Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

The Philadelphia Flyers are known for their enforcers in their ‘Broad Street Bullies’ era during the mid-1970s, but they have had some unsung glue guys since then. Since the Bullies were so dominant, the Flyers’ more recent enforcers can get lost in history.

Related: Broad Street Bullies: More Than Goons, Fists & Enforcers

The importance of the enforcer has died down a bit since the 1970s, but they can still be found in the current NHL. In no particular order, which 10 fighters were the best at stirring things up since the 1999-00 NHL season?

1. Craig Berube (1986-91, 1998-00)

Even though most of his time with the Flyers came well before the cutoff 1999-00 season for this list, Craig Berube made his mark in Philadelphia well before that. He stands as not just one of the best enforcers in the history of the Flyers, but one of the best in NHL history, as well.

During his first stint with the Flyers, “Chief” had just under 1,000 penalty minutes in less than 250 games. He was a pure fighter who dabbled in some offense once in a while, achieving a career-high 18 points in 1989-90. By the time he returned to the Flyers at the end of the 1990s, he was still the same player he had always been. In his 1999-00 campaign, he capped off his tenure with the Flyers with 12 points and 162 penalty minutes.

Craig Berube with the Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Shortly after his playing days were over, Berube became head coach of the Flyers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms, before being promoted to an NHL gig not too far down the line. He worked his way up to become the assistant coach for Peter Laviolette in the early 2010s, and he was the new bench boss after Laviolette was relieved of his duties early in the 2013-14 season.

Berube held a 42-27-10 record in that regular season, leading the Flyers to the playoffs but eventually falling in seven games in the first round. His second taste of coaching in the NHL didn’t go as well in 2014-15, finishing with a 33-31-18 record. He was fired following that down season, but he cemented his name in hockey history when he coached the St. Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup in 2018-19 after being hired as a mid-season replacement behind the bench.

Berube finds himself on this list because he was a tremendous fighter, but he was also important to the game well after he retired. With over 1,000 games played and over 500 games coached in the NHL, he’s had his fingerprints on the league for quite some time.

2. Sandy McCarthy (1998-00)

Sandy McCarthy’s stint with the Flyers was short, but he was tough as nails when he donned orange and black. He had already accumulated over 900 penalty minutes by the time he played his first game with the Flyers in his age-26 season. Though he only played 71 games in the regular season for the Flyers, seeing a little bit over 10 minutes of action each night, he still had his moments.

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One of McCarthy’s most memorable incidents with the Flyers was when he challenged Toronto Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi to a fight. Domi turned him down, mocking him for wanting to drop the gloves. McCarthy kept at it after the whistle, flapping his arms up and down like a chicken and calling him out for not wanting to fight — Domi smirked but was not agitated by this. The Flyers’ home crowd absolutely loved it, though.

McCarthy only recorded 136 penalty minutes with the Flyers, but he is still rightfully regarded as one of the greatest enforcers ever with over 1,500 penalty minutes in his career. A fierce fighter, he was a short-lived but notable gem in Philadelphia.

3. Todd Fedoruk (2000-04, 2006-07)

Much like Berube, Todd Fedoruk spent his early years with the Flyers. Despite averaging under seven minutes of ice time in three of his first four seasons in Philadelphia, he accumulated 100 or more penalty minutes in every single season. He only eclipsed double-digit points once when he was a Flyer, doing so in his rookie campaign.

Fedoruk had a brief stint away from the Flyers before returning in 2006-07. With 545 career games in the NHL, he had more than just a cup of coffee as a professional hockey player. His grittiness kept it that way for a long time.

4. Donald Brashear (2001-06)

Donald “Brash” Brashear was one of the league’s best fighters after the fighting-centric hockey of the 1970s and 1980s had gone by. It wasn’t until a bit later in his career that he played for the Flyers, donning the number ’87’ for Philadelphia. By the time he played his last season for the Orange and Black, a new star by the name of Sidney Crosby took his status as the most notable player to wear said number in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In Philadelphia, Brashear had an impressive 648 penalty minutes in just 270 games, even getting on the scoreboard a few times. In his 2002-03 season, he had 25 points in 80 games. He was still very much an enforcer at his core, but he had some skill, too.

5. Riley Cote (2006-10)

Riley Cote spent all 156 games of his NHL career in Philadelphia. His offensive totals of just a single goal and six assists for seven points aren’t fantastic, making him one of the worst point-generators on this list. While you’d like to see some offense, he compiled 411 penalty minutes in just 643 total minutes of ice time in his career with the Flyers. He was a fighter at heart.

