From Bobby to Dave
After emerging as a hockey powerhouse in the 1970s, the Flyers moved into a period of transition in the 1980s.
Replacing the greatest player and captain in team history (Bobby Clarke) wasn't something that anyone could do. Instead, after being on the same team with Clarke in the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, Poulin took the torch and emerged as the right leader for his times.
Many believe that the top line in franchise history included Reggie Leach, Clarke, and Bill Barber. If that's true, Brian Propp, Poulin, and Tim Kerr surely formed the Flyers' second-greatest line. Those three men served as the core of two teams (1984-85, 1986-87) that made Stanley Cup appearances against the Edmonton Oilers, who were one of the most dominant teams in National Hockey League history.
An ever-steady leader
The Flyers signed Poulin, who was playing in Sweden after having graduated from Notre Dame, as an undrafted free agent in March 1983. The 24-year-old played in two regular season games and three playoff games that spring. He remained with the team until January 1990, when he was traded to the Boston Bruins for former Flyer Ken Linesman, and then completed his career with the Washington Capitals in the 1994-95 season.
Poulin's leadership skills, along with his 31-goal, 45-assist performance in 1983-84, earned him the captaincy by the start of the next season.
After an exhilarating run to the Stanley Cup Final in the spring of 1985, head coach Mike Keenan counted on Poulin to help lead the team after the tragedy of Pelle Lindbergh's death in the fall of that same year.
The Flyers made another championship push in 1986-87, with Poulin's exceptional efforts garnering the Selke Trophy as the League's top defensive forward.
The Timmins, Ontario native scored 27 short-handed goals in his Flyers' career. That number places him third all-time behind Barber (31) and Clarke (32). Poulin had 39 total short-handed goals in his entire career, which places him sixth all-time in NHL history behind Wayne Gretzky (73), Mark Messier (63), Steve Yzerman (50), Mario Lemieux (49), and Robert 'Butch' Goring (40).
Just like old times
It was a pleasure to watch Poulin take a series of shifts with his former linemate (Propp) at the Winter Classic Alumni game in Philadelphia last New Year's Eve day.
Poulin's career proves, as well as any, that permanent respect can be earned through an honest use of our God-given talents.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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