Wayne Simmonds’ fight against Jamie Oleksiak on Saturday was a flashback to the Wayne that we knew and loved leading up to last year. Though the notable injuries that Simmonds battled in the 2017-18 season may have understandably reduced his inclination to drop the mitts, bringing an element of toughness back into his game may be the key to a high point production through the rest of this year.
During Saturday night’s game, it looked like the like the trend of bad starts was going to continue when Sidney Crosby scored just 39 seconds into the game. Just 73 seconds later, Simmonds fought Oleksiak, despite being five inches and 70 pounds disadvantaged, but still managed to hold his own. Before Simmonds was back out of the penalty box, Konecny scored and the game was tied. The Flyers went on to break their two-game skid with a 4-2 win.
Looking back at Simmonds’ career stats, the fight as a turning point to beat the rival Penguins is more than just an anecdote; fighting has positively correlated with his success throughout his time with the Flyers. Simmonds’ two 30+ goal seasons were the seasons where he had the most penalty minutes as a Flyer, with 32 goals and 147 PIM in 2015-16, and 31 goals and 122 PIM in 2016-17. His season with the third-most penalties as a Flyer resulted in 60 points of production, tied for the most with his 32-goal 2015-16 season. On the flip side, last year was Simmonds’ lowest penalty total with the Flyers, and as such, his lowest production total. His second-lowest production year as a Flyer was also his second-lowest penalized year in the City of Brotherly Love.
When Wayne plays tough, he creates more room for himself, inspires his teammates as a leader, and simply has the freedom to play the game the way he learned to play it. After an uninspiring lack of toughness in the Flyers lineup, highlighted by a penalty-free 6-0 loss to Toronto, hopefully, Simmonds and the rest of the Flyers can go back to winning Wayne’s way under new management with Fletcher in town.
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A life long Flyers fan, representing the orange north of the border in the Toronto area. Digitial marketer and business student. Proud supporter and volunteer with the Special Olympics.