When the opportunity presented itself, the Flyers wasted no time in bringing James van Riemsdyk back home to Philadelphia. On the first day of NHL Free Agency in the summer of 2018, the Flyers inked the New Jersey born Left Winger to a 5 year $35 million dollar contract.
The winger, who goes by the nickname JVR, was one half of arguably the worst trade in franchise history when the Flyers decided to ship him to Toronto back in 2012 for defenseman Luke Schenn. With both players struggling to establish themselves as solid NHL players, this seemed like an even trade to present a fresh start for both players. As we all know now, this never came to fruition for Philadelphia as Schenn never realized his potential with the Flyers; as JVR blossomed into a legit Top 6 Forward for Toronto, scoring 154 goals in his 6 seasons with the Leafs.
James van Riemsdyk enjoyed a rather successful first season in his return to Philadelphia, netting 27 goals and 21 assists in 66 games for the Flyers. This was spearheaded by a career best 16.2% shooter percentage, along with 8 PowerPlay goals which is the most he has posted in an orange sweater. Even with the Flyers missing the post-season, JVR’s return was off to a good start.
Entering the 2019-2020 season with a full off season, expectations were high for JVR to continue to blossom as a Flyer. Currently with 16 goals and 17 assists through 56 games, it is safe to say this season has been a bit of a disappointment for van Riemsdyk. Consistency, or lack thereof has ultimately been what has plagued JVR this season. A prime example would be how the season began for JVR; after going the first 7 games with 0 points, van Riemsdyk followed this by scoring 6 points in the 3 games that followed. Unfortunately, this has been the story of JVR’s season so far.
Even with the extreme peaks and valleys of JVR’s season, it is safe to argue that he may be the key to the Flyers returning to the Post-Season. When van Riemsdyk gets going, he can carry the Flyers for stretches of time. This of course can be evidenced by the 11-2 record the Flyers hold when JVR scores a goal; while also holding a 19-3 record when JVR notches a point. Philly also currently holds a 6 game winning streak when he finds the back of the net. If these stats indicate anything, it is how important van Riemsdyk is to the Flyers playoff hopes.
When the Flyers dealt Wayne Simmonds to the Predators last winter, the belief was that they already had his net front replacement in house with JVR. Simmonds was notoriously dominant on the power-play for the Flyers, but the belief was JVR could fill his shoes. As time has gone on, this appears to be a bit of an oversight, as van Riemsdyk has not had the level of success on the man advantage the Flyers brass believed they would see. So far in 2019-2020 JVR has only netted three power-play goals to go along with an additional four power-play assists.
Naturally, this has led to a bit of a disappointing season from the Flyers man advantage, which currently sits tied for 19th in the NHL at 19.1%. While this is a slight improvement from the 17.1% the man advantage sat at last season, it still has been a bit underwhelming. Philly needs JVR to become the power-play guy he has shown he can be, if they want their unit to reach the top half of the league. With 65 career goals on the man advantage, including a career high 11 in 2017-2018, JVR has shown he can be this kind of player before.
Ultimately, James van Riemsdyk has not quite lived up to the expectations to this point in his return to Philadelphia. Through 122 games into his Philly return, JVR has netted 43 goals to go along with 38 assists. Having scored 36 goals in his final season in Toronto, the Flyers brass as well as the fans expected a bit more from the winger. If the Flyers hope to make a return to the post-season this spring, they will need JVR to step his game up and become the player the Flyers envisioned him being.
The Flyers currently sit with a record of 31-18-7 (69 points) in the 2nd wild card spot in the East with 27 games to play. The playoffs are certainly within reach for the Flyers, but they will need to continue to play good hockey the rest of the way as the East has shown to be a very deep conference. One thing is for certain, the Flyers will need JVR to step his game up. With 27 games to play, and a playoff berth on the line, the time is now.
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