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ALL-DECADE: The Top Players Were...

A look at who the best Flyers were from 2010 and on...

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer

Here an all-decade Flyers team for the 2010s: three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie for each grouping.

Because some forwards played different positions over the course of the decade -- for example, both Claude Giroux and Danny Briere were primarily centers as Flyers but also saw significant time on a wing -- forwards of any position are eligible rather than the honorees being tied to a specific position or arranged like actual lines with a natural center and two wingers.

FIRST-TEAM

F: Claude Giroux

By the time Giroux's career is over, he could be second only to Bobby Clakre in career points as a Flyer. With 789 points as of Dec. 30, 2019, Giroux needs 50 points to catch Brian Propp (849) for third and 94 points to tie Bill Barber (883) for second. Giroux has been a finalist for the Hart Trophy (2013-14) and a top-four finisher another year (2017-18) as well as a five-time Bobby Clarke Trophy winner. Additionally, his 65 points in 69 career playoff games ranks him among the top postseason points-per-game producers in franchise history. He has already had the longest single tenure as Flyers captain in team history, as Clarke was a two-stint captain. On a leaguewide basis, Giroux ranks fourth in the NHL in scoring (762 points) between the 2009-10 and 2019-20 seasons. Only Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have outscored Giroux.

F: Danny Briere

Playoff heroics across multiple seasons in the 2010s elevate Briere, one of the most popular figures in recent team history among fans and teammates alike, to first-team status. Overall, dating back to 2008, Briere racked up 72 points (37g-35a) in 68 playoff games as a Flyer. Most notably, his stellar run in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs (12g, 18a, 30 points) and pair of playoff OT goals -- earned him a permanent place in franchise lore. Briere also posted a pair of 30-goal seasons as a Flyer, including one in the 2010s (34 goals in 2010-11).

F: Sean Couturier

One would be hard-pressed to find a more complete and savvier all-around center than Couturier. He has arguably been one of the NHL's most underrated players of the decade. Back-to-back 30-goal seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 as well as a Selke Trophy finalist finish (2017-18) and Bobby Clarke Trophy (2018-19) as well as stellar underlying numbers and emergence as a team leader win him a first-team spot in a very tough field.

D: Chris Pronger

Pronger only had one healthy season as a Flyer -- his first -- and suffered a career-ending eye injury/ ocular concussion in his third. Nevertheless, his presence in the lineup lifted the Flyers to another level and his sudden loss eventually slammed shut the team's early 2010s window to win a Stanley Cup. There was more to Pronger's impact than just stats; he was respected, feared and admired (even if sometimes grudgingly) throughout the league. 

D: Kimmo Timonen

Winner of five Barry Ashbee Trophies and a participant in two NHL All-Star Games, including three Ashbee Trophies in the 2010s (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14) and the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, the fearless Finn overcame a lack of size through hockey sense and sheer competitive determination. Honest to a fault and possessing one of the best work ethics to be found anywhere in the league, Timonen was a vital player on the roster. 

G: Steve Mason

Mason had his critics but his .918 save percentage as a Flyer and 104 regular season wins (third in franchise history, tops in the decade) over four-plus seasons earn him the First-Team spot on the all-decade team. Mason was especially good at home (69-32-16 record, 2.28 GAA, .925 save percentage, eight shutouts), where he ranked among the league's top five in home-ice stats during that time period. He also enjoyed a stellar first-round playoff series, after returning from a late-season concussion, against the New York Rangers in 2014. Mason's road numbers (35-46-20, 2.70 GAA, .910 save percentage, six shutouts) were not nearly as good, but still respectable. He struggled in the 2016 playoffs against Washington in Game 2 and 3 before giving way to Michal Neuvirth.

