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Musings and Quick Hits: All-Lunchpail Team, TIFH and More

September 5, 2022, 11:02 AM ET [75 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Labo(u)r Day: The Hardest Working Flyers

Fred Shero used to refer to Bobby Clarke as a "dream dressed in work clothes." The Flyers' captain was the epitome of elite playmaking skill combined with a tireless work ethic and a fierce will to win. In honor of the Labo(u)r Day holiday in the U.S. and Canada, I came up with an all-time Flyers "Lunchpail Team" to recognize some of the hardest-working players in team history.

On the current Flyers team, I'd choose Scott Laughton as the team's hardest-working player over the course of a typical season. It's worth noting, too, that Travis Sanheim is often the last to leave the ice among the team's regular starters.

On an all-time basis for franchise history, I came up with an "All-Lunchpail Team" of the hardest working players at each position. Note that these are NOT necessarily the best players in franchise history.

With a couple of obvious exceptions, I tried to avoid selecting top offensive producers at their positions. The focus was solely on recognizing players who led by example with their work ethic and competitiveness.


Bobby Clarke (C): From the very first to the very last shift of his NHL career, Clarke never took anything for granted. He approached every game is if he was a player just trying to earn his spot in the lineup. When the team's best player was also its hardest-working player, everyone else was inspired to follow suit. Clarke was the player who, above all others, set the team-above-all-else tone for the Flyers' mini-dynasty of the mid-1970s.

Sami Kapanen (LW): Capable of playing any position as needed, Kapanen was often the smallest player on the ice during his NHL career but he played with tremendous courage and will. A fine two-way player with tremendous speed, Kapanen also outworked many larger opponents in the trenches. He was easily one of the team's most respected players in the locker room during his era. The site of a pained and woozy Kapanen struggling to get back to the bench after a huge hit by Darcy Tucker in the 2004 playoffs against Toronto -- falling down and wobbling but pressing onward and eventually making it, to allow the team to complete a line change -- was symbolic of his career in Philly. Kapanen's arduous trip back to the bench contributed to the sequence that was capped off by Jeremy Roenick scoring the series-clinching overtime goal shortly thereafter. Later in that same postseason, with the Flyers defense racked by injuries, Kapanen volunteered to play defense. Despite being inexperienced at the position and giving away size to virtually every opponent, he more than held his own.

Rick Tocchet (RW): Tocchet's intense competitiveness and work ethic was what turned him from a third-line caliber forward best known for his fighting prowess into one the NHL's top power forwards of the late 1980s to mid 1990s. He hustled up a pair of 40-goal seasons and four seasons with 30-plus goals.

Kimmo Timonen (D): The undersized Finn has always played with the heart of a lion and a pain tolerance level that is remarkable even by hockey standards. The four-time NHL All-Star achieved success with his mental fortitude as much as his physical abilities.

Barry Ashbee (D): Very few players this side of Kimmo Timonen could rival "Ashcan" when it came to an ability to block out injuries and play through just about anything. Ashbee made no excuses for failure and had no tolerance for teammates who gave anything less than their all. He was a latecomer to a regular spot in the NHL and had his career prematurely ended by a series eye injury suffered in the 1974 Stanley Cup Semifinals. During the time he played for the Flyers, however, Ashbee was crucial to the team's success. The retirement of his number 4 jersey wasn't solely for sentimental reasons: He personified the everyman player who made good through hard work and determination rather than skill.

Ron Hextall (G): Bernie Parent was the best goalie in Flyers history. Pelle Lindbergh may have been the quickest and most naturally gifted netminder in franchise history. Both had to put in plenty of hard work to become Vezina Trophy winners. However, I'm giving Hextall the nod on this particular all-time list because I have never seen a more competitive goalie who hated to lose more than Hexy. He fought for every puck and defended his crease like a rabid attack dog. Moreover, Hextall's legendary puckhandling skills didn't just magically appear one day. He worked and worked and worked some more at it. It used to be a treat to attend a Flyers practice just to see Hextall practice his puckhandling. He could pick a spot on the half boards from the crease or behind the cage and bank the puck out of the zone off the same spot time and time again. He could also fire the puck the length of the ice on goal at the other side with regularity in practice. That's why no one was surprised when he scored a pair of goals -- one regular season and one playoff -- in his career.


