Wayne Simmonds on 2016-17 Season: ‘I Think I've Become More of a Leader'

As Wayne Simmonds sat the podium Tuesday afternoon for his presser with the media, it had the appearance of one of his Cure Auto commercials.

Except this was the Flyers' breakup day. And it was real, not a TV spot.

Simmonds spoke about how his role changed this year, becoming the bad cop to captain Claude Giroux's good cop in the locker room.

"I think I've become more of a leader, myself," Simmonds said. "Claude's our captain, but I'm here to help him. We're here to help our younger guys and get this thing going in the right direction and not only get into the playoffs.

"I think he's getting better and he's being a leader.  I think I'd probably be the bad cop for the most part. G's the nice guy; I'm the man that's yelling.  I'm probably more all over guys for some things."

While both Simmonds and Giroux progressed on the leadership side of things, the team struggled as a whole despite the duo trying to lead by example on the ice.

"I think that's our job," Simmonds said. "Everybody's got to be pulled into the battle. I think I'm the guy who can do that. Go out and try to give your max effort and hope everyone follows. 

"We were a little too inconsistent this year and we've got to get that figured out. We're a good team, we've got to make a push and get more consistency. Everyone's got to be on the same page and we've just got to be better."

Simmonds was one of 11 players who met with the media during breakup day when the players clean out their lockers, take a post-season physical, and meet with coach Dave Hakstol and general manager Ron Hextall.

At the height of their 10-game winning streak in December, the Flyers were 2nd in the NHL in 5-on-5 offense. They finished the season 27th in that department with just 128 goals scored (2.58). Defensively, they finished 18th, allowing 154 goals against (2.82).

The dramatic drop offensively in goals for is inexplicable, as is the fact the entire team, pretty much collapsed offensively in the second half, simultaneously.

"The well went dry," Simmonds said. "I don't know how to explain it. I felt like we were getting opportunities, good scoring chances in good areas, and we just couldn't put the puck in the net.  Eventually, that was our downfall.

"We couldn't score for that little bit of time and the streak was prolonged. I think towards the end of the year we started getting it back, we started putting more pucks in the back of the net, and I think that's more indicative of our team. We started getting more contributions from other guys and we picked it up but it was too late."

A number of players – Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, Sean Couturier, Shayne Gostisbehere, Claude Giroux, etc. – said they played ill or injured over long stretches because it's the mantra for this sport. They didn't want to let teammates down.

Couturier missed 16 games with a left knee injury and admitted he still wasn't healthy when he returned.

"When I came back, I wasn't probably 100 percent," he said. "I thought I could do enough to help the team win, whether it was defensively, offensively, whatever it was frustrating at times and took a few weeks to really start not feeling it anymore, and getting it out of my head."

Whether multiple guys playing hurt is beneficial to the team is a tough question to answer.

"I don't know if it did more harm than good," Simmonds said. "What are you going to do?  You're not going to play and let the boys down? You know a hockey player's mentality.

"We're going to play unless we're dead. No matter what, you're banged up, you're injured, you better get out there. You do it for the boys, you do it for yourself, for the organization. You've got to play.

"G's a great player. This year I don't know what it was. I think his hip, I don't know what it was. Maybe there was something there. Maybe he wasn't 100 percent, but he's a warrior.

"He's going to battle for the guys, he's our captain, he's our leader. He's not going to leave us to hang no matter how he feels. He's going to show up and he's going to put his best effort forth no matter what."

Giroux and Simmonds, among others, want to play in the IIHF World Championships in France and Germany this spring. Hextall is the GM for Team Canada while Hakstol is one of his assistant coaches.

"Ideally, I would hope to be playing in the playoffs [right now]," Simmonds said. "It's something that I'm thinking about, going over there and having a good time and playing for a winning team. It's a thought, definitely."

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