The Philadelphia Flyers have been keeping us all on our toes recently. Still, we would be remiss if we did not set aside a few moments of appreciation for former Flyer Wayne Simmonds, who announced on Friday that he's “done.” He is not officially retiring from the NHL at this time, though. He spent 15 seasons in the NHL, primarily with the Flyers. He also had stints with the Kings, Predators, Devils, Sabres, and Maple Leafs.
A second round pick by the Kings in 2007, Simmonds made the team a year later, shortly after turning 20 years old. He never looked back. He showed some promise in his three seasons with Los Angeles but as we all know, his inclusion in the Mike Richards deal on the Flyers' franchise-altering day of June 23, 2011, is what made his career.
Flyers fans, shocked by the sudden departure of captain Richards (and Jeff Carter in the same day) were told that Simmonds would become a fan favorite for his style of play. It turns out that we weren't misled on that one, as ‘The Wayne Train' was bruising yet skilled and brought maximum effort to the rink every game. He scored 28 goals in his first year with the Flyers, two of which came in a victory where he took a puck to the face during warmups and needed 25 stitches. Simmonds would later notch a pair of 30-goal and 60-point campaigns en route to 203 goals and 175 assists in 584 games with the team. In all that time, he unfortunately only got to suit up in 30 playoff games for the Flyers, but the club's so-so results for much of his tenure were more happenstance than anything close to his fault.
Of course, it wasn't just the scoring that ingratiated Simmonds to Flyers fans. He racked up four seasons of 100+ penalty minutes while he was in Philadelphia, always willing to drop the gloves to stick up for a teammate or provide a momentum spark. In total, he amassed 784 penalty minutes with the Flyers. Simmonds squeezed every last ounce of talent out of himself to help the team win every night. This is what Flyers fans, and all Philadelphia fans, want in an athlete. Wayne Simmonds brought it every time as an ultimate warrior on the ice who was also a model citizen of it. Just great stuff from Wayne from start to finish in his career.
In a strange development, Simmonds' final game as a Flyer ended up being the team's outdoor game on February 23, 2019, a stirring comeback win over the Penguins. In a sad but necessary move for a Flyers team going nowhere, he was traded to Nashville two days later. His first game back in Philadelphia came later that calendar year as a member of the Devils, and he was showered with the full appreciation of Flyers fans. Simmonds finished that season with the Sabres, signed with Toronto before the following season, and stuck there for the remainder of his career. Notably, he cleared 1,000 NHL games and 500 points, which he accomplished with a perfectly symmetrical 263 goals and 263 assists.
Almost all of that production came before the age of 30, as the 'hard miles' on his body turned him into a shell of what he had been. The Flyers undoubtedly moved on at the right time when they traded the 30-year-old Simmonds; he netted 444 points in 762 games (0.58 pts per game) before the age of 30 and just 82 points in 275 games (0.30 pts per game) after. Some players hit a wall, and Wayne Simmonds' wall was made from reinforced steel.
But what a ride it was, and Flyers fans are grateful for the chance to have seen Simmonds sacrifice for the team, crash the net for dirty goals, and mix it up with the toughest customers around the NHL. Flyers fans everywhere wish Wayne Simmonds all the best whenever he makes his retirement official. Here's hoping that we see him suit up for the Orange and Black alumni someday.