Oct 27, 2023

Philadelphia Flyers 2023

Mar 30, 2023; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Philadelphia Flyers left wing Nicolas Deslauriers (44) fights with Ottawa Senators left wing Austin Watson (16) in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

There is that great scene in the first Avengers movie where Captain America turns to the Hulk and says, “HULK…..Smash!” The Hulk gives that smile of his and goes on a rampage. In a way, when the Philadelphia Flyers signed Nicolas Deslauriers to a four year deal, that’s the signal to the NHL that this team was giving out “NIC…..Smash!”

That’s exactly what he did. He lead the NHL in fighting majors with 14, was second in the league with 136 penalty minutes (Pat Maroon had 150), and was third with 306 hits behind former Flyers tough guys Luke Schenn (318) and Radko Gudas (312). Despite the physicality, and all the time spent in the sin bin, he was a respectable -11 as a fourth line player. Deslauriers has built a reputation as a stout defensive player, blocking 26 shots while stealing 13 passes. Not too shabby.

Now, Deslauriers was not here to put up points, although if and when they come it is a nice touch. He was here to hit and hit hard. He’s on a very team-friendly $1.75 million contract, which is good for a guy over 30 who exclusively beats opponents into pulp. However, there is a very good reason for him being on this team, even if he is averaging only 10 minutes of ice time.

While the Hulk is a brooding, smashing force, he is a bit unstable. The same cannot be said for Deslauriers. He’s not here to simply smash and hit. That’s part of it. He’s job as an enforcer is secondary to his primary role as protector.

The Flyers have a lot of young players on this team. Those are the kind of guys who can get a bit intimidated if they are skating into an opponent’s zone and see a player like Gudas or Maroon coming for them. Some players cower and dump the puck too early. Some take on the challenge and find themselves plastered all over the ice. This is where Deslauriers comes in.

You see, his job on the team is to ensure that the Gudas’s of the NHL world don’t go willy-nilly on the young players and break them into pieces. Likewise, it builds up the confidence of a young player, like Noah Cates, that someone on the team pretty much says “Hey bud, I got your back. If he messes with you, he’ll answer to me. Do your thing and I’ll do mine.”

Deslauriers showed over and over again that our young players are off limits. Likewise, so are our stars. Basically, you can’t touch anyone wearing Orange and Black. It might not be the same style of play as Dave Schultz, but it probably is the closest thing we’ll get to old style Broad Street Bully hockey in the 2020s. Deslauriers is protecting our guys and because of that he is fun to watch.