Lately, Philadelphia Flyers content has essentially been either “Who Will/Should the Flyers Draft in the First Round This Year?” or “Why did the Flyers Trade Sergei Bobrovsky Last Decade?”. So, let’s have a bit of a palate cleanser and just take a stroll through Flyers history to ‘remember some guys’ without any kind of agenda. We’ll be focusing on some of the blueliners who have donned the Orange and Black over the years who you’ve likely forgotten about (often with good reason). With apologies to guys like Marcus Ragnarsson and Freddy Meyer, who made too much of an impact to be on this list, let’s dive in.
As much as I pride myself on the minutia of Flyers history, I still forget about this one. And that’s probably because I, and the entire hockey world outside of whatever team he was on at a given time, absolutely loathed Ulf Samuelsson. A hard-hitting, frequently dirty, shutdown defenseman, Ulf riled Flyers fans for years as a member of the Penguins and Rangers before the Flyers signed him as a free agent in 1999.
Ulf would put up one goal, two assists, and 58 PIM in 49 games with the Flyers, but shoulder and knee injuries caused him to be shut down late in the year, and he didn’t even appear in the playoffs that season. That would spell the end of Ulf’s NHL career at age 36. Later on, he owned a restaurant on Old York Road in Jenkintown for a time, creatively called “Ulf Samuelsson’s Restaurant and Deli”, which is just about the most random thing I’ve ever heard. It’s long-closed, of course, faded like any memory of him wearing a Flyers sweater. Also, it’s funny that this profile of him on the Flyers’ alumni page actually shows Kjell Samuelsson. See? Dude was really forgettable for this team.
The big Czech defender had made a couple stops around the league before signing with the Flyers after a season back in his home country. During the 2000-01 season in Philadelphia, Sykora appeared in 49 games, putting up five goals and 11 assists. He was fine. He’d disappoint in the playoffs, along with the rest of the team, as the Flyers lost in six games to Buffalo. The final game of his NHL career was an 8-0 drubbing in Game 6 that ended the Flyers’ season. After that, it was back to Europe, and he’d never return.
Bruno St. Jacques
A former ninth round pick by the Flyers who, to his credit, made it all the way to the show less than four years later, St. Jacques didn’t do much to stand out once he got to the NHL. He’d ultimately go scoreless over 13 games with the Flyers before being shipped along with Pavel Brendl to Carolina in the Sami Kapanen trade. This was back in those pre-salary cap days where the Flyers would use their financial position and willingness to actually pay players to their advantage before the rules changed and caused them to spin their wheels for 20 years since. Anyway, St. Jacques played a grand total of 67 NHL games and was out of the league by age 25.
A deadline acquisition from Phoenix in 2006, Gauthier was the quintessential third pairing shutdown guy that every team seems to want. He finished up that year with the Flyers and was fine (although he was part of another first round flameout vs. Buffalo), and then he was part of the legendarily miserable 2006-07 season. Following that, the Flyers waived him and he actually played the entirety of 2007-08 with the Phantoms before being traded the following summer. In 60 total games with the Flyers, he put up no goals and four assists in 60 games. He wasn’t expected to be Bobby Orr, but jeez.
Not to be confused with Ossi Vaananen, who I swear was a totally different guy even though I’ve never seen them both in the same room, Kukkonen appeared in 95 regular season games with the Flyers over three seasons, plus another 14 playoff games during the 2008 postseason. At the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, Kukkonen’s contract ended and he jumped over to the KHL. From there, he’d go on to another decade of playing in his native Finland, never returning to the NHL. Lasse is probably most notable for being the last player to sport the #28 before ceding it to Claude Giroux, who will likely be the final Flyer to ever wear the number.
Long considered a solid contributor who had suffered the misfortune of toiling for a lot of bad teams, Modry was acquired from the Kings for a measly third-round draft pick ahead of the 2008 trade deadline. He’d average more than 20 minutes a night over his 19 regular season games in Orange and Black, but he never really seemed to click. He’d get into nine playoff games that spring, and was pretty underwhelming there as well. At season’s end, the 37-year old Modry called it quits on his NHL career and went back to his native Czech Republic, where he’d play a few more seasons before hanging up his skates. Today he presumably spends his days never thinking about the three months that he spent with the Flyers.
Having played for the Flyers a scant nine seasons ago, Gill is the most recent name on our list. But I’d forgive you for completely forgetting he was ever on the team. After all, he got into just six (SIX!) games with the Flyers during the 2013-14 campaign, despite the fact that he was basically healthy the whole time. Dude just took up space in the press box until they needed him. His Flyer totals: one shot on goal, 2 PIM. He managed to get into one playoff game that year during the team’s first round loss to the Rangers, and that was it for his NHL career, which I’ve noticed is kind of a theme with this list.
A note about Mike Rathje
Seeing as how this list is about “forgettable” Flyers defensemen, I can’t in good conscience put Mike Rathje on here. I personally will never forget him, because I will never get the sour taste of his Flyers existence out of my mouth. Signed as part of the ‘Let’s Just Be Huge and Slow’ initiative that the Flyers committed themselves to coming out of the NHL lockout in 2005, Rathje played 79 games in his first season with the team, averaging over 20 minutes a night, doing his job defensively, and chipping in 24 points. Ok, fine. That was year 1 of a 5-year contract. Then…disaster.
At just 32 years old but playing like he was collecting social security, Rathje struggled miserably through 18 games to open the spectacularly bad 2006-07 season. Rathje’s back was betraying him and would ultimately lead to an early retirement, but not before one final indignity in a game against the Predators on November 29, 2006.
I was at the game with my dad that night, and it was tied 2-2 in the waning moments. That’s when Rathje, who had been skating like he was carrying a piano all night, committed an egregious turnover in his own end which led directly to a Nashville goal with 5:09 remaining (video not available, even though I really tried). I immediately turned to my dad and said something along the lines of “That’s the last time we should see him in an NHL game”.
And it was.
The Flyers lost by the 3-2 final, with goal scorer Martin Erat even commenting “It was just a bad turnover…” after the game. Rathje was shut down, never to play again, and he started collecting paychecks from the press box for years after the fact. I always got annoyed when I saw him in a suit taking the elevator up to the balcony level when I would work games for ArenaVision and bump into him. The dude’s body betrayed him, I get it, but what a colossal waste.
At any rate, I know everyone is busy with all of the hot Philadelphia Flyers gossip out there, like digging deep into the meaning of Danny Briere saying that he would “listen” to trade offers for Carter Hart to listing all of the ways that Ed Snider would be disappointed in the team if he were still around. It simply never ends. And so I want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to help us remember some guys. You can now go back to forgetting them.