After his time playing in the NHL, the pure-fighting winger formed a Flyers-centered podcast dubbed ‘Nasty Knuckles’ with former team equipment manager Derek Settlemyre. In one of his more recent interviews, Fedoruk appeared on the show.

Cote dropped the gloves with just about anyone. He had some of the most limited time with the Flyers yet made the most of it. Not only did he win the Calder Cup with the Phantoms in 2004-05, but served as an assistant coach of the team from 2010-11 up until 2016-17. He’s remained busy when he wasn’t throwing his fists around in the NHL.

6. Arron Asham (2008-10)

Getting away from home-grown talents, Arron Asham had an established career as an enforcer before he joined the Flyers. By the time he did, he was both a physical menace and a decent source of depth offense. He spent just two seasons with the Flyers but accumulated 44 points and 281 penalty minutes during that time.

In the postseason, he was an important piece to the Flyers’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009-10. In their Game 5 win over the Montreal Canadiens that sent Philadelphia to the Final, Asham scored a pretty goal that gave the Flyers their first lead of that game — they never looked back. Asham was known for his fists but did have some offense in him. Without his four goals and seven points in that postseason, there’s a chance that the Flyers don’t have a memorable run at all.

7. Daniel Carcillo (2008-11)

Despite playing just 153 of his 429 NHL games as a Flyer, Daniel Carcillo might be the most well-known and beloved since the 1999-00 season. Much of that has to do with him being at his best in the Flyers’ 2009-10 playoff run. The enforcer’s six points in 17 games that playoff were good for his standards, but he scored a clutch overtime goal in Game 3 against the New Jersey Devils in the first round. That gave them a 2-1 series lead, starting a magical playoff run in Philadelphia.

Dan Carcillo with the Flyers (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Andy King)

Carcillo was the epitome of a player you love when he’s on your roster, but hate when he isn’t. That was perfectly exemplified in the 2014 Playoffs when the Flyers faced his antics in their first-round series with the New York Rangers. Playing against him might have made him an enemy at the time, but he should still be remembered as one of the heroes of the 2009-10 roster.

8. Jody Shelley (2010-13)

Jody Shelley’s time in Philadelphia was some of the shortest on this list, only having played 89 regular season games for the Flyers. He only had 191 penalty minutes, but his status as a fighter is hard to ignore. He challenged anyone regardless of their toughness or stature.

Shelley only played two games in the playoffs for the Flyers, putting up mostly zeroes across his entire stat line. His most memorable hockey was played when he was away from the Orange and Black, but he did end his career with them.

9. Zac Rinaldo (2010-15)

Zac Rinaldo was one of the last great enforcers for the Flyers. The points weren’t there during his time in Philadelphia, but he racked up the hits and penalty minutes over his 223-game span with the team.

As a youngster, Rinaldo made an immediate impact on the Flyers. Without players like Asham or Carcillo on the team anymore after he made his first appearance in Philadelphia during the 2011 Playoffs, it was mostly up to him to be the intimidating force on the team. In just 66 games that season, he put up a career-high 232 penalty minutes along with 175 hits. He didn’t change at all in his following seasons with the Orange and Black.

Zac Rinaldo of the Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Rinaldo found his way in and out of the lineup due to the team shaking things up, injuries, and some suspensions that he faced for his aggressive style. As the league started to transition towards protecting players and fighting numbers dropped, he was only starting to come into his own. 374 career games is nothing to scoff at, but he might have been better suited in a different era.

10. Nicolas Deslauriers (2022-Present)

Getting to the only active enforcer on this list, Nicolas Deslauriers is one of the few that still remain in general. The penalty minutes are certainly down for players like him, as he is looking at just over a penalty minute per game throughout a career that has spanned over 600 contests.

Nicolas Deslauriers of the Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Deslauriers is one of the more frequent fighters in the NHL. The only reason he is a consistent player for the Flyers is not because he is a fighter. Rather, he is a decent complementary player for a fourth line. He signed a four-year contract with the Flyers before the beginning of the 2022-23 season, so he might have the most games played in Philadelphia among any of these players when all is said and done.

Unfortunately, the role of the enforcer has both changed in meaning and begun to die off in recent seasons. A big part of hockey is growth and evolution, so perhaps that is for the best. At this point, it seems as though the Flyers’ last prominent enforcers are fading; that doesn’t mean they should be forgotten.

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