Welcome to LWOS Hockey’s summer series. After the historic 2016 NHL Free Agency period, it’s a good time to look at the best free agent signing in the history of all 30 NHL franchises. Up next: The all-time best Los Angeles Kings free agent signing.
Make sure to check out the previous articles in our 2016 summer series here.
The All-time Best Los Agenles Kings Free Agent Signing
1977- Charlie Simmer: Signed as a free agent
Charlie Simmer became known as one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL. It took him a few years to reach this feat, however. He was drafted by the California Golden Seals in at the 1974 Amateur Draft. He found it hard to catch on with the team and was released in 1977.
The 1976-77 season for the Los Angeles Kings was just like their previous ones. While Marcel Dionne continued to lead the offense and the defense remained solid, the year was full of roster turnover. The team saw veterans such as Bob Nevin and Mike Corrigan depart. They also lost players such as Larry Brown, Juha Widing and Sheldon Kannegiesser to injury.
The team was struggling, especially with the Montreal Canadiens in front of them in the Norris Division. The Kings would add Dave Schultz to replace Dan Maloney, but it took the whole season for the roster to gel together. Backup goalie Gary Edwards struggled and was eventually traded for Gary Simmons. The team turned to Rogie Vachon more often than not as Simmons would also struggle.
The Kings struggled to stay above the .500 mark for most of the season, but winning five out of their last six games helped. The team finished the season 34-31-15, 49 points behind the Canadiens who finished an impressive 60-8-12.
Simmer was looking for a new lease on life and the Kings were looking for someone to play along-side Dionne and Dave Taylor. Simmer and the Kings took almost two years to click, but once they did Simmer became a part of a Los Angeles team that had one of the best forward lines in hockey history. The forward would also cement himself as one of the best free agent pickups for the team.
Simmer wouldn’t immediately connect with the Kings after he signed. In fact, the forward spent two and a half years in the minor leagues. He almost quit the sport of hockey before finally catching on with the big club in the 1978-79 season.
In his second NHL chance with the Kings, Simmer would not disappoint. His first chance had seen him go scoreless in just three games with the club. This time around he was lined up on the left wing. He played on a line with Dionne and Taylor.
The Triple Crown Line
This line would go on to become the best line in hockey for the next three seasons and would be dubbed the Triple Crown Line. Simmer had just 9 goals and 25 points to his name at that point. He went on to put up 21 goals and 48 points in just half a season. It was only the beginning for the young forward.
The following season, Simmer would exceed all previous expectations as he would score 56 goals and put up 101 points. He would also score at least one goal in 13 straight games, becoming the first player to threaten the record of 16 straight by Punch Broadbent. Simmer would be named to the NHL’s First All Star Team, as well as his linemates Dionne and Taylor.
The trio of Simmer, Dionne and Taylor would combine for 146 goals that season and 161 the next. Each player had at least 105 points on the season. The line was believed to be the first regularly-constructed line in NHL history where each player totaled at least 100 points.
Dream Season Ended Early
In 1980-81, Simmer would attempt to chase down Maurice Richard‘s legendary mark on 50 goals in 50 games. However, he would fall just one game short. In the 50th game of the year, Simmer recorded a hat trick but ended with 49 goals in 50 games. He would only tally seven more goals after that.
His season came to an early end on March 2, 1981. During a game in Toronto, Simmer’s right leg was shattered. His regular season statistics were still enough to have himself named to the NHL First All-Star Team for a second year. However, the absence of their star winger saw the Kings become upset by the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.
Simmer would spend the off-season and the beginning of the 1981-82 schedule recuperating and recovering from his injury. The season was still a tough one. In 50 games, Simmer would only score 15 times and had reduced ice time. He would begin to regain his old form in the playoffs, scoring four goals and seven assists in 10 games.
Simmer returned to his official old form the following season, putting up about a point per game. He recorded nearly twice as many assists and goals than the season before, finishing with 29 goals and 51 assists. The most important factor for Simmer was staying healthy as he played in all 80 games that season.
The Triple Crown Line would go on to have one more year of greatness during the 1983-84 season. Simmer would post 44 goals and 48 assists in 79 games that season for the Kings.
Simmer would stay with the Kings for only five games during the 1984-85 season. An ugly contract dispute would see him traded to the Boston Bruins. He played parts of four more seasons before retiring from the NHL in 1988.
Simmer’s Place in Kings History
In a career that spanned 14 years, Simmer totaled 342 goals and 369 assists in 712 total games. Among all-time Kings, he ranks seventh in goals (222) and ninth in points (466).
“We got a lot of ice time and it just seemed to grow and blossom, for no particular reason other than we went out there as a line, a group, a unit, and we played as a unit,’’ Simmer said. “It wasn’t a matter of setting Marcel up or setting me up. Each of us had our own little niche out there.’’
Simmer was honored by the Kings during the 2011-2012 season as a part of their ‘Legends Night’ series. Later on, he spoke with the media about his time with the Kings.
Taking a look back at what Simmer accomplished, it’s fairly simple to consider him the best Los Angeles Kings free agent signing. He had a major impact on the team, most notably on the special line with Dionne and Taylor. The Kings will always be a team that Simmer will hold close to his heart. It was the first team that gave him a shot to thrive in the NHL.
“I was like, ‘I did it, I made the NHL,’’’ Simmer said of first becoming a regular with the Kings. “Then it just blossomed after that.’’