Pride, determination, hustle, toughness, skill, and loyalty—just a few of the characteristics that make up what it takes to be a Philadelphia Flyer.
When you talk all-time rosters, the Flyers boast one of the most impressive lineups in NHL history. Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Brian Propp, Ron Hextall, Eric Desjardins, Eric Lindros, Bernie Parent, and Mark Howe are just a few examples of the tremendous amount of talent the Flyers have had over the years.
So, if you could turn back time, what would the Flyers all-time roster look like? Here is my take:
*Please note, all stats represent totals as a member of the Flyers, not career NHL totals. Who cares what they accomplished elsewhere, right?
First Line: The “LCB” Line
Left Wing—Bill Barber
Four hundred twenty goals, 883 points, a plus/minus rating of plus-316, and 3,250 shots registered makes Barber a no-brainer to be selected the Flyers' best left winger of all time.
One of only three Flyers to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame, Barber was a force to be reckoned with and his ability to make players around him better is legendary.
He had 53 goals and 108 points in 129 career playoff games with the Flyers, including 24 points in the Flyers back-to-back Stanley Cup victories. Barber is ranked fifth overall in single-season points with 112, and is one of only five Flyers to ever score 50 goals in a season.
Clarke exemplifies everything you want in an NHL player; toughness, leadership, skill, ability to intimidate, and a competitive streak that goes beyond what most NHLers can bring to the table.
Combine all of those attributes with Clarke’s 358 goals, 1,210 points, a plus/minus rating of plus-506, and you can see why Clarke gets the nod as the Flyers' all-time first line centre.
Clarke was quite possibly the biggest factor in the Flyers winning back-to-back Stanley Cups (1973-74, 1974-75) and his tenacity was, and is to this day, second to none. In June of 1987, Clarke was the second player in Flyers history elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame and, in my opinion, the greatest Flyer of all time.
Right Wing—Reginald “Reggie” Leach
Admittedly, Leach, by definition, is not the Flyers' best right winger of all time. That said, it was impossible to break up the legendary “LCB” line, a line that combined for an NHL record for goals by a single line with 141 (Leach 61, Clarke 30, Barber 50).
Make no mistake about it, Leach had great career totals as a member of the Flyers, his 318 goals ranks him seventh overall, and his 514 points ranks him 11th.
Again, I felt this line should be highlighted, the sum of its parts speak louder than individual achievement, at least in Leach’s case. If I was to select a right winger based solely on points, I would have selected Tim Kerr, without question.
Left Wing—Brian Propp
Best known for his offensive prowess, Propp’s defensive game was just as impressive. His ability to stop the opposition's top lines and his skills on the penalty kill give Propp the nod as the Flyers' No. 2 left winger of all time.
Propp was one of the best two-way forwards in NHL history. With 103 career power play goals as a member of the Flyers, Propp could definitely play the power play. He had a knack for scoring timely goals (55 game winners), and with 369 goals, 849 points, and a plus/minus rating of plus-311, his contributions speak volumes.
There is no getting away from it; Lindros has Hall of Fame numbers and, as such, gets the nod as the Flyers' all-time second line centre. Blessed with speed, skill, and one of the fiercest body checks in the game, Lindros’ career was cut short due to his history of concussions. In 486 career games as a Flyer, Lindros registered 290 goals, 659 points, and a plus/minus rating of plus-188.
Forwards and defensemen alike feared Lindros. When he was “on,” there were few players that could dominate a game like Lindros. He was one of the NHL’s best ever and, at times, as unstoppable as they come.
Right Wing—Tim Kerr
Three hundred sixty-three goals and 650 points ranks Kerr sixth overall in scoring as a member of the Flyers. He scored 145 power play goals, which confirms he was a threat in any offensive situation.
Kerr was one of the best power forwards in NHL history and almost impossible to move from the crease area, where he usually set up shop. His courage and determination was unmatched, as was his desire to win.
