Wayne Simmonds on 2016-17 season: 'I think I've become more of a leader'

Wayne Simmonds on 2016-17 season: 'I think I've become more of a leader'

As Wayne Simmonds sat at the podium Tuesday afternoon for his presser with the media, it had the appearance of one of his CURE Auto commercials.

Except this was the Flyers' breakup day. And it was real, not a TV spot.

Simmonds spoke about how his role changed this year, becoming the bad cop to captain Claude Giroux's good cop in the locker room.

"I think I've become more of a leader, myself," Simmonds said. "Claude's our captain, but I'm here to help him. We're here to help our younger guys and get this thing going in the right direction and not only get into the playoffs.

"I think he's getting better and he's being a leader. I think I'd probably be the bad cop for the most part. G's the nice guy; I'm the man that's yelling. I'm probably more all over guys for some things."

While both Simmonds and Giroux progressed on the leadership side of things, the team struggled as a whole despite the duo trying to lead by example on the ice.

"I think that's our job," Simmonds said. "Everybody's got to be pulled into the battle. I think I'm the guy who can do that. Go out and try to give your max effort and hope everyone follows. 

"We were a little too inconsistent this year and we've got to get that figured out. We're a good team, we've got to make a push and get more consistency. Everyone's got to be on the same page and we've just got to be better."

Simmonds was one of 11 players who met with the media during breakup day in which the players clean out their lockers, take an end-of-season physical and meet with coach Dave Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall.

At the height of their 10-game winning streak in December, the Flyers were second in the NHL in 5-on-5 offense. They finished the season 27th in that department with just 128 goals scored (2.58). Defensively, they finished 18th, allowing 154 goals against (2.82).

The dramatic drop offensively in goals for is inexplicable, as is the fact the entire team pretty much collapsed offensively in the second half simultaneously.

"The well went dry," Simmonds said. "I don't know how to explain it. I felt like we were getting opportunities, good scoring chances in good areas and we just couldn't put the puck in the net. Eventually, that was our downfall.

"We couldn't score for that little bit of time and the streak was prolonged. I think towards the end of the year we started getting it back, we started putting more pucks in the back of the net, and I think that's more indicative of our team. We started getting more contributions from other guys and we picked it up but it was too late."

A number of players -- Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere, Claude Giroux -- said they played ill or injured over long stretches because it's the mantra for this sport. They didn't want to let teammates down.

Couturier missed 16 games with a left knee injury and admitted he still wasn't healthy when he returned.

"When I came back, I wasn't probably 100 percent," he said. "I thought I could do enough to help the team win, whether it was defensively, offensively, whatever -- it was frustrating at times and took a few weeks to really start not feeling it anymore, and getting it out of my head."

Whether multiple guys playing hurt is beneficial to the team is a tough question to answer.

"I don't know if it did more harm than good," Simmonds said. "What are you going to do? You're not going to play and let the boys down? You know a hockey player's mentality.

"We're going to play unless we're dead. No matter what, you're banged up, you're injured, you better get out there. You do it for the boys, you do it for yourself, for the organization. You've got to play.

"G's a great player. This year I don't know what it was. I think his hip, I don't know what it was. Maybe there was something there. Maybe he wasn't 100 percent, but he's a warrior.

"He's going to battle for the guys, he's our captain, he's our leader. He's not going to leave us to hang no matter how he feels. He's going to show up and he's going to put his best effort forth no matter what."

Giroux and Simmonds, among others, want to play in the IIHF World Championships in France and Germany this spring. Hextall is the GM for Team Canada while Hakstol is one of his assistant coaches.

"Ideally, I would hope to be playing in the playoffs [right now]," Simmonds said. "It's something that I'm thinking about, going over there and having a good time and playing for a winning team. It's a thought, definitely."

Flyers-Oilers thoughts: Welcoming the best player in the world to Philly

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Flyers-Oilers thoughts: Welcoming the best player in the world to Philly

Flyers (4-3-0) vs. Oilers (2-4-0)
1 p.m. on NBCSP, and the NBC Sports App; Pregame Live at 12:30

The best player in the world comes to South Philly today. Get your popcorn ready.

The Flyers, coming off a 1-0 loss to the Predators, host the Oilers in their first matinee of the season at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s Game 4 of the Flyers’ five-game homestand.

Let’s dive into some pregame thoughts before puck drop.

• Move over, Sidney Crosby. There’s a new sheriff in town. It’s time to anoint Connor McDavid as the best player in the world. Many already have. I’m fully on board now.

This kid is special, and each game he does something that blows your mind. On Thursday night, it was a ridiculous spin-o-rama assist against the Chicago Blackhawks.

