Excelling in Philadelphia all about confidence for Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds

Puck Daddy

Last June 23 Wayne Simmonds was enjoying his offseason at his uncle's cottage on Prince Edward Island before he was set to become a restricted free agent a week later.

Late in the day, he turned on his phone and was flooded with text messages from friends informing him that he'd been part of one of the biggest trades of the summer, heading to Philadelphia along with Brayden Schenn for Mike Richards.

Richards was obviously the headline, leaving the Flyers after signing a 12-year deal in 2007 and handling the captaincy duties since 2008, as well as the Bobby Clarke comparisons since his rookie season.

Schenn was the top prospect that Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi held on to until the right deal came along.

Simmonds was the wild card.

In his second NHL season Simmonds opened some eyes with not only his hard-nosed style of play, but also the ability to produce when he scored 16 times and netted 40 points for the Kings. Last year, he took a bit of a step back, watching his production drop by 10 points as well as his ice time by over a minute.

But being traded to the Flyers was the tonic that turned things around for the 23-year-old Scarborough, Ontario, native. His style of play encapsulates every aspect of what the Flyers have been about for years. If the Broad Street Bullies were around in 2012, he'd fit right in.

Despite a new team, in a new conference, on the other side of the continent, it didn't take Simmonds long to feel right at home within the locker room and with the Philadelphia faithful.

"After I played my first couple exhibition games at home in Philadelphia," said Simmonds after Thursday's morning skate before Philadelphia's 3-2 win over the New York Islanders. "I think we played New York one game [and I] kind of had a little bit of a fracas there with Sean Avery. Ever since then the fans have kind of liked me. They liked the way I played. They liked my style. I think I fit in quite nice here."

Simmonds told Puck Daddy during his sophomore season that the reason for his strong play at the time was maturity and having a better understanding of the NHL. Now, two years later, he's posted career numbers in goals (22), points (41) and shots (170).

What's the explanation this time?

"Confidence," said Simmonds. "I've come in here. Coach [Peter Laviolette] has put me in good situations; situations he thought I could get better at and just contribute to the team. I just tried to work as hard as I can every time I go on the ice and everything's worked out well."

Going from a team in Los Angeles that was led by a lot of youth to the Flyers where it's heavy on the veteran leadership has allowed Simmonds to learn on the job.

"Watching [Jaromir Jagr] and guys like [Scott] Hartnell, there's a lot of things to be learned," said Simmonds. "You've got to be a student of the game. You've got to go out there and turn a blind eye. You've got to watch and see what everyone's doing. I try to pick things up from Hartsy's game and I try to pick things up from guys like Jags and the older forwards on our team. I think it's helped me out tremendously."

Another education that Simmonds has received is how tough the Atlantic Division is. Rivalries that go back decades still exist and there's never any love lost between the five teams.

Entering Saturday, Philadelphia sits third in the division, two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins and six away from the top-seeded New York Rangers. With four of their last 12 remaining games against division rivals, Simmonds already knows what to expect.

"It's a battle. Every night you go out, it doesn't matter who you're playing, every game's going to be a battle," Simmonds said. "It's fun hockey to play.

"Everyone comes out every night, it doesn't matter, any team can beat you in this division."

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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