The Flyers’ ‘Deuces Wild’ Line
There have been a few famous lines that are recognized during the Philadelphia Flyers’ existence. The Legion of Doom, LCB, and Crazy Eights Line are just a few of the more well-known trios who provided fond memories for fans over the years.
A line that does not get as much attention is the Deuces Wild Line, which consisted of left winger Simon Gagne, center Peter Forsberg, and right wing Mike Knuble. They are not brought up as much as the line was only together for a short period of time, but the talent those three men had, along with their chemistry, made them a spectacle to watch.
Gagne was the only player on the Deuces Wild Line who started his career in the Orange and Black. He was selected by the Flyers as a first-round pick in the 1998 NHL Draft and played his first games in the NHL during the 1999-00 season. He fit in well with whoever he played with, being able to adapt to whatever other talents he was put with. He became a dangerous scorer for them more and more each season.
Mike Knuble joined Philadelphia after spending parts of his hockey journey with a few other organizations. Originally drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in 1991, he did a tour playing for Original Six franchises. He played parts of two campaigns with the Red Wings (both years that the Red Wings won the Cup in 1997 and 1998, although Knuble is officially a part of the 1997-98 Stanley Cup champion team), played a couple of seasons with the New York Rangers, before spending most of his pre-Flyer days with the Boston Bruins.
His time with the B’s was when Knuble started taking off production-wise. He had a powerful group of teammates around him over the course of time he was there, including the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrice Bergeron, Brian Leetch, and Glen Murray, among others. His numbers during his time there are below:
- 1996-97 (Detroit): one goal in nine games
- 1997-98 (Detroit): seven goals and six assists for 13 points in 53 games
- 1998-99 (NY Rangers): 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points in 82 games
- 1999-00 (Rangers): nine goals and five assists for 14 points in 59 games
- 2000-01 (Boston): three goals and three assists for six points in 14 games
- 2001-02 (Boston): Eight goals and six assists for 14 points in 54 games
- 2002-03 (Boston): 30 goals and 29 assists for 59 points in 75 games
- 2003-04 (Boston): 21 goals and 25 assists for 46 points in 82 games
Knuble entered free agency in the summer of 2004. He inked a three-year deal with the Flyers, but would have to wait to make his anticipated debut until the 2005-06 campaign because of the 2004-05 lockout.
Peter Forsberg was a top figure in the game of hockey before making his way to the City of Brotherly Love. While he was drafted by the Flyers, he was traded in the blockbuster deal that landed Eric Lindros to Philadelphia.
He played for the Quebec Nordiques, who then moved to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche. Forsberg found quite a bit of success during his time there. He was a big factor in the club winning two Stanley Cups (1996 and 2001), playing alongside guys like Joe Sakic, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Milan Hejduk, Stephane Yelle, and Adam Foote among others. He posted the following during his days in Colorado:
- 1995-96: 30 goals and 86 assists for 116 points in 82 games
- 1996-97: 28 goals and 58 assists for 86 points in 65 games
- 1997-98: 25 goals and 66 assists for 91 points in 72 games
- 1998-99: 30 goals and 67 assists for 97 points in 78 games
- 1999-00: 14 goals and 37 assists for 51 points in 49 games
- 2000-01: 27 goals and 62 assists for 89 points in 73 games
- 2002-03: 29 goals and 77 assists for 106 points in 75 games
- 2003-04: 18 goals and 37 assists for 55 points in 39 games
With all of the talent the Avalanche had, tough decisions were made. Forsberg did not return to Colorado, opting to sign a contract with the Flyers after the 2004-05 lockout. The official deal was for two years and $11.5 million.
The Flyers decided to put Gagne, Knuble, and Forsberg together and see what the results would be. Together the trio were referred to as the Deuces Wild line. The name references the concept that the digit two was involved in each player’s number (Gagne was 12, Forsberg was 21, and Knuble was 22). The Flyers even had a Deuces Wild necktie event promoting the nickname of the line.
Time in Philly
The trio was a solid threat in the time they were together. Overall, Gagne tallied 47 goals (career high) and 32 assists for 79 points in 72 contests for the 2005-06 season. Knuble fit in perfectly for his first season in the Orange and Black, accruing 34 goals (career high) and 31 assists (also career high) for 65 total points. Forsberg, when healthy, put up solid totals himself. The 2014 Hockey Hall of Famer posted 19 goals and 56 assists for 75 points in 60 games during 2005-06.
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The problem, though, was the fact that he did not stay healthy. Injuries affected his time while he was in Philadelphia, all stemming from a congenital foot issue that he needed to get taken care of. It took a toll on the production he could’ve had if he had stayed healthy.
The Deuces Wild Line were all on the Flyers heading into the 2006-07 campaign. Forsberg, in fact, was named captain of the squad as well. All three guys continued to be critical players for the team’s offense.
Forsberg suited up for 40 games, notching 11 goals and 29 assists for 40 points. Knuble had 24 goals and 30 assists for 54 points in 64 games. Gagne was the most dominant of the trio, following up his production in 2005-06 with another season of 40+ goals (41 this time as opposed to 47 the season prior) and 27 assists for 68 points. In total, all three guys combined for 162 points (76 goals and 86 assists) during that season.
Despite all three players putting up production, the results were not there for the club as a whole throughout the year. Head coach Ken Hitchcock was let go in October 2006 and replaced with John Stevens, and Bobby Clarke was out as general manager and replaced by former player Paul Holmgren.
Soon enough, as quick as the Deuces Wild Line formed, it was divided up and over.
Forsberg was dealt to the Nashville Predators in early 2007, shipping him to the Music City for winger Scottie Upshall, defenseman Ryan Parent, a first-round pick, and a third-round pick (both in 2007). Knuble spent two more campaigns with the Flyers, before leaving and signing with the Washington Capitals as a free agent in the 2009 offseason. Gagne stayed with the City of Brotherly Love until after the 2010 postseason. After that, general manager Holmgren sent him to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for defenseman Matt Walker and a 2011 fourth-round pick.
Gagne and Knuble had second stints with the Flyers, both returning to Philadelphia during the 2012-13 season. Gagne was traded back to the Flyers from the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional 2013 fourth-round pick, while Knuble signed as a free agent back with the club. Gagne during his second run in the Orange and Black accumulated five goals and six assists for 11 points in 27 games, while Knuble totalled four goals and four assists for eight points in 28 games.
An Underrated Line in Flyers History
Three individuals who brought a lot of skill in their own rights came together and formed a stellar line with solid chemistry. They also brought championship experience to the locker room (in the case of Forsberg and Knuble). All three men elevated each others’ games and made quite the statements while they skated on the ice together. Fans can only wonder what could have happened had the trio stayed around at least a little while longer, but what they were able to accomplish can still be admired to this day.
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