Kerr posted two 58-goal scoring seasons and two 54-goal scoring seasons, ranking him second, third, fourth, and fifth on the Flyers' all-time single season goals scored list. Kerr was a consistent goal-scoring machine, and thus rightfully takes his place on the Flyers' all-time second line.
Left Wing—John Leclair
Simply put, Leclair was a beast to play against. His skillful hands, ability to work the corners, and off-the-charts compete level are legendary, as is his status with Flyers fans, who regard Leclair as one of the Flyers' best power forwards of all time.
As a member of the Flyers, Leclair registered 333 goals, 643 points and a plus/minus rating of plus-197. Playing alongside Lindros and Mikael Renberg, Leclair made up one-third of the most feared line of the late Nineties, appropriately named the "Legion of Doom."
Centre—Richard “Rick” Macleish
741 career games as a member of the Flyers, 328 goals, 697 points, 98 power play goals, and a plus/minus rating of plus-181, enough said!
A member of the Hall of Fame, Macleish was one of the Flyers' best two-way players of all-time. The consummate "team player," Macleish was a big reason the Flyers had their 35 game unbeaten streak. Macleish was the type of player that would do anything his coach asked him to do, as long as it meant getting a win.
Right Wing—Mark Recchi
As a member of the Flyers, Recchi always seemed to be undervalued. In 602 career games as a member of the team, Recchi scored 232 goals, 629 points, and was one of the best playmakers ever to wear the Orange and Black.
Recchi holds the Flyers' single-season scoring record with 123 points (1992-93), the same season he scored 53 goals, which ranks him sixth in Flyers history.
Skating ability, leadership, and puck-handling skills puts Recchi right up there with the NHL’s best and, quite possibly, will see him entered into the Hall of Fame.
Left Wing—Dave “The Hammer” Schultz
It was a tough call, but I just couldn’t leave the Hammer off an all-time Flyers roster. Sure, I could have elected to choose Ross Lonsberry, and Robert “Bob” Kelly was pretty tough to leave off the list as well, but when you think of the Flyers, Dave “The Hammer” Schultz immediately comes to mind; and for that, he makes my list.
Does he have the stats to keep up with Lonsberry or Kelly? No. Did he excel on special teams? No. What he did do was single-handedly change the image of the Flyers and made opposing teams tremble in their skates every time he was on the ice. And, in case you didn’t already guess, Schultz holds the Flyers' single-season penalty minutes record with 472 in the 1974-75 season.
Arguably the best fighter in NHL history, Schultz spilled more opponents' blood in NHL arenas than any player in the history of the game. If there ever was an evolution of fighting in hockey, Schultz was directly responsible for it and was the most important member of the Flyers' historic “Broad Street Bullies” of the mid-1970s.
Why is it that the fourth line is proving to be the toughest one to complete? As hard as it is to exclude Rod Brind’Amour, I had to go with Ken Linesman here.
Brind’Amour’s face-off abilities are legendary, as are his defensive abilities. That said, Brind’Amour had a career plus/minus rating of minus-two as a member of the Flyers, and when you consider the intangibles Linesman brought to the table, I just had to choose him.
Known as “The Rat,” Linesman may very well be the biggest pest in NHL history and one of the greatest "grinders" to ever play the game. He was fearless to a fault and, much like Bobby Clarke before him, was willing to maim and injure his opponents if it meant a win for the Flyers.
Despite all of his antics and penchant for taking bad penalties, Linesman managed to post a career plus/minus rating of plus-50 as a member of the Flyers and is one of the all-time favorite players amongst fans.
Right Wing—Rick Tocchet
When Tocchet was on the ice, every member of the opposing team knew where he was or found themselves picking themselves off the ice at some point during the game.
Tocchet played 621 career games as a member of the Flyers, registering 232 goals, 508 points, and a staggering 1,817 penalty minutes. He had tremendous hockey sense, something that cannot be taught, and was one of the smartest players in Flyers history.
Known for his bone-crushing checks, penchant for dropping the gloves, determination, leadership, and offensive prowess, Tocchet has set the bar that all NHL power forwards strive to emulate.
