Jeff’s All Time Flyers Top Line

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written for The Broad Street Bully, a blog and podcast my friend Drew and I started based off of our mutual interest in the Philadelphia Flyers. See it on http://broadstreetbully.net.]

Hello, everyone.  It’s Jeff.  I’ll start this off first since this was my idea.  Plus, I have to give Drew and Doyle time to put their lists together.

I’ve been considering my line for a while now and probably wasting more time than I should be worrying about a completely hypothetical situation. Lists like this are always tough because you’re obviously more familiar with the players from your era of hockey. And the only ones you’ve ever heard of from previous years were the ones that really stood out. And if they really stood out so many years after they played, then they probably belong on an all-time top line. Anyway, he’s what I’ve settled on. What does everyone think?

ALL TIME FLYERS CENTER: Eric Lindros

The buzz around Lindros was ridiculous. We talked previously on the show about the amount of pieces that went into the Flyers trading for him. They even sent a bag of money to sweeten the deal. And the hype was well worth it. Lindros was a big man with silky smooth hands. What he could do when he wasn’t skating with his head down was incredibly impressive. You have to think what could have been for the Flyers if Lindros had any spatial awareness and if the NHL policed Scott Stevens under today’s rules.

After breaking into the league in 1992, Lindros was the sixth fastest player in NHL history to score 600 points. His company? Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Peter Stasny, Mike Bossy, and Jarri Kurri. Impressed by the names on the list? You should be.

Additionally, his list of awards is ridiculous if you check his Wikipedia. Highlights include a Hart and Lester B. Pearson, numerous All-Star selections, and four Bobby Clark trophies for being the Flyers most valuable player.

That’s right. The center I picked won an award named after a center I didn’t pick.

ALL TIME FLYERS RIGHT WINGER: Reggie Leach

The guy’s nickname was The Chief. If that’s not enough, he was part of the famed LCB line, which is easily one of the best hockey line names ever.

In the all time list of Flyers right-wingers, Leach jumped out at me first because he has a rare award to his name. In 1976, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Finals, even though the Flyers lost to the Canadiens. To date, and Wikipedia, he’s still the only non-goalie to ever win the award in a losing effort. And he only had to score nineteen goals in sixteen games to win it. Jarri Kurri was able to tie Leach’s nineteen goals but he got three more games to do it so it really doesn’t count. Leach also had a five goal game in those playoffs, which is a record he shares with Maurice Richard, Darryl Sittler, Mario Lemieux, and Newsy Lalonde.

He was apart of the Flyers 35 game unbeaten steak in 1980 and home unbeaten streak of 22 games.

ALL TIME FLYERS LEFT WINGER: John LeClair

The era of Flyers hockey I grew up in is showing. What can you say about John Leclair that isn’t great? During street hockey games, whenever you scored you thought you were number 10.

When he was traded here from the Canadiens in 1995, he immediately clicked with his new linemates and the Legion of Doom was born. Between Lindros, Leclair, and Renberg, the line produced. And they produced all while playing with a physical edge.

Leclair was the first American born player to record three consecutive fifty goal seasons and scored 333 regular season goals and 35 playoff goals as a Flyer. He also won the Bobby Clarke Trophy in 1997 and 1998, in between Lindros’ dominance.

Because of the season long lockout and new CBA, in 2005 the Flyers bought out Leclair’s contract and they parted ways.

ALL TIME FLYERS DEFENSEMAN #1: Chris Pronger

He didn’t play here long but he clearly had an impact. He’s one of the players you love to hate. And if you never got to see him play as a part of your favorite team then you really missed something special. Pronger had such a hockey sense that he always seemed to be in the right spot at the right time. And if he ever had to course correct, it only took him one or two strides to get where he had to be. He was able to play a lot of minutes and control the pace of a game. If that errant stick hadn’t caught him, who knows what could have happened with the Flyers?

He took three teams to the Stanley Cup finals: the Oilers, Ducks, and Flyers. He’s won one Stanley Cup with the Ducks. He has won Olympic gold twice. He also has a Hart and Norris trophy. And, even though he hasn’t officially retired, he’s already in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

And he’s such a good pest. The guy had a quick wit and the Press loved him for it. Google “Chris Pronger and Adam Burish” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

ALL TIME FLYERS DEFENSEMAN #2: Mark Howe

Like I’m really going out on a limb here. The Flyers best defenseman award may be named after Barry Ashbee, but Mark Howe easily tops the list of Flyers defenseman. His 480 points as a Flyers defenseman leads Eric Desjardins by 84 points. He also has a career rating of plus 349 as a member of the Flyers. The next closest is Jimmy Watson who sits at plus 295. If you remove the years he played in the WHA then there’s a real possibility he would have been a defenseman with 1,000 career points.

He was also the Flyers defensive backbone for most of the 1980s. He was a Norris finalist in 82-83, 85-86, and 86-87. As Howe played less due to recurring injuries, the Flyers also struggled defensively, which really showed Howe’s overall importance to the back end and how much the team relied on how to maintain order.

After the Flyers, he signed with the Red Wings in an attempt to win a Stanley Cup where he played a mentor role to a player you may have heard of: Nicklas Lidstrom.

ALL TIME FLYERS GOALIE: Ron Hextall

It always comes down to Bernie Parent and Ron Hextall. Bernie has the two Stanley Cups to his name and that’s a pretty big chip to beat. But, Hextall more or less redefined the goalie position. He played the puck so well he was able to score. That also helped to lead the way for goalies like Brodeur to really get out of the net and act as a third defenseman when needed. And the physical edge to his game can never be forgotten. Ask Chris Chelios how he feels about good old Ron.

Along with Leach, Hextall won the Conn Smythe award in a losing effort against the Edmonton Oilers in 1987. As a result of that playoff series where Hextall took the Flyers to seven games against an Edmonton Oilers lineup that looks more like an all-star team than anything else, Gretzky was quoted as saying that Hextall was “probably the best goaltender I’ve ever played against in the NHL.”

And, now he’s returned to the fold as the current GM of the Flyers. The guy loves Philadelphia, it would seem. Which is fine with me.

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2 thoughts on “Jeff’s All Time Flyers Top Line

  1. Great list Jeff. Not sure I would take LeClair over Bill Barber. Now I’m showing my age. Barber leads or is at least in the top 3 in just about every scoring category. He was also probably a better 2-way player than LeClair. I loved Pronger, but I think most of his best days were before he got here. I think Brad McCrimmon would have been my second choice after Howe, but for his total career Pronger would be the right choice. Thanks for your post.

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