SECOND-TEAM

F: Jakub Voracek

Apart from making sure there is a natural center on the second team (rather than three natural wingers), one could easily swap out either Couturier or Briere for Voracek in the First-Team group and have a compelling case for doing so. Already the Flyers all-time leading scorer among European-born players, Voracek recently passed Flyers Hall of Fame inductees Eric Lindros (the franchise's all-time points-per-game leader) and Rick MacLeish on the franchise's all-time assist leader board. Voracek has had two seasons with 80+ points (2014-15, 2017-18), six seasons with 20 or more goals and tallied the OT winner in Game 1 of the Flyers' first-round playoff upset of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is a two-time winner of the Bobby Clarke Trophy.

F: Wayne Simmonds

The quintessential power forward, despite a skinny-looking frame, Simmonds was one of the ultimate heart-and-soul players of the decade. Tough as nails on the ice with a pain threshold remarkable even by hockey standards, Simmonds could be the designated "bad cop" in the locker room as needed. Simultaneously, he was also one of the most caring teammates and best friends that anyone on the team could have ever hoped to have, and a tireless figure in the community. Offensively, he contributed six seasons with 24 or more goals, five with 28 or more and two in a row (2015-16 and 2016-17) with 30 or more. Simmonds won the Bobby Clarke Trophy in 2016-17, NHL All-Star Game MVP honors in 2017, and notched a playoff hat trick in Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Rangers.

F: Scott Hartnell

A fan favorite throughout his Flyers tenure, the aggressive power forward had five Flyers seasons with 20 or more goals, including three in the 2010s. In the 2010s, Hartnell was part of highly successful lines with Briere and Ville Leino (2009-10 to 2010-11), Giroux and Jaromir Jagr (2011-12) and Giroux and Voracek (2012-13 to 2013-14). His career best season came in 2011-12 when he posted 37 goals and 67 points to go along with 136 penalty minutes. Off the ice, Hartnell was known for his good sense of humor and willingness to be a locker room foil to head coaches Peter Laviolette and Craig Berube.

D: Ivan Provorov

There is a very strong chance that Provorov, as long as he stays healthy, will lead off the First-Team blueline in the All-Decade Team of the 2020s. Already his three-and-a-half season career, Provorov has established himself as an iron man who (thus far literally) never misses a game and absorbs massive ice time across all game situations. This season, the 22-year-old appears well on his way to winning his second Barry Ashbee Trophy (he won his first as a rookie in 2016-17).

D: Shayne Gostisbehere

A case could made for someone such as Braydon Coburn, who served the team well over seven full and two partial seasons spent largely as the Flyers' No. 2 or No. 3 defenseman. However, the vote here goes to "Ghost" for the instant impact he made as the first of the homegrown defensemen off the 2010s to reach the NHL. In 2015-16, Gostisbehere placed second in the Calder Trophy balloting for NHL Rookie of the Year and set a still-standing NHL rookie defenseman point streak record. In 2016-17, he formed an effective pairing with Provorov and posted a career-high 65 points. While other young defensemen have stepped to the forefront at times (Travis Sanheim, for example) and veteran Matt Niskanen has been an extremely valuable addition in his first half-season as a Flyer, the high points of Gostisbehere's Flyers career to date earn him a second-team spot. 

G: Carter Hart

Sometimes it's hard to believe that Hart is still just 21 years old and made his NHL debut barely more than a calendar year ago. Already, he's shown himself to be one of the fastest-rising young netminders in the league. Add that to stellar pre-NHL pedigree in the Western Hockey League and the Canadian Under-20 National Team and the sky is the limit for Hart in the 2020s. As it is, his brief body of work in the league has impressed enough to place him on this list above players such as current teammate Brian Elliott (held back by injuries his first two seasons in Philadelphia), the late Ray Emery or the physically gifted but serially injury-prone Michal Neuvirth.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Others who merited consideration for the All-Decade team include Simon Gagne (a shoo-in for the Team of the 2000s, but his first Flyers stint ended in 2010, and his second stint in 2012-13 was brief), Mike Richards (the early decade captain and top all-around forward in the pre-Couturier years), Jeff Carter (33-goal and 36-goal seasons to start the decade), Brayden Schenn (three seasons of 20 to 26 goals in his first five NHL seasons) and two-stint 2010s Flyer James van Riemsdyk

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