Flyers

Flyers

As the Flyers plodded through a 4-7-0 start, there were issues abound.

They even felt endless.

And while the problems piled and the panic spread rampant, nobody seemed to remember James van Riemsdyk.

You know, the guy that scored 36 goals last season and signed with the Flyers during the summer for five years, $35 million. The guy that the Flyers have been without since the first period of the season's second game, when he suffered a lower-body injury after taking a puck to the knee.

The van Riemsdyk reunion was the biggest reason the Flyers would be different this season, why they were expected to make their largest stride of the Ron Hextall era.

But there was an outside sense that van Riemsdyk wouldn't have made much of a difference during the Flyers' season-opening funk — almost as if his absence didn't factor into the struggles whatsoever or his presence couldn't alleviate the bleeding.

All of which is ridiculous.

JVR is not just a piece, he's a big-time player. The Flyers will start to feel that soon, possibly this week, and the production speaks for itself.

His 36 goals last season were tied for 13th in the NHL, ahead of names like David Pastrnak, Auston Matthews and Sidney Crosby. His 65 goals over the past two seasons were tied for 15th with John Tavares. And he has 136 goals in 365 games from 2013-14 to the start of this season, despite playing just 40 contests in 2015-16. During that span, the only players with more goals in 365 or fewer games are Evgeni Malkin (153 goals, 326 games), Nikita Kucherov (147 goals, 365 games) and Steven Stamkos (140 goals, 291 games).

 

When the Flyers went 2-5-0 from Oct. 13-27, they had trouble scoring with just 15 goals, tied for 25th in the league. They were a perimeter team and a player like van Riemsdyk would have changed those trends.

The Maple Leafs last season set franchise records with 49 wins and 105 points. In victories, van Riemsdyk had 42 points (25 goals, 17 assists). In losses, he had just 12 points (11 goals, one assist). Toronto was drastically better when van Riemsdyk was scoring at even strength and on the power play.

This season, from Oct. 13-Nov. 4, the Flyers' man advantage went 2 for 28, which was 30th in the league at 7.1 percent. Even with the team's 5-0-1 stretch, the power play is still 28th in the NHL at 13.8 percent.

Imagine what the Flyers can do when the man advantage is clicking? Van Riemsdyk possesses that game-changing ability as one of the more skilled and proficient net-front players in the league. 

When the Flyers were scrambling and trying everything to ignite their power play, van Riemsdyk would have been a simple solution. In fact, the Flyers' man advantage wouldn't be in this trouble had van Riemsdyk been healthy.

Of course, aside from offense, the Flyers have had other worries, too. However, van Riemsdyk's size alone at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds is impactful in multiple ways. He's not the defensive liability some deem him as, nor is he a one-dimensional player.

Recently, the tune has shifted a bit on the Flyers.

Don't be surprised if van Riemsdyk changes the whole narrative.

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