Gary Dornhoefer-725 GP, 202 G, 316 A, 518 Pts, plus-87, 1, 256 PIM
Rod Brind’Amour-633 GP, 235 G, 366 A, 601 Pts, minus-2, 563 PIM
Bob Kelly-741 GP, 128 G, 168 A, 296 Pts, plus-134, 1, 285 PIM
Mike Richards-304 GP, 87 G, 149 A, 236 Pts, plus-30, 281 PIM
Ross Lonsberry-Great shut-down artist and grinder.
Like his father Gordie before him, Mark was blessed with so many talents. Mark had great skating abilities, he was one of the best passers in the game, owned a tremendous point shot, and he had the ability to shut down any of the NHL’s top forwards. Howe was as complete a defenseman as has ever played the game.
Howe put up some very impressive numbers as a Flyer; his 138 goals, 342 assists, 480 points, 39 power play goals, 24 short handed goals, and plus/minus rating of plus-348 leads all Flyer defensemen in each category.
Howe played with the Flyers from 1982-83 through 1991-92 and was never a minus player over that time. His best season came in 1985-86, when he posted 24 goals and added 58 assists for 82 total points. He led the NHL that season with a remarkable plus/minus rating of plus-85.
Howe was the backbone of the Flyers' defense throughout the 1980s. His leadership skills, ability to play in all zones, and his offensive contributions put Howe ahead of any other D-man to ever wear the Orange and Black. While not in the Hall of Fame yet, I suspect it’s just a matter of time.
Andre “Moose” Dupont
Arguably one of the NHL’s best stay-at-home defensemen of all time, Dupont could do it all. The “Moose,” as he was so aptly nicknamed, kept the crease clear on a nightly basis, fought all comers, and posted 42 goals, 135 assists, 177 points along the way.
Dupont’s plus/minus rating of plus-269 ranks him third overall amongst all Flyers D-men and his 1,505 penalty minutes ranks him third on the Flyers' all-time list.
Nasty, intimidating, hard-nosed, and loyal, these are the characteristics that made Dupont so valuable to the Flyers and the reason why I chose the Moose as part of the Flyers' top pairing of all time.
Eric “Rico” Desjardins
One of the most dominating players of the mid 1990s and early 2000s, Desjardins could get it done in all aspects of the game. His ability to see the ice and find the open man was legendary and his penchant for knowing when to pinch was uncanny.
He may have been a quiet competitor, but make no mistake about it, with 93 goals, 303 assists and 406 penalty minutes, you know there was a ton of fire inside Desjardins.
He ranks second amongst all Flyers D-men with 396 points, leads the Flyers with 39 career power play goals (tied with Mark Howe), leads all Flyers defensemen with 1,674 shots, and his plus/minus rating of plus-143 ranks him seventh amongst all Flyers D-men, which is quite impressive considering the run-and-gun offense they employed while Desjardins was in toe.
Desjardins came to the Flyers in February of 1995. He immediately solidified the defense and would go on to win a record seven Barry Ashbee Awards as the Flyers' best defenseman, which says everything you need to know about Desjardins.
Brad “The Beast” McCrimmon
McCrimmon was Mark Howe’s partner for much of his career as a Flyer and together they made up one of the best defensive pairings of the 1980s.
McCrimmon played a simple game and tended to focus on clearing the net and sticking back so Howe could put his offensive skills on display. Howe relied on McCrimmon to bail him out of any gaffs and McCrimmon benefited form Howe’s great skating abilities and his ability to make a crisp/accurate first pass.
Not blessed with speed or offensive skills, McCrimmon relied on flawless positioning and tremendous hockey sense to get by. McCrimmon registered 35 goals and 187 points as a member of the Flyers, which is rather ordinary, but his plus/minus rating of plus-223 ranks him fourth amongst all Flyers D-men, which, considering his lack of offense, is impressive.
