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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Roman Hamrlík 

He was the number one overall pick in 1992, the first pick ever selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the first Czech ever selected first overall. Roman Hamrlík was a solid wall of 6’2″, 220 lbs of muscle that crushed everything in his way. When the Flyers and Lightning faced off for the first time in the 1995-96 playoffs, he was hitting anything with an orange and black jersey.

And yet, in an era of very physical players, he never had a reputation for being dirty. He just leveled devastatingly clean hits on opposing forwards. He was a three time all-star for the Lightning and helped to take this expansion team from a bunch of misfits into respectability.

After leaving the Bolts in 1998 in a trade to Edmonton, he would bounce around the league for a while. He would play for the Islanders, Flames, Canadiens, Capitals, and Rangers in a career that would last 20 years. He spent a career averaging over 20 minutes of ice time, something ever team wants out of their defenders if they can get it.  He was a solid, consistent blueliner.

While he didn’t put up the eye popping numbers of Ray Borque or Paul Coffey or combine skill and scoring with someone like Chris Pronger, he was a reliable defender. He would’ve made a great defender on a team in the late 90s and early 00s that sometimes struggled on the blueline.

Glen Wesley

Wesley had a 20 year career and was an all-star one time. He played in four Stanley Cups, winning it with the Hurricanes in 2006. He was not flashy or dominant. And while he was never a physically intimidating guy, as a junior he was involved in the famous “Punch-up in Piestany” where the Russian team and the Canadian team fought for 20 minutes and both teams got ejected from the tournament, as was Fleury

After seven years in Boston, he was traded to the Hartford Whalers, who would soon move to Carolina. He was a decent scoring defender in Boston, with a career high of 19 in his second season. After being traded to Hartford, he never scored more than eight goals nor topped 35 points in a season. But that wasn’t his skill.

His skill was being a frustratingly good stay at home defender. Until the last few years of his career, when he was in his late 30s, he was averaging well over 20 minutes of ice time a game. He has a career plus/minus of +66.  He also topped 70 penalty minutes twice in a 20 year career.

That is the sort of consistency you want from a defenseman. He wasn’t the greatest defender of his generation, but he was steady. The Hurricanes retired his number 2 after his 13 years of service and leadership to the team. That is the sort of guy the Flyers could’ve used, especially in the early 2000s.

Félix Potvin

For years, I remembered hearing that the Flyers were going to flip Ron Hextall for either Potvin or Curtis Joseph. I’m not sure if there was any truth to the rumors or if the Maple Leafs were just trying to drive up the price for these netminders at the time. Maybe it was Clarke’s way of trying to motivate our goalie tandems of Hextall/Snow/John Vanbiesbrouck to play better.

Still, if “The Cat” would’ve come to Philly, it wouldn’t have been a bad thing. In his rookie season, he finished third in the Calder Trophy, behind Joe Juneau and trophy winner Teemu Selanne and fourth in the Vezina Trophy to winner Ed Belfour. He led the league with a 2.50 GAA with a .910 save percentage.  In his first five seasons, he never posted a GAA above 3.15 or a save percentage less than 90%. His quickness, especially side to side, made him one of the premier young goalies in the early 90s.

With the Leafs defensive core getting older in front of him, he started to face more shots, leading the league with 2438 shot attempts, 2214 saves, and 224 goals scored in 96-97. Toronto signed free agent goalie Joseph and traded Potvin to the Islanders who would later flip him to Vancouver.  Injuries, as is often the case, began to take their toll on him and after winning 266 games in 13 years, he retired. He spent his last few years on poor teams, but still put up respectable numbers.

But what if? What if Clarke traded Hextall for Potvin? OR what if the Flyers had a goalie tandem of Hextall and Potvin, which would lead to Potvin and Boucher? Could that have put the Flyers over the top in the late 90s? A defense lead by Eric Desjardins, Chris Therien. Petr Svoboda, Luke Richards, and Dan McGillis would’ve been a much better force than many of what Potvin had ahead of him in his career. Maybe had the move been made, we would’ve seen Lindros and Mark Recchi lift the Cup aloft. Alas, we’ll never know. But he would’ve been a decent goalie for us.


None of these guys are hall of famers, although Fleury is a borderline guy. Some, like Peca and Wesley, were steady players who provided a lot of leadership to their teams. Some, like Barnaby and Hamrlík, brought the hammer down on opposing players. Maybe they could’ve helped bring a Stanley Cup parade to Broad Street. Maybe not. But still, these players would’ve been great as Flyers back in the day.