Rod Brind'Amour (C): It was tough to leave Brind'Amour off the first team, but no one was going to unseat Clarke for the center spot. Likewise, it's tough to leave off someone like Dave Poulin or Ron Sutter from the second team, but I couldn't justify omitting Brind'Amour from at least a second team spot. A fitness fanatic off the ice, Brind'Amour was also easily one of the hardest working players on the ice that I've ever seen.

Shjon Podein (LW): Not the most prolific offensive player, but Podein made himself into one of the NHL's most underrated defensive wingers of the mid-1990s to early 2000s. "Podes" was a tireless worker on the ice, a fantastic penalty killer and a player who may not have scored a ton of goals but the ones he notched were often timely ones. Sometimes they were even pretty goals. The quintessential Podein goal was an empty netter he scored after being launched airborne and staying with the play to bat the puck into the cage. The "Minnesota Line" of Podein and Trent Klatt flanking Joel Otto was one of the NHL's most tenacious and strongest checking lines during their time together. I also seriously consider Bob "the Hound" Kelly for this spot but wanted more of a mix of eras.

Ian Laperriere (RW): It is only a shame that post-concussion symptoms ended Laperriere's playing career in Philadelphia prematurely. His 1,083 NHL regular season games played are the biggest testament to his value to his teams. A prolific junior hockey offensive force and a solid offensive contributor at the minor league level who was not quite skilled enough to make it as an NHL scoring liner, Laperriere had to rework his game at the NHL level. He embraced the challenge and made himself into a valuable NHL role player who would do whatever it took to win.

Brad Marsh (D): Few players have ever had more heart -- on and off the ice -- than Marsh. He was fearless in putting his body in harm's way to block shots (despite not wearing a helmet and playing mostly in an era when the padding was not as good as it now) and defended his goalie to the hilt. Marshy was not a fast skater and not a skilled puckhandler but he was a solid defender who never left anything out on the ice. That's how he became such a fan favorite in Philly in the 1980s. Teammates knew he'd do anything to win on the ice and would be the first to help out if they ever needed him off the ice.

Ed van Impe (D): You couldn't go wrong picking either of the Watson brothers for this spot, and there were plenty of other good candidates as well. I chose van Impe ultimately because he was a tough as nails player who squeezed every ounce possible from modest natural abilty and became one of the Flyers' early team leaders.

Robert Esche (G): Far from the best or most successful goalie in franchise history, I chose Esche for the second team here because he was a fierce battler ala Hextall. Few took a loss harder than Esche. When I saw him play for Phoenix before coming to Philly, I didn't even think Esche was an NHL-caliber goalie. Through sheer competitive drive, he later became a semi-regular starter for the Flyers and brought the team within a 2-1 Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals from a trip to play for the 2004 Stanley Cup. During Ilya Bryzgalov's tenure in Philly, I always wished he battle a little harder for second saves the way the much less talented Esche did in the mid 2000s.

Happy Labor Day to all Hockey Buzz readers!


Quick Hits: September 5, 2022

1) Today in Flyers History: Two years ago today, the Flyers' 2020 playoff run ended with a whimper rather than a bang in a 4-0 shutout loss to the New York Islanders in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal.

The Flyers had battled back from a three games to one deficit in the series with back-to-back overtime wins (all three Philadelphia wins in the series were in sudden death OT). In Game 7, the Flyers came out with an early push, controlling most of the first nine-plus minutes of the first period.

All of the early-game scoring chances of note belonged to the Flyers. Jakub Voracek tipped a shot off the post. Philly had several good looks on the game's first power play. Philly had four of the game's first five shots on goal.

