Inside the Flyers: Flyers relieved van Riemsdyk raises his game

James Van Riemsdyk has played a more physical game since learning the Flyers refused to give him up in a trade.
James Van Riemsdyk has played a more physical game since learning the Flyers refused to give him up in a trade.
Posted: February 20, 2011

NEW YORK - Maybe it's a coincidence. Uh-huh. That's what it is.

Or maybe, just maybe, second-year winger James van Riemsdyk is starting to come of age, starting to show why the Flyers made him the NHL's second overall draft pick in 2007, because of the deal the team made Monday.

The one they consummated without trading the player known as Reemer or JVR.

The one that, indirectly, made van Riemsdyk determined to show general manager Paul Holmgren he made a wise choice.

The Flyers acquired feisty forward Kris Versteeg from Toronto, which finally accepted first- and third-round 2011 draft picks after the Eastern Conference leaders refused to part with the 21-year-old van Riemsdyk.

In the next two games, van Riemsdyk, seemingly relieved he was still playing for a city that is only a 1½-hour drive from where he grew up in Central Jersey, had arguably his best back-to-back performances of his young career.

On Tuesday, he had a "Gordie Howe hat trick" - a goal, an assist, and a fight - in a critical 4-3 shoot-out win over host Tampa Bay. The bout, a lively encounter with ex-Flyer Randy Jones, was van Riemsdyk's first NHL fight.

Van Riemsdyk dropped his gloves and went after Jones because the defenseman had just knocked down Claude Giroux with a hip check that JVR thought was dirty.

"Just sticking up for my teammate," he said, later adding he took a lot of "razzing" from his friends for his Jody Shelley impersonation.

The next night, van Riemsdyk, who hasn't always played with a physical edge, continued his aggressive play, contributing six hits and another goal as the Flyers outlasted Florida, 4-2.

"He's obviously been more involved, and the last few games, he's really been playing well for us," Giroux said. "He's skating and hitting a lot."

Giroux paused.

"He's been playing great all season, too. It's just that right now, he's getting the bounces he wasn't getting all year."

Getting bounces, yes. And also doing more bouncing, more hitting.

At first, van Riemsdyk downplayed his relief over staying with the Flyers, and said he was "just getting some good bounces" in recent games.

"I try not to worry about that that much" he said of the trade rumors. "It's obviously something that's out of my control."

But his name has been bandied about all season. When van Riemsdyk went goalless in his first 17 games, general managers flooded Holmgren's phone line with calls. Buy low, they figured, hoping they could get van Riemsdyk cheaply.

Holmgren wouldn't budge.

And he also held firm when Toronto general manager Brian Burke inquired about van Riemsdyk during the Versteeg talks.

"I guess, in a way, it is [a compliment]," van Riemsdyk said, referring to Burke's interest. "But this is obviously the place I really want to be. I like the group of guys we have here. The team here is great and it's a great organization to be in, so I'm happy I'm still here. We want to do everything we can to win a Cup here, so, hopefully, I'm a part of that."

After his fight against Jones, van Riemsdyk gained more than 1,000 additional Twitter followers in less than a day.

"It's funny. I guess they kind of appreciate that kind of stuff," he said with a smile. "It's kind of cool to see that kind of support they gave me there."

Heading into Friday, van Riemsdyk had 14 goals - one fewer than his entire rookie season - and he had scored all his goals in his last 34 games.

No longer is he in the running to be a healthy scratch, as he was when he struggled earlier in the season. He has a shot at reaching the 20-goal mark, but he has a different goal.

"I try not to worry about individual statistics and stuff, but we want to make sure that, hopefully, we're the No. 1 seed overall," said van Riemsdyk, whose goal started the remarkable Game 7 comeback against Boston in last year's epic Eastern Conference semifinals. "We have to keep fighting for it every day. We can't take any days off because obviously it's going to be a dogfight."

Spoken like a true, um, fighter.

Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at Follow on Twitter at Read his Flyers blog at


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