PHILADELPHIA — Wayne Simmonds was a huge fan favorite when he played for the Kings, who chose him in the second round — 61st overall — in the 2007 entry draft.
In his best season, 2009-10, he had 16 goals and 40 points — and 116 penalty minutes. He also was +22 defensively. But he was a third- and fourth-line player who was best known for his
fearless, rugged play, which endeared him to home crowds.
But to get a good player the Kings had to give up a good player, and they traded Simmonds, 2009 first-round pick Brayden Schenn and a second-round draft pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011 for Mike Richards.
Which team did better in that trade?
Philadelphia Inquirer writer Sam Carchidi contends the Flyers did because Simmonds is having a career season with 24 goals and 54 points and because Schenn has been developing into a capable second-line center. But Carchidi neglects to mention that Richards — though struggling this season — was a key player in the Kings' 2012 Stanley Cup championship drive. That's kind of a big omission.
Simmonds himself said Monday, as he and the Flyers prepared to face the Kings, that he doesn't evaluate the trade on who got the better of the deal.
"I'm still developing. Schenner as well. We're only going to get better," he said after the Flyers' morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center.
"I'm not really looking at the trade as whether any team won or lost. Richie's a great player and I think coming here, people knew we had big shoes to fill. We tried not to think about it that way and just tried to focus on our own game."
Simmonds said he didn't view the trade as a rejection of him by the Kings, but as being wanted by the Flyers.
"It was more of an opportunity," he said. "I think my role was a little bit different in L.A. to where it is now. I've got a chance to come into Philly and I've gotten a lot of responsibility since I've gotten here. I've just tried to work as hard as I possibly can and show everybody I was ready for it. I'm just going to continue to try and develop and try and get better every time I go on the ice."
Coach Craig Berube said Simmonds, while using his size and strength around the net, has added a new wrinkle to his game.
"The one area I think he's improved and he's starting to establish himself is the rush game," Berube said. "He's skating with the puck and doing things off the rush, scoring a few goals off the rush. I think that's one area his game has gotten better."
Simmonds had dinner with his old roomie, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, Sunday night. "I forged great relationships there and I'll have those for the rest of my life," Simmonds said.
The feeling is mutual, as far as Doughty is concerned.
"I always knew how good of a player he could be. I was sad to see him go," said Doughty, who has known Simmonds since their junior hockey days and still sees him over the summer.
"If he was still on the Kings you know he'd be doing the same things he is here. I was sad to see him go but it was good for him. He got more playing time, got a bigger role. He just ran away with it.
"He's doing an amazing job. It's good to see a good person like that succeed."