What made the play exceptional was who he did it against, Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Between the two are seven All-Star Game appearances, two Norris Trophies and one Conn Smythe Trophy, so that’s no joke.

McDavid has three goals and five assists in six games this season. He has 156 points in 133 career games. He’s 20 years old. He should be the face of the league yesterday.

Market him better. I don’t care that he plays in Canada.

• It’s time to put the Brandon Manning-McDavid storyline to bed. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s overplayed (see story). If Manning is in McDavid’s head, it’s not for the better.

McDavid scored a goal and an assist last season in Philadelphia in his first game against the Flyers since Manning broke McDavid’s collarbone with a clean hockey play.

Then, in Edmonton, McDavid had a goal and two assists. Manning played both games. So if anything, it’s adding extra motivation for the best player in the world.

• It appears Travis Sanheim will remain in the lineup, a positive for two reasons:

1. Thursday against Nashville was Sanheim’s best game.

2. Sanheim’s speed and skating is a plus when having to defend McDavid.

Will Sanheim see much ice time against McDavid? I sure hope not. But the Oilers are a decent skating team, and McDavid’s speed is insane. You want as much speed against them as possible.

• You sure hope Jordan Weal can return after missing Thursday with an injury to part of his body. Weal is an important piece for the Flyers, and without him, Dave Hakstol will have to shuffle up his lines. Simply can’t replace Weal with Jori Lehtera on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Wayne Simmonds.

That unit against the Predators was a disaster. If Weal is out again, I’d insert Matt Read into the lineup. He’s better suited for what the Flyers are doing now than Lehtera.

The good news is Weal practiced Friday. He’s expected to play.

• Three random Flyers stats:

1. Jakub Voracek needs two more points to reach 500 in his career. He will become the 23rd Czech player with 500 career points.

2. Shayne Gostisbehere’s 10 points are the most by a Flyers defenseman through the team’s first seven games dating back to the 1987-88 season.

3. Michal Neuvirth leads NHL goaltenders with a .957 save percentage. He was the worst qualified goalie last season in that category.

• The Oilers again will be without center Leon Draisaitl because of a concussion. Draisaitl practiced Friday but is still feeling symptoms. He hasn’t played since Oct. 9.

• Kailer Yamamoto, the Oilers’ 2017 first-round pick, has seen an increased role with Draisaitl injured. Edmonton has four more games to decide whether it’ll keep Yamamoto or send him back to junior. Yamamoto enters today on a three-game assist streak.

Here is the Flyers' projected lineup:

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Valtteri Filppula-Wayne Simmonds
Dale Weise-Nolan Patrick-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Scott Laughton-Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov-Andrew MacDonald
Shayne Gostisbehere-Robert Hagg
Travis Sanheim-Radko Gudas

Brian Elliott
Michal Neuvirth

Scratches: Forwards Jori Lehtera and Matt Read, and defenseman Brandon Manning.

Best of NHL: Ovechkin wins it for Caps in OT over Red Wings

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Best of NHL: Ovechkin wins it for Caps in OT over Red Wings

DETROIT — Alex Ovechkin’s power-play goal at 1:56 of overtime gave the Washington Capitals a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

T.J. Oshie forced the extra session for the Capitals, tying it with 1:01 left in regulation with a power-play goal of his own. Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty on Trevor Daley in overtime, then won it with his 10th goal of the season - a familiar slap shot from the left circle that beat Petr Mrazek to the glove side.

Tomas Tatar scored twice in the third period for Detroit. His second goal came on the power play after John Carlson was called for delay of game. But Dylan Larkin was whistled for the same penalty toward the end of the period, and Oshie was able to tie it at 3 with Caps goalie Braden Holtby pulled.

Darren Helm scored a short-handed goal for the Red Wings in the second. Andre Burakovsky tied it for the Capitals in the final minute of that period, and Jay Beagle added a short-handed goal of his own in the third for Washington (see full recap). 

Conor Sheary lifts Penguins past Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. — Conor Sheary scored a power-play goal with 2:53 left to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.

Sheary backhanded the puck past James Reimer.

Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist, and Sidney Crosby and Carter Rowney also scored for the Penguins. Matthew Murray stopped 28 shots, and Phil Kessell had two assists.

MacKenzie Weegar scored his first NHL goal and Aleksander Barkov and Jamie McGinn also scored for the Panthers. Reimer, who came in to relieve an injured Robert Luongo with 15:14 left in the third, made 11 stops.

Luongo made 33 saves before he left with a hand injury. He was hurt when Sheary backed into him, forcing his right hand hard against the post.

The Panthers tied it at 3 on Weegar's goal with 10:41 left. Weegar shot from the point and beat Murray (see full recap). 

Martin Jones makes 28 saves, Sharks beat Devils 3-0
NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun  had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl (see full recap).