Confession time …
It’s not the kind of crush that should cause Mr. Simmonds any discomfort nor any concerns that perhaps he has picked up a deranged stalker. My crush is based solely on his hockey skills and style of play. In the tradition of hockey players and ice warriors, who have called Philadelphia home, he is the epitome of Flyers hockey!
Tough, nasty when necessary, high-energy, and talented, Simmonds’ on-ice play harkens to the days of Gary Dornhoefer, Bob “The Hound” Kelly, Tim Kerr, John LeClair, Rick Tocchet (Watch the linked video. Trust me.), and Bobby Clarke.
Simmonds hardly ever looks as pretty on his skates as most of those named above, but his heart and level of effort never comes up short in comparison to those beloved Flyers.
When I first saw Simmonds play for the Orange and Black as the 2011-12 season got underway, I was apoplectic. “Who the —- is this guy?!? He can’t even skate!”
Or so it seemed.
When you see Simmonds pumping along the boards, working to get up a full head of steam down the ice, all you see are elbows, arms, and knees each appearing to be headed in different directions. It looks – quite frankly – about what you would expect if I was ice skating … for the very first time … being chased by a polar bear.
The appearance of frantic flailing …
Ungainly, not very pretty, certainly not Ice Capades worthy. But the rest of Simmonds’ game is – in a word – beautiful!
Athletic skill is undeniable when it comes to Simmonds’ hockey presence. Be it hunting the crease for loose pucks; standing in the line-of-fire for just a chance at screening the goalie’s vision; mucking along the boards, elbows and knees akimbo; or looking to pummel an opposing player taking unwelcome liberties, Simmonds is unquestionably quick, strong and hockey-smart.
In addition, Simmonds is unhesitating when it comes to defending himself or his teammates with his fists … the self-policing part of hockey that provides an outlet in those instances when players take physical liberties within the gray areas of the game and its rules.
Simmonds even has two Gordie Howe Hat Tricks (goal, assist, fight) to his credit this season all in the span of four days!
Now I wrote this piece with eyes wide open, fully realizing that the 2012-13 version of the Philadelphia Flyers have demonstrated little that instills hope that this season will not end before the first or second round of the NHL Playoffs … should they get even that far. I wrote this simply to recognize a player I enjoy immensely whenever I watch my favorite NHL team play.
What has been promising this season is the play of Jakub Voracek and Simmonds, along with the emergence of a focused, earth-bound Ilya Bryzgalov, who may have finally answered the Flyers perennial goalie crisis.
The Flyers simply have too many holes where players are not being smart with the puck; causing too many turnovers; or being caught out of position defensively. Whatever changes result from this disappointing, short season, Flyers fans should hold fast that both SImmonds and Voracek stay with the team!
Prior to this season the Flyers moved to make star Center Claude Giroux Captain of the Orange & Black. It was the smart move and certainly appropriate given Giroux’s play and on-ice leadership over the last several seasons. Yet you have to consider that Wayne Simmonds could very well have been a legitimate choice in his own right – had he been here long enough, especially if one considers hard work and team-oriented play demonstrations of hockey leadership.