from Matt Larkin of The Hockey News,
Want to make an NHL player bristle? Just follow these easy steps:
(a) stand a foot away from him;
(b) remind him his team missed the playoffs last season;
(c) ask him if his team is rebuilding.
The experiment works like a charm on Philadelphia Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds between training sessions at BioSteel’s 2015 hockey camp, where players from all over the league – and other leagues – gather to compete, hone their skills and rehabilitate. Reminded of the Flyers’ sixth-place finish in the Metropolitan division, and asked whether a new coach and large shipment of elite young defense prospects signifies a rebuild, Simmonds shakes his head so fast you can practically see the sweat fly.
“No,” he said, recoiling slightly, brow furrowed. “We’re a good team right now.”
Simmonds says the only thing that kept his Flyers out of the big dance in 2014-15 was a tendency to play to their opponents’ levels, holding their own against Cup contenders but struggling against teams equal to or below them in the standings. The stats confirm Simmonds’ theory. Philly went 14-15-8 (.486) against teams that missed the playoffs and 19-16-10 (.533) against playoff teams last season. The discrepancy was even more pronounced in the Flyers’ division, where they went 3-8-3 (.321) against the non-playoff Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils and Columbus Blue Jackets versus 9-5-2 (.625) against the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.