Excluding the Philadelphia Flyers 1974 and 1975 Stanley Cup teams, who were the best players to ever wear the orange and black?
The following selections include: One goaltender, two defensemen and three forwards. The point of this effort is to pick the best Flyers player at each position who did not win a Cup. So, there will be no honorable mentions.
We will begin by building out from the goal crease, as all good teams do.
Goaltender: Ron Hextall
The fact that this spot has to be filled by Hextall is obvious.
Some people never saw Bernie Parent perform during his back-to-back Stanley Cup seasons. Others might also not have seen the reincarnation of his spirit in 1987. For it was during that spring that number 27 channeled number 1. Hextall didn't carry Parent's style into the 1980s, but he did lift his own team in a similar fashion.
'Hexy' reigned supreme while facing endless robotic waves of offensive pressure in the form of supposedly human hockey players like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey and others. If not for the loss of some key teammates, it's reasonable to conclude that Philadelphia would have won that playoff series in less than seven games.
Hextall won the Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophies that season. None of his other Flyers years need to be detailed, as that Stanley Cup Final effort continues to leave all who observed it in an eternally stunned state of reverence.
Defenseman: Mark Howe
The rightful Hall of Famer is the best defenseman to ever play for the team. Howe would have easily been part of the top pairing in either of the Flyers Stanley Cup seasons.
Certain expectations have always come with being Gordie Howe's son and number 2 has always lived up to them. Due to the retirement of his number, players and fans alike will be able to look up to him during Flyers home games.
Nothing else needs to be added about this unassuming blue line master.
Defenseman: Eric Desjardins
Desjardins played over a decade after being obtained, along with John LeClair, from the Montreal Canadiens for Mark Recchi.
Perpetually in position, this Quebec native was a great two-way player and was always a team guy.
Injury issues affected the latter part of his career, but he was money on the ice during his ten-plus Flyers years.
Center: Eric Lindros
No one electrified a crowd like the 'Big E' did.
Imagine having the puck when you noticed that Lindros was closing in on you. Give it up and get benched, or hold onto it and get crushed. Those options just weren't fair.
Everything about this man was interesting. His initial acquisition via the Quebec Nordiques and a League-appointed arbitrator, his offensive force, the off-ice drama, his struggles with health issues, the lead-up to the trade with the New York Rangers in 2001 and his triumphant return to Philadelphia against that same team during a magical Winter Classic Alumni game on the last day of 2011.
To say that anyone else is the best non-Cup winning center in team history would simply be wrong.
Left Wing: Brian Propp
Propp's five-on-five feats were sublime, his power play work was dominant and his penalty killing efforts were excellent. And thus a complete player is defined.
'Propper' is the Flyers second-leading all-time goal scorer (369), trailing only Bill Barber's 420 goal total. Within his Flyers career goal mark are 103 power play goals, which rank third all-time, and 20 short-handed goals, which rank seventh all-time.
He also ranks second all-time in assists (480) to Bobby Clarke (852).
Propp wore the emblem during 790 games, which ranks third all-time and his plus-311 mark ranks fourth all-time.
Right Wing: Tim Kerr
Kerr was nothing less than an iconic ice beast.
He was a heavy power source in the Flyers terrific 1980s power play. The man once scored 58 goals during the 1985-86 season, 34 of which came on the man-advantage.
The 145 career power play goals that he scored for the Flyers not only ranks first all-time, they also give him a 41-goal lead over Hall of Famer Bill Barber. That great forward played in 302 more games than Kerr did.
Kerr ranks third all-time with 363 goals. He pumped home that total in 601 games with the Flyers. The two men who rank ahead of him, Propp (369 goals in 790 games) and Barber (420 goals in 903 games) might have found themselves looking up the leader board at Kerr if health issues hadn't limited his availability and shortened his career.
A series of reoccurring injury issues plagued Kerr by the time he was in his late twenties. It was the price he paid for standing in front of the opposition's goal crease. With better health, he may have been able to produce more seasons like he did from 1983-84 through 1986-87. During that time he scored over 50 goals in each season, jamming a staggering total of 224 pucks into the net.
A variety of circumstances allows one team to win the Stanley Cup each season.
These six players never hoisted the silver chalice over their Flyers heads, but through their efforts they all deserved to do so.
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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