Ed “Steady Eddie” Van Impe
One of the most devastating hitters in hockey, Van Impe exemplified everything it meant to be a Flyer. His grit, toughness, loyalty, and his desire to win at any cost all combined to earn him the moniker “Steady Eddie."
His fearless shot-blocking and ability to clear the front of the net are legendary. Van Impe was not a particularly great skater, his offensive numbers (19 goals, 126 points) are negligible, his plus/minus rating of plus-68 is very ordinary, but those who played alongside of him and against him know just how good he was, so I implore you to look beyond the numbers.
Like many members of the Flyers in the 1970s, Van Impe backed down from nobody and could chuck the knuckles as well as any other fighter in the League.
Besides his determined play in Philadelphia, Van Impe is best known for his hit on Russia’s Valeri Kharlamov in the 1976 Summit Series. With Russia being thrown around like a bunch of rag dolls, Van Impe added insult to injury when he caught Kharlamov with an elbow from behind. The incident enraged the Soviets so much that they left the ice and threatened to to not play.
Threatened with non-payment, the Soviets reconsidered their protest and finished the game. The incident served as yet another example of the kind of punishment the Flyers handed out on a nightly basis; Van Impe was no exception, in fact, he was a huge reason the Flyers won two Stanley Cups.
Jimmy “James” Watson
Much like Van Impe, when you look at the numbers, Watson, who played his entire NHL career with the Flyers, seemingly doesn’t belong on the list.
Watson scored 38 goals and 186 points as a member of the Flyers. At plus-295, it is his plus/minus rating that strikes me, which ranks Watson second amongst all Flyers’ D-men. If not for his early retirement at 30-years-old, I think Watson’s numbers would have been even more impressive.
Watson was a very steady defenseman, he helped shape the early identity of the Flyers franchise, was a five-time All-Star, and was a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Flyers.
Bernard Marcel “Bernie” Parent
When you think Flyers goaltending, one name immediately comes to mind, “Bernie Parent.” Parent leads the Flyers with 50 career shutouts and TOI with 28,276:00 minutes to his credit.
His ability in the nets are stuff that legends are made of. His career record of 232-141-104 is sparkling, to say the least. With Parent in the net, the Flyers could afford to take penalties and play an offensive-minded game. Clearly, if not for Parent, the Flyers would have gotten smoked most nights.
Parent backstopped the Flyers to two Stanley Cup championships, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP and the Vezina Trophy as best goalie both seasons. He is ranked 63rd on the NHL’s 100 best players of all time, an honor that was very much deserved.
He once played 73 out of a 78-game schedule, posting an impressive 1.89 GAA and 12 shutouts, which led the NHL. Parent posted a 47-13-12 record that season and had a .933 save percentage. His 47 wins in one season served as the NHL record until New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur eclipsed him with 48 wins during the 2006-07 season.
Parent was the best goalie in Flyers franchise history, end of discussion.
There will be more than a few fans that would like to see Swedish goaltender Pelle Lindburgh here, but based on overall accomplishment, I felt Hextall should get the nod.
Known for his crass demeanor and intolerance of any forward being in his crease, many of which were met by a rather stern “tap” of Hextall’s stick, Hextall was a perfect fit for the Flyers.
Hextall, also famous for his constant banging of the posts, posted some very impressive numbers as a member of the Flyers, going 240-172-58-12 with a 2.91 GAA. His 240 wins are a franchise record and his 37-21-6 record in 1986-87 stands as the fifth-best in franchise history.
When it came to playing the puck outside of the crease, Hextall was magic, possibly the best ever. On December 8, 1987, Hextall became the first goaltender in NHL history to shoot a puck at the opponent's net and score a goal, a feat he would duplicate in the 1989 playoffs.
Hextall was a fan favorite, often mixing it up with opposing forwards and, on occasion, participating in full-out brawls with various degrees of success. No doubt about it, Hextall bled Orange and Black and the fans loved him for it.
There you have it, my take on the Flyers’ all-time roster. Disagree? Have something to say? Leave your comments below.
Until next time,
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