The Philadelphia Flyers became part of the NHL in the 1967 NHL expansion and have made quite the name for themselves since then. They were the first expansion team in the post-Original Six era to win the Stanley Cup in 1974, a feat they repeated again in 1975. Since their conception, the Flyers have been known as a chippy team that is very difficult to play against.
With their home being on Broad Street, the Flyers were given the nickname of "The Broad Street Bullies" in 1972 - a name coined by Philadelphia journalist, Jack Chevalier. From '72 to 1979, the Flyers terrorized the league with intimidation, ruthlessness, and some plain and simple good hockey. At the helm of this era was Bobby Clarke, a later entry and the (at the time) youngest captain in NHL history.
The Flyers have had 18 great captains in their history and they've all brought something unique to the table - from sheer tenacity all the way to pure talent and everything in between. They've only won two Stanley Cups but they are a team that doesn't stop battling until the end and is notorious for comebacks - something I loved watching during the 2009-10 playoff run led by later entry, Mike Richards.
In this list, we will be reviewing and ranking the last 15 captains in the Philadelphia Flyers' history, dating back to 1982.
With all of that out of the way, let's get into it!
15 Derian Hatcher (2005-06)
The first entry for this list is the big Yankee, Derian Hatcher. This stay-at-home defender shut down the league for 16 seasons and racked up 331 points and 1,581 PIMS while doing so. Hatcher was very tough to play against and used his 6'5" and 235 lb frame to cause headaches for opponents - literally and figuratively.
Hatcher played his final three seasons with the Flyers and was unfortunately very evidently at the end of his career. He was named captain for the 2006-07 season, taking over from later entry, Keith Primeau. He was stripped of it the following season - a season that was probably his worst in the NHL and saw to him tallying nine points in 82 games and finishing a -24. After that disappointing season, Hatcher played 44 games in his final campaign before hanging up the skates.
14 Chris Pronger (2011-12)
Next up is Chris Pronger, a menacing defender out of Dryden, Ontario. This James Norris Memorial Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy winner was drafted second overall in the 1993 draft and for good reason. Pronger stood at 6'6" and 220 lbs and used his size to his advantage, shutting down opposing star players with ease. On top of his defensive prowess, Pronger also put up 698 points in 1,167 games, finishing with a +183 rating.
Pronger arrived in Philadelphia for the 2010-11 season, playing only 50 games in that season but still managing 25 points. The following season saw Pronger being awarded the 'C', a position he would hold for a mere 13 games that he accumulated 12 points in - he would be subjected to a terrible, career-ending eye injury. Pronger's style of play suited the Flyers' philosophy perfectly and if it wasn't for that untimely injury, Pronger undoubtedly would have finished much higher on this list.
13 Rick Tocchet (1991-92)
In at the lucky #13 spot is respected power forward, Rick Tocchet. The Flyers selected Tocchet 121st overall in the 1983 NHL entry draft and never looked back. Tocchet was tough as nails but he was also good at hitting the score sheet, making him a fan favourite on Broad Street. In his career 1,144 games, Tocchet found the net 440 times and added 512 helpers while accumulating a franchise record of 1,817 PIMS.
Tocchet was named captain of the Flyers for the 1991-92 season and played only 42 games before being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers would end up not making the playoffs that year while the Penguins went on to win their second consecutive Stanley Cup. Although he only had a short 42-game ride as captain in Philadelphia, he was still considered an enormous leader and one of the best players to ever call themselves a Flyer.
12 Jason Smith (2007-08)
Up next is another towering defender, Jason Smith. If the definition of defensive defenceman needed a picture next to it, it could definitely be Smith. In 1,008 games, he notched only 169 points but did manage to pile up 1,099 PIMS. He was tough to play against and certainly knew his role - he always made the simple play and was rarely caught out of position.
Smith played in Philadelphia for only one campaign during the 2007-08 season, a season that he was named captain. In that season, he managed only 10 points in 77 games but led his squad in other ways. Under his reign, the Flyers would make it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final in true underdog fashion just one season after not making the playoffs.
11 Peter Forsberg (2006-07)
The next entry is one of the best players of all time, Peter "Foppa" Forsberg. He was selected sixth overall by the Flyers in the 1991 NHL entry draft but wouldn't end up playing for them until the 2005-06 season. A Calder Memorial, Hart Memorial, and Art Ross Trophy winner, Forsberg was a dominant player whose play was comparable to that of Alex Ovechkin, with a bit less scoring touch. In his career 708 games, this legend rippled the mesh 249 times and totaled 885 points while being a healthy +238.
