We all miss sports and the games that take us away from the real world for a few hours.
So in a fun exercise that will briefly take your mind off the coronavirus pandemic, The Inquirer will unveil a 64-player, interactive bracket online on Tuesday. The Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Eagles will each have 16 players in their respective brackets.
When it’s over, fans will have selected the greatest athlete in Philly sports history on Inquirer.com.
The four top seeds are Bobby Clarke of the Flyers, Mike Schmidt of the Phillies, Wilt Chamberlain of the 76ers/Warriors, and Reggie White of the Eagles. (Chamberlain should win the whole thing, hands down, but my gut says Brian Dawkins, fourth-seeded among the Eagles, will pull the upset and finish as the overall No. 1.)
I had the pleasure and pain to select the Flyers bracket.
It was a pleasure because I got to do research and relive some of the great accomplishments of the players.
It was painful because there have been so many great players in the Flyers’ history – especially in the 20th century -- that it was extremely difficult to narrow down the field to 16. Our other beat writers – Les Bowen (Eagles), Keith Pompey (76ers), and Scott Lauber (Phillies) – felt the same way about their teams.
That means there were players not in the bracket (hello, former Flyer Rod Brind’Amour) who you could argue (strongly) deserve to be in there. Now we know how the NCAA committee feels when it chooses its field.
It should be noted the players were ranked on their time in Philadelphia and not on their overall careers.
Anyway, here are the first-round Flyers matchups, with their seedings in parentheses:
Bobby Clarke (1) vs. Rick Tocchet (16): Poor Toc. He had a rare combination – a great scorer who supplied physicality – but he has the misfortune of being matched against the iconic Clarke, whose magnificent talent might have been surpassed by his unparalleled leadership.
John LeClair (8) vs. Reggie Leach (9): This is the bracket’s best first-round matchup. LeClair had 333 goals in 649 games with the Flyers. Leach had 306 goals in 606 games with the Orange and Black, won a Cup and was sensational in the playoffs, scoring 47 goals in 91 games. LeClair had 35 goals in 116 playoff games with the Flyers.
Mark Howe (5) vs. Simon Gagne (12): Howe, the best defenseman in the Flyers history, is a Hall of Famer. Gagne was a great all-around player who was extremely underrated. Howe should advance. He had 480 points and a ridiculous plus-351 rating (second in the team’s history, behind Clarke’s plus-507) in 594 career games with the Flyers. Gagne is ninth in franchise history with 264 goals.
Eric Lindros (4) vs. Eric Desjardins (13): Lindros, the prototypical power forward who revolutionized the position, never delivered a Stanley Cup, but he was a Hall of Famer who carried the Flyers on his broad shoulders. With the Flyers, he averaged 1.36 points per game, by far the best in franchise history. Desjardins was quietly the second-best defenseman in the Flyers history.
Rick MacLeish (6) vs. Claude Giroux (11): I have a hunch Giroux will win this matchup because many of our younger readers didn’t have the good fortune to witness MacLeish’s greatness. MacLeish (328 goals, 369 assists in 741 games) was the better scorer, Giroux (257 goals, 558 assists in 889 games ) the better passer. MacLeish’s teams won two Cups, Giroux’s teams have not won a playoff series since 2012. Giroux is second in assists in Flyers history and fourth in points, while MacLeish is fifth in the latter category. MacLeish had 53 playoff goals with the Flyers, tied with Bill Barber for the most in franchise history.
Bill Barber (3) vs. Mark Recchi (14): The only first-round matchup of Hockey Hall of Famers. Barber (420 goals in 903 games with the Flyers) won two Cups in Philly. Recchi (232 goals in 602 games) won three Cups in his career but none with the Flyers. Barber is No. 1 in franchise history in goals scored, second in points (883), and fourth in assists (463). Recchi is fifth in career assists (395) for the Flyers.
Tim Kerr (7) vs. Brian Propp (10): This is a great matchup between the second- and third-leading goal scorers in Flyers history. Propp finished with 369 goals in 790 games with the Flyers, six more than Kerr (363), who played in 189 fewer games with Philadelphia. Propp is third in franchise history in assists (480) and third in points (849). Kerr holds the franchise records for power-play goals (144), shooting percentage (19.3%), and goals per game (0.60), and is seventh in career points (650).
Bernie Parent (2) vs. Ron Hextall (15): In an oddity, this is a matchup of the two best goalies in Flyers history. You could argue that the Flyers wouldn’t have won either of their Cups without Parent. Hextall was especially excellent in his first tenure with the Flyers. The other guy was honored with a bumper sticker that seemed to be on every car in the 1970s: Only the Lord Saves More Than Bernie Parent.