Unfortunately for the Flyers, the bottom dropped out shortly thereafter, The Islanders scored on their first good scoring chance as Scott Mayfield pinched into the right circle. James van Riemsdyk did not pick up his coverage. From near the dot, Mayfield beat Hart high to blocker side. Hart appeared to be slightly off-angle but the goal was primarily caused by the breakdown up high in the zone.

The Islanders took over the game after the Mayfield goal. A pass across from Derick Brassard to Greene, with no weak side coverage and Hart not reading the play gave the veteran plenty of net. On this goal, it was Voracek who missed his coverage.

At 13:12 of the first period, the Islanders built a two-goal lead. A pass across from Islanders forward Derick Brassard to defenseman Andy Greene, with no weak side coverage from Philadelphia and Hart reacting late, gave the veteran plenty of net at which to shoot. On this sequence, it was Flyers winger Jakub Voracek who missed his coverage up high.

The Flyers went to intermission trailing 2-0. Islanders forward Jordan Eberle had an early chance to make it 3-0 in the second period but the puck eluded him near the net. The Flyers then took a too many men on the ice penalty.

At 11:26, the Islanders made it 3-0. Claude Giroux had his pocket picked and the combination of Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson worked a give-and-go for a slam dunk.

In a cavernous hole on the scoreboard, the Flyers put up rather feeble resistance. Looking to spark some desperately needed energy and emotion, Scott Laughton dropped the gloves with J.G. Pageau of 5:19 of the third period. Any jolt of energy the Flyers received was very fleeting. The team generated a mere 16 shots for the game, and only 10 after the first period.

Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault pulled Hart for extra attacker with more than six minutes left in regulation, in a last-ditch effort to make a dent in the Islanders' control of the game, The strategy backfired as Anthony Beauvillier scored an empty-net goal at 13:42 to open a 4-0 cushion.

In many ways, the deciding game of the 2020 ECSF was a microcosm of how the next two seasons would go for the Flyers. They entered the seasons -- just as they entered Game 7 in 2020 -- with high expectations. Things started out well enough, despite the club not actually playing especially well. The team was 8-3-3 to start the belated and pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season as they headed into the outdoor Lake Tahoe game with the Boston Bruins. In 2021-22, the Flyers were 6-2-2 through the first 10 games.

In both seasons, just as the early minutes of Game 7 against the Islanders, the quick start soon gave way to a collapse and an inability for the Flyers to pull themselves out of a hole once they started digging. These are the kinds of things that new Flyers head coach John Tortorella has been hired to replace with a new, more resilient identity.

2) Today in Flyers History: The 1981 Canada Cup tournament did not quite measure up to some of most memorable editions of what's been known since 1996 as the World Cup of Hockey. From a Flyers standpoint, several would-be representatives including future Hall of Fame left winger Bill Barber for Team Canada and Paul Holmgren for Team USA were unable to play due to injuries (although Barber did take part in Team Canada's training camp). Future Flyer Mark Howe played for Team USA but was still far from fully recovered from the gruesome on-ice accident in late December 1980 in which he was literally impaled by a spike used to secure the goal net in place.

Flyers center Ken "the Rat" Linseman represented Team Canada. Finnish prospect Ilkka Sinisalo was on Team Finland. Goalie prospect Pelle Lindbergh played for Team Sweden. Future Flyer Miroslav Dvorak played on Team Czechoslovakia's top pair.

On September 5, 1981, Czechoslovakia played host Canada to a 4-4 tie in Winnipeg. The Czechoslovakian team led 2-0 early and Canada was forced to play comeback hockey. On the same night in Edmonton, the USSR team defeated an overmatched Team USA, 4-1, at the Northlands Coliseum. Howe assisted Neal Broten on the lone USA goal, which briefly tied the score at 1-1 in the second period before the Russians scored twice within the next minute to grab a 3-1 lead. Earlier in the day, Sweden blanked Finland, 5-0m in Winnipeg. Pekka Lindmark got the start with Lindbergh serving as the backup.
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