve loved it. I know the fans there didn’t like me much, but I think they would had I got to play for them. Their intensity was always awesome. and it was always fun to play there.”

My opinion of him changed then and there. Sure, I still couldn’t stand the guy, but he was right. Had he been a Flyer, I would’ve loved him. In an era where there were many great pests, agitators, and goons, he was one of the best. He was an intimidating player and having an enforcer like him to watch Lindros’s back, maybe he could’ve protected him from the Scott Stevens’s of the world.

Michael Peca

Speaking of the Buffalo Sabres, there were two players who lifted the Sabres into hockey prominence in the late 90s. One was their insanely good goalie, Dominik Hasek. The other was their star center, Michael Peca. The Sabres acquired Peca as part of a package that sent scoring wizard Alexander Mogilny to the Canucks.

Peca spent five years in Buffalo, scoring 96 goals and tallying 121 assists. He could deliver hits, but, unlike his teammates Barnaby and Ray, was not dirty. He was a two-time winner of the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward.

As the Sabres ran into financial troubles, they began to sell off some of their assets while they could. Hasek would be traded and so would Peca. Buffalo sent him to the Islanders. He scored 25 goals in his first season as he won his second Selke Trophy and took the Isles to their first playoff run in seven years.

In the following season, the Islanders returned to the playoffs. He was hit by Darcy Tucker and blew out his ACL and MCL on his left knee. As a result, the NHL made clipping a penalty. Without his speed, he was never the same afterwards, although he would score six goals as a member of the Edmonton Oilers when they made a run for the Stanley Cup in 2005-06 before falling to the Hurricanes.

Peca was a gritty forwards. He was a faster version of Sean Couturier. He always played with his heart and left it all out there on the ice. That is always the sort of player that gets the fans excited in Philadelphia. As a result, he would’ve been very popular here.

Theoren Fleury

He was 5’6″ and 180 lbs in an era where then general manager Bobby Clarke put together rosters of Flyers teams that averaged 6’0″ and 200 lbs. But Theo Fleury was someone who survived in the league because of his speed. He won a Stanley Cup as a youngster in Calgary and was an all-star seven times in a decade where size and scoring flourished. Still, if you watched him play, you’d understand why he was so great. He was also the fastest player in the EA Sports NHL games in the 90s.

In a 15 year career, he scored 364 goalies, topping 40 goals four times, including 51 in 1990-91, where he also put up 104 total points. Speaking of that, he topped 80 points a total of five times.

Fleury battled drug and alcohol addiction for many years and it led to him being suspended near the end of his career. Still, he was one of the great players of the 1990s. His ability to go end to end and score almost at will made him a fearsome forward to defend against.

I can’t help but think had be played on a line with Lindros and John LeClair, or alongside of Brind’Amour on the second line, the Flyers would’ve had a speedy threat needed to crack the physical defenses of teams like the New Jersey Devils that always seemed to stymie them in the playoffs. Despite his size, he could skate and he could play. He would’ve been a lot of fun to watch  here.