Charlie Simmer – the sniper the Seals threw away

Charlie Simmer RC - 1979-80 OPC

Charlie Simmer’s RC still lists him as a centre. He’d given that up by this point.

The Seals fascinate me.

I do suspect that never having had to sit and watch them play is a part of this.  There are plenty of incompetent teams out there that I don’t find nearly as fascinating, particularly when it’s one of the ones I cheer for, but there’s something about the Seals that’s lovable despite incessant failure.  They could shoot themselves in the feet with unerring accuracy.

This is a case in point.  The Seals were an offensively-starved club, desperate for elite talent.  They’d traded away the pick that became Guy Lafleur.  They’d traded away Reggie Leach for Al MacAdam and a bunch of stuff.  (To be fair, Al was pretty good, but Reggie was better.) They needed help from anybody.

Yet somehow they managed to first bury and then later abandon Charlie Simmer, one of the best goal-scoring wingers of the early 1980s.

Charlie Simmer was ranked 8th in his draft year, but fell all the way to the Seals at #39 in the third round of the 1974 draft (one pick after Bob Bourne, who was traded away from the Scouts before ever playing a game for them – trend?).  I can only guess that despite his obvious offensive gifts, his skating was the reason for it.  Hockey history is riddled with players who could score in buckets at lower levels but their skating is just not good enough for the NHL.  (That same thinking would allow Mike Bossy to fall all the way to #15 a few years later.)

What amazes me with Charlie Simmer is that once it became apparent that his skating was indeed too limited for him to be a successful NHL centre, it appears that absolutely nobody in the Seals (later Barons) organization ever wondered whether the big guy with the hands could make a go of it on the wing.

Of course, it took the Kings a year and a half to figure it out themselves, but the rest was history.  Many will credit Simmer’s offensive explosion to Marcel Dionne, but you don’t do what Simmer did without a great helping of natural ability.

Charlie actually had a pretty good showing as a rookie, with 8 goals and 13 assists in 35 games, but his second season was marred by a knee injury and irregular usage by the Seals.  He was up and down from the farm and didn’t play much unless there were injuries.  He put up solid minor-league totals but managed just 3 goals and an assist through 45 games over the next two seasons.  To save money in 1977, the Barons (the Seals had since relocated to Cleveland) cut loose their minor leaguers.  He was signed by the Kings and assigned to their AHL club.

In the middle of 1978-79, Charlie, having yet another solid if not spectacular minor-league campaign, got his second NHL chance with the Kings (he’d been scoreless in 3 games in 1977-78).  The difference this time was that instead of playing centre, where he’d struggled, he lined up on the left wing.  The great Marcel Dionne played centre and another longshot – a 15th-round pick named Dave Taylor – played on the right.

The result was the Triple Crown Line, arguably the best line in hockey for the next three seasons.  Charlie, with just 9 goals and 25 points in his entire career to that point, put up 21 and 48 in half a season.  He’d follow this up with back-to-back 56-goal seasons despite never playing more than 65 games.  After scoring just 25 points in his first 83 games, he scored 254 in his next 167.

The balance of his career was defined by injuries, a contract dispute that led to a trade to Boston, and more injuries.  He never again reached the heights of the early seasons of the Triple Crown Line, but he remained a point-per-game threat into his early 30s.

Even more than Ray Sheppard (who , Charlie Simmer has to be regarded as one of the great scrap-heap pickups of all time.

And if Oakland had figured it out, they might still be there.

Charlie Simmer RC - 1979-80 OPC

The caption was wrong – Charlie was significantly more adept at Left Wing.

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3 Responses to Charlie Simmer – the sniper the Seals threw away

  1. shanediaz82 says:

    Awesome post! I just picked up a new Simmer card in recent weeks so this was a great read that appealed to me personally.

  2. Seals are a classic example of how not to run an expansion franchise. I just finished a write-up on the Lafleur trade which I will post on my blog later this week. What a debacle.

  3. Dave h says:

    Amazing post as always.

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