Flyers forced to protect themselves.

Photo by Heather Barry/Hethamurhie

Photo by Heather Barry/Hethamurhie

In modern hockey, the role of the goon or the enforcer has been all but eliminated. The Flyers started to move away from the goon culture when they traded away Zac Rinaldo, a constant source of stupid penalties, to the Boston Bruins. We, as hockey fans have begun to understand that goons just aren’t necessary. Especially as we learn more and more about the damage that some brutal fights cause, we feel that fighting, in general, isn’t a total necessity.

The Flyers won’t miss Zac Rinaldo. The Toronto Maple Leafs won’t miss Colton Orr. The league will not miss the one-dimensional players who are in the lineup just to fight and take up a roster spot. Enforcers used to be around to make sure that a player who laid a dirty hit on a teammate got roughed up for that hit. The league has tried te be more strict about dirty hits so that teams don’t have to employ enforcers and constantly get themselves penalties.

This season, however, dirty hits have been an issue that has gone unaddressed by the Department of Player Safety. The Flyers have found themselves in an awkward position; their secondary scoring is forced to step up in defense of their teammates. The grinders have had to become part time enforcers especially when the league has decided to overlook dirty hits and the refs have altogether ignored them.

This season the Flyers have found themselves in situations where they had to discipline opponents for dirty hits when refs wouldn’t. For a short time, while the team was struggling in the standings, their defense of each other was a big reason that they didn’t become frustrated with each other. Part of the mutual respect that comes from sticking up for each other is from the knowledge that fighting isn’t their job.

No player has more enthusiastically defended his teammates than Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds first defense was on December 15th against the Carolina Hurricanes. Hurricanes forward Brad Malone delivered a knee-on-knee hit on Michael Raffl. Simmonds immediately responded. Simmonds and Giroux moved to confront Malone, but Simmonds stepped in first.

Simmonds was given instigation, fighting and misconduct penalties for a whopping 17 total penalty minutes. Malone was given fighting and kneeing penalties. After the game, the Department of Player Safety had nothing to say about Malone’s hit. Malone’s hit on Raffl wasn’t the first time that the Flyers have had to step up to him after a questionable hit.

Sam Gagner did not have possession fo the puck when Malone hit him and caused a long term injury. On this play Malone didn’t even get a penalty. Later on, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare fought Malone in response tothe hit, but since it wasn’t an immediate reaction, Bellemare wasn’t given an instigator or misconduct penalty. The League didn’t address either of Malone’s hits.

Simmonds most recent fight was against Columbus Blue Jackets Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky obviously knees Jake Voracek and Simmonds immediatley jumps on him.

Simmonds was given another 17 penalty minutes for that fight. Dubinsky wasn’t given anything besides a fighting major. Did Simmonds approach those fights in the best way possible? No, he basically jumped the guys and could have handled defending his teammates a bit more calmly, but in the heat of the moment Simmonds saw an issue and dealt with it; in games where the referees were questionable at best.

 

For both of those dirty hits, Simmonds just happened to be on the ice. Had he been on a different line he may have had discipline similar to Bellemare’s. Either way, it’s time for someone new to take over the enforcer role; if necessary. But he wasn’t sent out after the fact to get revenge. He wasn’t put on the ice for a few minutes to send a message to the other team, there was no warning, just a quick reaction in defense of his teammate.

The fights have caught up with Simmonds. Per Sam Carchidi, “Simmonds has two instigator penalties this season. The next one would trigger a game misconduct for that matchup and an automatic two-game suspension.”

Simmonds has been one of the consistent scorers in a Flyers lineup that constantly suffers from inconsistent offense. The Flyers suffered when they lost him for 17 minutes a game, to lose him for two games would be an issue. Not to mention the target that is being painted on Simmonds back; no doubt referees wil have their whistles ready whenever Simmonds is on the ice.

Coach Dave Hakstol addressed Simmonds’ situation when asked if he would have to show restraint from now on.

“That one is for the rest of [Simmonds’] teammates to realize. I’ll leave it at that. They have to get in and take care of it. If something needs to be addressed, somebody else needs toaddress it. We can’t afford to have [Simmonds] out for a couple of games.” (Carchidi)

Hakstol doesn’t disagree with his players dishing out a little punishment, as long as it’s well deserved. No one is telling them to go out and pan on fighting.

The Orange and Black Pack on Facebook brought up another issue that comes with Simmonds two strikes.

Our opponents will be aware of Wayne’s two strikes. I’m sure they’ll try to take advantage of this. They’ll take runs at our players to lure Simmonds into committing his third instigating penalty, or they’ll take runs at our players knowing Simmonds can’t do much to police the situation.

Other teams may be thinking of exploiting the Simmonds situation, but the rest of the lineup probably won’t have an issue with stepping up to a player who lays a dirty hit on their teammate. Unless the league decides to start taking these hits more seriously, the Flyers will have to keep defending each other.

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