After tallying 75 points in 60 games during his first season with the Flyers, Forsberg was awarded the 'C' for the 2006-07 season. After putting up 40 points in 40 games, Forsberg was dished to Nashville which was the beginning of the end for him. The Flyers did not make playoffs that year and Forsberg would go on to play only 28 more games in the NHL.
10 Kevin Dineen (1993-94)
In at the #10 spot is Kevin Dineen, a French-Canadian winger out of Quebec City, Quebec. Dineen, like many players on this list, played a chippy game that was nothing short of irritating to opponents. He played 1,188 games in the NHL and put up 760 points but most notably 2,229 PIMS. He was a very capable offensive threat though and had four 30+ goal seasons, including two 40+ seasons.
Dineen took over as captain of the Flyers for the 1993-94 season, one season after putting up 35 goals for the boys in orange. While he was captain, Dineen scored 19 times and added 23 assists in 71 games. Unfortunately, the Flyers did not make the playoffs under his rule but he certainly paved the way for the next 11 seasons where the Flyers did make the playoffs.
9 Ron Sutter (1989-91)
The ninth entry followed the footsteps of four brothers before him and his name is Ron Sutter. Drafted in 1982 alongside his twin, Rich, Ron Sutter had some big shoes to fill. The Viking, Alberta product went tape-to-twine 205 times and helped out on 330 in his 19-season career. Much like his older brothers and to the Philadelphia faithful's pleasure, Sutter played a feisty game and never shied away from physicality, accumulating 1,352 PIMS in his career.
Sutter played the first nine seasons of his career with the Flyers and was named captain for the final two, the first of which he split with later entry, Dave Poulin. In his 155 games with the 'C' on his chest, Sutter put up 39 goals and 93 points. Unfortunately, the Flyers missed out on the playoffs for both of his seasons as captain but that does not take away from his leadership qualities.
8 Eric Desjardins (1999-02)
Next on this star-studded list is another French-Canadian, Eric Desjardins. Surprise, surprise Eric Desjardins started his career in Montreal with the "Habs" but he saved his best hockey for the Flyers. In 1,143 games, this two-way D-man chalked up 136 goals and 575 points while being a cool +198.
Nine games into his seventh NHL season, Desjardins was shipped off to the Flyers. It wasn't for another five seasons until he had the coveted 'C' awarded to him for the 1999-00 season. In that season, he put up his career-best numbers of 14 goals and 41 assists in 81 games - the Flyers would go on to make the Eastern Conference Finals. The next season as captain, Desjardins had his second best season of 15 goals and 33 helpers in 79 games - the Flyers went no further than the first round of playoffs. His final season as captain was about half as productive but the Flyers did once again make the playoffs.
7 Keith Primeau (2001-05)
At the unlucky #7 spot is the massive center, Keith Primeau. This towering Toronto, Ontario product stood at 6'5" and 200 lbs and was a big handful for opposing defenders. Primeau logged 909 games in the NHL and racked up 619 points alongside 1,541 PIMS on top of a +124 rating. Primeau's gritty style of play fit perfectly in Philadelphia and he played the final six seasons of his career in orange.
Primeau joined the Flyers for the 1999-00 season and was named captain two seasons later - he would remain captain until he played his final nine games of the 2005-06 season. He played his best NHL season with the Flyers during the 2000-01 season where he chalked up 34 goals and 39 apples in 71 games. During his reign of captaincy, the Flyers would make the playoffs in every season, including a birth into the Eastern Conference Final.
6 Bill Barber (1981-83)
In at the #6 spot is #7, Bill Barber - a long-time Flyer out of Callander, Ontario. Barber practically bled orange, playing his entire 12-season career in Philadelphia. He certainly left his mark with the Flyers, holding the franchise record of 420 goals - he also added 463 assists in his 903 games. In nine of his seasons, he scored 30+ goals, including four 40+ goal seasons and one 50-goal season - in fact, he never dipped below 20 goals in a season.
