Playoff teams have connections to Flyers

By Mark Zimmaro

Flyers hockey has resumed, and there’s plenty to root for in watching the local team try to break a 45-year Stanley Cup drought with a very talented team. But there’s plenty of other hockey to binge watch as the Flyers await their first official series. Hockey is on television basically nonstop, so in the interest of having something to root for, here is something Philadelphia-related involving the other 23 playoff teams:

Arizona Coyotes: The former Flyer who led the franchise in career penalty minutes, Rick Tocchet, is the head coach in Arizona. Although a fan favorite in Philly, Tocchet won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992. He’s in his second head coaching job after a stint in Tampa Bay and is coaching in the playoffs for the first time as a head coach.

Boston Bruins: Not much Flyers talent in Beantown these days, but defenseman Connor Clifton is from Long Branch, New Jersey. It’s borderline Devils’ country there, but we’re claiming Clifton, who played in 31 games for the Bruins this year and scored twice.

Calgary Flames: This is an easy one, as Flames superstar and former Hobey Baker Award winner Johnny Gaudreau is a South Jersey native who attended Gloucester Catholic High School. There’s also a few ex-Flyers on the roster in Zac Rinaldo and Cam Talbot who might make minor contributions.

Carolina Hurricanes: Big Flyers influence here, as longtime center Rod Brind’Amour is hoping to coach the Canes on another long run after falling to the Bruins in the conference final last year. Pivotal roles include former Flyers Justin Williams, who is back in a key veteran role, and Peter Mrazek has earned the starting nod between the pipes.

Chicago Blackhawks: Slim pickings, and this is a big stretch, but you can bet Eric Semborski will be rooting for the Hawks. The Temple University alum suited up for Chicago three years ago as an emergency backup goalie and received a custom mask from the Hawks as a thank you.

Colorado Avalanche: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was a well-liked fourth-line center and penalty killer for three years in Philly. He’ll play a big role for the Avalanche, who are one of the Western Conference favorites.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Eric Robinson is a Bellmawr native. The 25-year-old winger, who was also a Gloucester Catholic grad, potted seven goals and five assists in 50 games this year for the Jackets.

Dallas Stars: Former Flyers coach John Stevens is an assistant coach in Dallas these days. Stevens won two Cups as an assistant with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.

Edmonton Oilers: Bench boss Dave Tippett spent the final year of his playing career in Philadelphia. He had been rumored as a head coaching prospect in Philly but he’ll try to steer Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl to a championship in Western Canada.

Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky spent his best days in Columbus but he got his start in a Flyers uniform. Bob signed for a big bank in the Sunshine State last year, and the Panthers hope they get their money’s worth.

Minnesota Wild: Ryan Hartman’s time in Philly was brief after arriving in a trade that sent Wayne Simmonds the other way. Remember when Hartman’s parents bought beer for an entire section of Flyers fans at a game in Chicago? We do. We never forget things like that.

Montreal Canadiens: Lots of interest here, as former Flyers Jordan Weal and Dale Weise are in the Habs lineup. South Jersey native and Keith Primeau’s son Cayden is also on the postseason roster. Even Luke Richardson is an assistant coach. Do all these guys speak French?

Nashville Predators: He won’t be inside the bubble but the Predators’ beloved public address announcer is Paul McCann, who is a Pennsauken native. He grew up a big fan of legendary Sixers announcer Dave “The Zink” Zinkoff.

New York Islanders: Dug pretty deep to find out that former Flyer Trent Klatt is the Islanders’ Director of Amateur Scouting. So there’s that.

New York Rangers: You may or may not agree with his political ideologies, but defenseman Tony DeAngelo is from Washington Township, New Jersey. DeAngelo has had some disciplinary issues in the NHL but had a breakout season, quarterbacking the Rangers’ power play and compiling 15 goals and 38 assists.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Tough to root for the Pens but Mark Recchi is an assistant coach in Pittsburgh. The Hall of Famer already won three Cups as a player with Pittsburgh, Carolina and Boston.

St. Louis Blues: Look no further than the “Chief,” Craig Berube, as he coached the Blues to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history last year. Brayden Schenn is still a big contributor and, of course, there is the song “Gloria,” which became the Blues’ battle cry, originating right here in South Philadelphia.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Longtime Flyer Brayden Coburn still patrols the blue line for the talented Lightning. Pat Maroon and Luke Schenn could also play a part in the Bolts’ run.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Would people be happy if Dave Hakstol won a Cup as an assistant coach? Probably not. Root for Kasperi Kapanen, whose father, Sami Kapanen, was a beloved Flyer.

Vancouver Canucks: Two of Brandon Sutter’s uncles (Ron and Rich) played for the Flyers. His dad, Brent, and three additional uncles were also NHLers.

Vegas Golden Knights: Vegas is still relatively new but there is a crossover, as former Flyer Nick Cousins is a bottom-six forward for the Golden Knights.

Washington Capitals: The Flyers made a great trade in dealing Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen in the offseason. Gudas and his hip checks are still worth rooting for in the nation’s capital.

Winnipeg Jets: Once-heralded Italian-born first-round draft pick Luca Sbisa is now in Winnipeg, in case you were wondering.