Last night marked the return of Simon Gagne to Philadelphia. Gagne was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Well, Gagne finally won that elusive ring last season with a few other Flyers of the past. As a huge Flyers fan, and an even bigger admirer of the NHL, I could never be jealous that Gagne won a cup wearing another teams jersey. Look, the ultimate goal of any player Is to win a Cup, and lets face it, Gagne had never tasted it in his plus ten years with the Flyers.
Ok…flash forward to last night at the Wells Fargo Center. As Gagne took the ice, I cannot remember a louder ovation for a returning player in an extremely long time. Simon was always a fan favorite and was drafted by the Flyers. He had many great seasons with this team. Some of his most notable goals were the Game 4 Overtime winner against Boston in the 2010 SemiFinals that saw the Flyers down 3-0 to the Bruins. He also scored the game winner in Game 7 of that same series. The last goal that Gagne would score as a Flyer was in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, the closet he would ever come to tasting Cup Glory as a Flyer. The Flyers eventually lost that game in overtime as a seeing eye dribbler went past Michael Leighton and ended the Flyers chase for Glory.
Well, the Blackhawks are perfect his season so far…sitting a top the NHL in almost every statistical category that is measured. Last Seasons Champion, the Los Angeles Kings have also been on a role after an early struggle. However, Gagne had not scored a goal and was a healthy scratch for six straight games. When the trade was announced on Tuesday, I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised. Caught off guard, yes, but not surprised. The Flyers have been known to bring stars back into the fold after trading them away. Mark Recchi three times, John LeClair, Ron Hextall, Mike Knuble most recently and the list could go on for days. The point I am trying to make is that the Flyers have actually made a wise choice at a wise time.
Simon was struggling on the Kings this season…to the point that he was benched. However, he still has better than average speed and a knack for putting the puck in the net. Gagne also should be able to help both sides of the Flyers special teams with their horrible penalty kill and their average power play. Gagne’s presence on the ice paid off immediately in his first game back last night as he scored a power play goal, his first goal of the season. Now Gagne not only brings veteran leadership back to this team, he also brings playoff experience and a ring. Never discount the importance of that fact. Look at the Rangers in 1994 when Mark Messier brought the Rangers a Cup. It happens all of the time. Now the Flyers should make a few more trades for veterans to mix with the star youth of this team. They should not be ready to give up on the season yet…anything can happen if they just make the playoffs.
The trade rumors for Daniel Briere are just that…rumors. First of all, Briere has a no trade clause. Secondly, even though he is struggling right now, he may be one of the best active performers in the playoffs right now. Thirdly, I think trading Briere would send a bad message to the team that they are basically not going anywhere this season. Instead of trading Briere, how about trading Courtier or another young player for a veteran that can put the puck in the net. Look at the trade block, there are many big names available that could help the Flyers get back on track. It’s great to have Gagne back on this team and I believe he Will give this team a tremendous lift. Stay tuned for more moves. Paul Holmgren never sits back.