The Wayne Simmonds situation is one to keep an eye on this season. Should the Philadelphia Flyers sign him to a short or long-term deal, trade him for assets, or let him walk in free agency? Ron Hextall has quite the dilemma on his hands. There is little to suggest Hextall will let Simmonds walk in free agency. In that event that this comes to pass, it’d be a case of asset mismanagement.
Wayne Simmonds: 5v5 Rate Stats (2015-2018)
What do the Flyers really have in Simmonds? The eye-test suggests a physically punishing forward who creates space for his teammates, is excellent in front of the net, has good hands in tight, and is adept at deflections and driving home some greasy goals. However, his contributions, especially at 5v5, have been diminishing for two straight seasons. This writer posits that this not a case of poor puck luck or being used differently by his coach. Simmonds is showing that he’s no longer capable of producing at an acceptable rate at 5v5.
The 2015-2016 season was a legitimately great season for Simmonds at 5v5. As an aside, the numbers in this graph were utilized from Jonathan Willis’ findings. Simmonds produced at a 1st line level for goals and shots per 60. Additionally, his assists and points per 60 were borderline 1st line level.
On the other hand, his 2016-2017 season was the start of a troubling trend. Goals per 60 at a borderline 3rd line level, assists per 60 below replacement level, and points per 60 barely above replacement level. Replacement level refers to players who perform in the 25th percentile (league-wide) or lower. Yes, this past season was marred by injuries. Even so, his performance at 5v5 was not acceptable. He scored below replacement level, assisted below replacement level, and generated points and shots barely above replacement level.
Simmonds performance via Game Score per 60 was also alarming. Game Score is a catch-all stat incorporating player productivity on a per game level (or in this case, per 60). There is a sharp decline here that is tough to ignore. It is possible that his production at 5v5 could improve in the near future. However, banking on past performance informing future performance is a slippery slope.
Player Traits & Performance: 2015-2018 (Percentiles)
Ryan Stimsons’ passing project highlights some more signs that Simmonds play is regressing over the past few seasons. Simmonds, and many more NHLers traits can be found here. Simmonds performance by shot differential was marginally better than the previous season. Still, grading out in the 10th percentile is less than ideal. Furthermore, Simmonds expected goals, assists, and points per 60 are heading in the wrong direction as well.
Power Play Rate Stats
Wayne Simmonds does his best work on the man advantage. Unfortunately, the only area where he has improved lately is through his shot generation. Basically, he’s been shooting more and scoring less. This recent progression figures to improve over the next few seasons since this is an area of his game where he is at his most effective. Simmonds is still one of the best net-front forwards on the Power Play in the NHL.
All-Situations Rate Stats
In order to get a better grasp on Wayne Simmonds’ play during every game state, let’s examine his play during all-situations. The only area where his play shows marginal improvement last season was in his assists per 60. Simmonds output via every other metric included above has gotten worse in each successive season. As a player who is regularly lauded for his grit, he’s hitting less and less now. Simmonds is at his best when he’s physical and that needs to become more of a staple in his game in the future.
Player Contributions: 2015-2018
Josh and Luke of @EvolvingWild recently released their Goals Above Replacement data. Goals Above Replacement concerns overall player contributions. For our purposes, the data from all-situations, even-strength, power play, and penalty kill are included.
Wayne Simmonds overall contributions have really gone downhill over the past two seasons. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that his play actually hurt the Flyers last season more than he helped. Even his power play contributions were down last season. For a player who provides the most value to his team on the man advantage, this isn’t a great sign.
The lone bright spot last season (via these metrics) was his play on the penalty kill. The team’s system isn’t great overall, but Simmonds play here was nice to see. This next bit is where things get really ugly for Simmonds. His contributions at even-strength have fallen off a cliff the past two seasons. Last season in particular. If he is to remain on the Flyers for the foreseeable future, they need him to be a lot better at even-strength than he has been lately.
Lingering Questions and Concerns
Will Simmonds play improve after recovering from his off-season surgery? Is this recent trend of diminishing returns just a blip in the radar, or a sign of things to come? What would a Wayne Simmonds trade net the Flyers in return? Will Simmonds want to take a short-term deal with a higher cap hit to remain a Flyer? Let’s tackle these questions one by one shall we!
Claude Giroux and Shayne Gostisbehere both had similar off-season surgeries. Their seasons after these operations were less than notable. Now, it is possible that Simmonds could buck the trend here. Though, I do doubt it. Simmonds recent downturn in effectiveness over the past two seasons is enough to suggest that this is a sign of things to come.
Power forwards tend to age and decline fast. A Simmonds trade could reasonably net the Flyers an NHL roster player and a top prospect. Many NHL general managers will view his intangibles as something that is more valuable than they actually are.
The Flyers Should Trade Wayne Simmonds
The recent Tom Wilson, Evander Kane, and James van Riemsdyk contracts will undoubtedly drive up the asking price of Simmonds and his agent. Now, the Flyers will have approximately $33 million in cap space for the 2019-2020 season (according to CapFriendly). The team will have the funds to secure a contract extension. There are some other considerations to keep in mind though. Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, and Travis Sanheim will all need extensions very soon. It wouldn’t be prudent of Hextall to sign Simmonds and allocate a lot of money (and term) to a player who is declining.
There are also prospects in the system, such as Wade Allison, who plays a similar game and is nearing NHL readiness. The Flyers will be better off by trading Simmonds. The fallback option is to sign him to a short-term deal that would minimize risk in case his play continues to decline.
Main Photo: PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – DECEMBER 02: Wayne Simmonds #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers takes a shot in the second period against the Boston Bruins on December 02, 2017 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)