Quick Hits: August 5, 2022
1) Longtime Flyers winger (and sometimes center) Michael Raffl has signed a two-year contract with Lausanne HC of the Swiss National League. At age 33, this probably represents the ends of well-respected role player's NHL career.
Versatility was always one of Raffl's primary strengths as a player. Although he primarily played in the bottom six of the lineup, he could be moved around the lineup as needed without hurting the team. In 2014-15, he spent most of the season on the first line as a two-way complement to Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. Apart from excelling at puck support and winning forechecking battles, Raffl produced a career-high 21 goals despite missing 15 games due to injury. Throughout most of his career, Raffl was a regular in the penalty killing rotation.
Raffl was always a player who laid everything on the line; sacrificing his body to block shots, driving straight to the net, or taking a hit to get the puck to safety. Unfortunately, this sometimes led to injuries including four separate foot injuries from blocking shots as well as a concussion, a broken pinkie and various upper-body issues. He only dressed in all 82 games once in his NHL career.
With 504 games played as a Flyer (81 goals, 160 points), Raffl ranks 35th on the Flyers' all-time regular season games played list. He also suited up in 28 career playoff games, chipping in five goals (four in 2020) and eight points. Among Austrian-born NHL players, he ranks third in career games played (590), third in goals (89) and third in points (179). A total of 16 Austrian position players to date have played in the NHL,
Apart from being a valuable role player on the ice, the affable "Raff" has always been a very well-liked player off the ice. He has a great sense of humor, often very dry in its presentation. Raffl can be very funny, especially when the cameras and microphones are turned off. Teammates often mentioned him when asked who the funniest guy on the team is. Meanwhile, media members always appreciated about him was that he'd always had the common courtesy to say hello in passing. He was never one to just walk right past someone.
Raffl's story is one of unheralded, undrafted player who made good. The Flyers originally signed him from a Swedish team, Leksand, which was playing at the time at the minor league Allsvenskan level. He'd never played in one of the true European "elite" leagues yet turned out to be able to make a direct jump to the National Hockey League. That's a testament to the player himself as well as to the scouts who saw him playing for Team Austria and Leksand.
2) Flyers development coach Chris Stewart, who returned for the team's recent Development Camp, is Jason Myrtetus' guest on Friday's edition of Flyers Daily. Stewart discusses the players at the camp, how today's players develop differently than ones from the previous generation and more. To listen to the 12-minute interview, click here
3) Today in Flyers History: August 5, 1977
On this day in 1977, the Flyers sent defenseman Mark Suzor to the Colorado Rockies for forward Barry Dean. The trade was a pretty big deal at the time but was ultimately relegated to a footnote in team history.
At the time, though, it was an intriguing swap.
Suzor, the Flyers' first-round pick in the 1976 NHL Draft (17th overall), was coming off a strong AHL rookie season (24 goals, 49 points, 108 penalty minutes) that also saw him earn his first NHL callup (four games) to the Flyers. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 220 pounds, Suzor had puck skills, a heavy shot and a bit of a mean streak.
Meanwhile, Dean had been the second overall pick of the 1975 NHL Draft; selected right after the Flyers chose Mel Bridgman with the draft's first pick. The free-spirited forward was slow to recover from a severe skate laceration that required surgery, but his potential was considerable.
If an equivalent trade happened in the internet age, it would have been fodder for weeks of articles (some with detailed analytics charts and NHL equivalency data, no doubt), editorials and blogs. There would be weeks of message board debates and call-in show content about which side won the trade.
As it turned out, neither player really panned out at the NHL level. Of the two, Dean had the more substantial career. In the bigger picture, though, it ended up being a fairly minor deal in terms of its long-term impact.
It would be interesting to hear readers share their recollections of other Flyers deals that once seemed to be big trades but which ultimately had little impact.