Barber was given the 'C' for the 1981-82 season, a season he scored 45 times and assisted on 44 more in 80 games and led his Flyers to the playoffs. The next season, he split captaincy with later entry, Bobby Clarke - he would record 60 points in 66 games and once again lead the boys in orange to the playoffs. He was stripped of the 'C' for the next season and he would retire following that 1983-84 season.
5 Claude Giroux (2012-Present )
Up next is the current captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Claude Giroux. Selected 22nd overall by the Flyers in the 2006 NHL entry draft, I don't think anybody thought he would go on to become the Flyers' franchise player. Giroux is an incredibly talented player that is most notably known for his playmaking abilities. The 29-year-old currently has 180 goals and 395 helpers under his belt in his 656 games.
Giroux stepped onto the scene for the 2007-08 season and five seasons later he would be named captain - he played only 48 games in that 2012-13 season. However, he came back the next season firing on all cylinders and recorded his best season of 28 goals and 86 points in 82 games and leading the Flyers to the playoffs. In two-out-of-five of his seasons as captain, he has led his struggling Flyers to the playoffs.
4 Mike Richards (2008-11)
The next entry is the Flyers first round selection (24th overall) of the 2003 NHL entry draft, Mike Richards. Richards played incredibly during his time with the Flyers but as soon as he left, for whatever reason, his career went steeply down hill. With the Flyers, he had his only two 30+ goal seasons (back-to-back) and his only season where he was over a point-per-game.
Richards was awarded the 'C' for the 2008-09 season and immediately stepped up his game - in that season, he scored 30 goals and added 50 helpers in 79 games on the way to the playoffs. The following season was where he really made his mark though - he once again put up 30+ goals but this time led his Flyers to the finals. This cup-run was something special and Richards carried his never-say-die Flyers with 23 points in 23 playoff games and helped them pull off an incredible reverse sweep - one of four in NHL history.
3 Dave Poulin (1984-90)
In at the bronze spot is another Flyers legend, Dave Poulin. This Timmins, Ontario product played the better part of eight NHL seasons as a Flyer and certainly gave his best years to Philadelphia. Poulin found twine 205 times and helped out on 325 more in his career while being a healthy +212. He was an elite two-way center capable of notching 30+ goals (something he did twice) and also shutting down opposing star players - he was awarded the Franke J. Selke Trophy for the 1986-87 season.
Poulin was named captain for the 1984-85 season, a season he notched 30 goals and 74 points in before taking his Flyers all the way to the finals. In his six seasons as captain, the Flyers only missed the playoffs once, made the finals twice, and were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Final once - talk about impressive leadership.
2 Eric Lindros (1994-00)
The second entry is one of the best players of all time, Eric Lindros. Standing at 6'4" and 240 lbs, Lindros was very tough to contain and it didn't hurt that he was insanely talented. Lindros was the first overall pick of the 1991 NHL entry draft and just one season later was tearing up the league as a rookie. The big man went tape-to-twine 372 times and assisted on 493 in 760 games while being a +215 - he peaked with 115 points in the 1995-96 season.
After two consecutive 40+ goal seasons in 65 games or less, the Flyers named this beast as their captain. Right away he stepped up to the plate and in his first season as captain he won the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award while leading the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Final. He captained the Flyers for six seasons and made the playoffs in all of them, including a trip to the finals and two births into the Eastern Conference Final.
1 Bobby Clarke (1972-1979/1982-1984)
When you think of the "Broad Street Bullies", you almost certainly picture Bobby Clarke and his toothless smile. Clarke is easily the greatest Flyer of all time and one of the best to ever play the game. Clarke was the epitome of well-rounded - he could score, he could fight, and he was one hell of a leader. Holding multiple franchise records, including points (1,210), plus/minus (+506), assists (852), games played (1,144) and many others, it's easy to see why Clarke is the best Flyer ever.
Clarke played his entire career in Philadelphia and had two runs as captain for the Flyers, most notably his first run from 1972-1979 during the "Broad Street Bullies" era where he brought home the Flyers only two Stanley Cups in back-to-back seasons (1975-76) - that statistic alone makes him the best captain to ever wear the infamous orange tarp. Did I mention he chalked up over 100 points in both of those seasons?
On top of his impressive point totals, Clarke also took home the Hart Memorial Trophy three times, the Frank J. Selke Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Award, the Lester Patrick Trophy, and the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. Bobby Clarke was a Flyer through-and-through and made the franchise what it is today.
Thanks for reading!
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