Simís tricky future

DAVID W. UNKLE -- Special to SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 1:02 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA--There are two ominous signs for a hockey player. The first being a frequent healthy scratch, especially when your team is besieged with injuries. The second is sitting on the bench while your team deliberately uses five defencemen.

Such is the case for beleaguered forward Jon Sim and defenceman Chris Therien.

After missing the last 17 games due to a hip-flexor injury, Turner Stevenson returned to the lineup, logging 6:13 of ice time in the Philadelphia Flyers' 4-3 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Stevenson's return also kept Sim on the shelf indefinitely amid rumours his Flyers' tenure is ending.

With the anticipated return of defenceman Joni Pitkanen (who has missed the last 20 games with a sports hernia) and the emergence of rookies Randy Jones and Freddy Meyer, it's almost a foregone conclusion that Therien will be gone by next weekend.

Widely viewed as a liability in the new NHL, Therien was on the ice for just 26 seconds in the third period in Saturday's game.

Sim's future is a little trickier.

After finishing the preseason with a league-high, eight goals (including two hat tricks), Sim was considered one of the bright spots for the Flyers.

"He's earned a right to be a prime time player for us," said Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock, following training camp. "(Sim) has just come out and earned his spot."

Sim started the season off by grabbing seven goals in the team's first 20 games.

By mid-December, Sim began to see his ice-time dwindle to single digits.

After playing in 31 of the team's first 32 games (averaging 12.22 minutes), Sim became a healthy scratch in seven of the Flyers' next 13 games.

And when he did play, he spent just 7.62 minutes on the ice, surrendering ice time to players like rookie Ben Eager.

Even with the departure of former sullen teammate Patrick Sharp (who was dispatched to the Chicago Blackhawks), Sim struggled to get out of Hitchcock's doghouse.

Both Therien and Sim have logged unpleasant time in Hitch's "sin-bin", the former with the Flyers during the 2003-04 season and Sim while a member of the Dallas Stars organization.

Hitchcock appeared to make reference to both players last week when asked about roster spots once his injured players returned.

"Those are the decisions that, when you don't have to make them or when you make them because people are playing poorly it's easy," said Hitchcock. "The hard decisions are if we continue to play well, then it's going to be a tough thing to do, because you don't want to screw around with what's working."

Therien is a minus-4 and is prone to making bad plays in his own end.

Sim, who may or may not be a victim of his own mind games, knows one thing for sure.

He's not one of Hitchcock's go-to guys.

"I know a guy like Simmer, he could do the same job as two or three other guys, but it's working right now," said Hitchcock. "I don't want to change it if it's working."

Hitchcock is referring to the reckless abandon that Eager plays with. A more physical player than Sim, Eager is less of a pest and a scoring threat for opposing players.

Money is also a factor in the equation which may ultimately secure Sim's roster spot, at least in the short term.

"It's hard for players to understand this, but you're a team of 22 or 23 guys, you're not a team of 20," said Hitchcock.

"It's a difficult challenge for players to have to keep a brave face on, but the way I look at it is it might be somebody else a week later and they've got to do the same thing."


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