Inside the Flyers: Flyers fans enjoying Simmonds' style of play

Posted: February 05, 2012

Right winger Wayne Simmonds, one of the NHL's few black players, is deeply proud of his race, but he says he wants to be respected because of what he does on the ice - not the color of his skin.

Four months into his first season with the Flyers, not only has he gained respect, but he has also developed into one of the team's most popular players.

Flyers fans, you see, are enamored of guys who play with an edge, and Simmonds fits that description perfectly. He is an old-school grinder and, at the same time, one of the Flyers' fastest skaters.

That rare combination, coupled with great strength, helps him win board battles and keep the puck down the opponent's end.

"I use my speed to get to the puck first. Obviously, when you get to the puck first, you have a huge advantage," he said recently. "You don't have to worry about muscling the other guy off the puck, because you already have it."

The 6-foot-2, 182-pound Simmonds is a slender sort, but he plays bigger than his size. Much bigger.

Over the years, many Flyers have set up an office in front of the opponent's net, including Gary Dornhoefer (6-1, 190), Tim Kerr (6-3, 230 ), and Mike Knuble (6-3, 229), just to name a few.

All are beefier than Simmonds. Pound for pound, however, Simmonds is their equal.

"Simmer is a lanky guy who is very, very strong," defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "The first time I went up against him in practice, I was really surprised at how well he used his leverage and his reach. He's got a lot of strength, which at first may be a bit of a surprise."

Simmonds, acquired from Los Angeles last June with Brayden Schenn and a No. 2 2012 draft pick for Mike Richards, has always been a player who does little things that don't show up on the stat sheets - such as keeping a cycle alive with his relentless work along the boards, or screening a goalie while battling a defenseman out front.

In addition, he has become a dependable scorer and is on his way to a career season.

Simmonds has equaled a career high with 16 goals - two more than he produced for the Kings in the entire 2010-11 season.

"He's a spark plug for us, a grinder, and he kind of does everything," Coburn said. "He goes to those tough areas and scores goals. He knows what his role is."

Simmonds, 23, grew up outside Toronto. He says he feels more at home on the East Coast than he did in Los Angeles.

"This is a lot different than L.A., obviously," he said. "I'm used to all four seasons - fall, winter, spring, and summer. In L.A., you've got summer, and whatever they call winter. It's not much of a winter. So, I'm comfortable in Philadelphia."

He has had many relatives and friends make the nine-hour drive from Ontario and attend games at the Wells Fargo Center.

"The drive isn't that bad at all, so I've seen a lot more people than I have in past years," he said. "My dad was here and just left. My brothers have been down. I've had my cousins down, and a bunch of friends have been here, so it's been good."

Feeling more comfortable with his surroundings has helped him on the ice. So has the natural progression of his all-around game.

"I think maturity has a lot to do with it," he said. "This is my fourth year in the league, and it's taken me a bit of time to learn different aspects of the game. That's why it takes a little time. The more you know the league, the better off you are. You know your limitations and what you can and can't do, and that makes it a lot easier."

Simmonds, a second-round draft pick in 2007, says he has become better at the "little subtleties" of the game.

Such as?

"Like, a little positioning with your body. If you have a guy off your back shoulder, and you're a half-inch one way, he can grab your shoulder and spin you around," he said. "But if you're a half-inch the other way, he has no chance of getting body-positioning on you and you can just squirt by him.

"Things like that, especially for my game, help. I like to play down low with the puck and I need possession."

Simmonds has won a majority of those battles down low - and they have produced many rebound goals with his fearless digging against defensemen who usually have 25- or 35-pound advantages.


Inside the Flyers: Sizzling Simmonds

Right winger Wayne Simmonds, in his first year with the Flyers, is having a career season. Below are his yearly totals, along with his projected figures for this season.

Team   Year   Goals   Assists   Points

Kings   2008-09     9    14    23

Kings    2009-10    16    24    40

Kings    2010-11    14    16    30

FLYERS    2011-12    16    14    30

Projected for season   26   23    49

 - Sam Carchidi

 


Contact staff writer Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com or @BroadStBull on Twitter.

 

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