While Philly fans had to be happy on some level when they
heard Simon Gagne was coming home, the move did raise a few questions – not to
mention eyebrows. The Flyers are fighting for their playoff lives, and general manager
Paul Holmgren’s cure was to trade for a 33 year old who hasn’t played a full
season at a high level since 2008-’09?
That of course would be reading too much into the deal.
Gagne isn’t the answer to all of the Flyers’ problems, but he could be a viable
solution to one: the club’s increasingly-challenged depth at left wing.
Shortly after the trade with Los Angeles was announced, the
Flyers revealed Tye McGinn would miss two weeks with an orbital bone fracture, a
result of his fight with Toronto’s Mike Brown on Monday night. Check it out:
McGinn joins Matt Read, Tom Sestitio, and Jody Shelley on
the list of injured forwards. Read surprisingly skated on Wednesday, but is
expected to be out another five weeks with torn rib cage muscles. Sestito’s
timetable is six-to-eight weeks with a groin injury, while Shelley is on
injured reserve recovering from hip surgery.
All of which has left the Flyers thin at wing. That doesn’t
even include the prior absences of Scott Hartnell, Wayne Simmonds, or Zac
Rinaldo for varying lengths of time, nor does it account for the relative lack
of production from Ruslan Fedotenko or Mike Knuble up to this point.
As for whether Gagne can fill the void in ways that
Fedotenko and Knuble haven’t, or if he’s just another old timer temping for the
cash-strapped Flyers, that remains to be seen. On Wednesday, Tim Panaccio provided
some additional insight on Homer’s line of thinking, as well as that of the
"Simon is a guy who has a lot
of experience and played in a lot of positions -- penalty kill, power play and
regular shifts,” Holmgren said on a conference call. “He is a good two-way
player that can skate. We think he will add to us a lot.”
Gagne had fallen in disfavor with coach Darryl Sutter because he didn’t finish
his scoring chances and he is not a grinder who can play on a fourth line.
Gagne admitted he felt confused as to just what his role was.
So while Gagne’s best days are almost certainly behind him, the
belief is he could still be effective if utilized properly. Gagne’s zero goals
and five assists in 11 games were apparently a consequence of playing on the
Kings’ fourth line, and he was a healthy scratch in his final days with the
In the end, the Flyers spent a third-round pick at most to
bolster their depth, and in the process acquired a player who might stand to
benefit from familiar surroundings, plus another veteran presence inside the locker
room. And as several observers have noted, the addition of Gagne could give
Holmgren greater flexibility to make a bigger move down the road.
Ultimately how significant the trade is will depend on
Gagne’s own availability. He hasn’t played more than 63 games in a season since
08-09, so his health will be something to monitor. As long as Gagne can stay on
the ice though, there is reason to believe he can help in some capacity.
As for Gagne’s first game in Orange & Black, the Flyers
are back on NBC Sports’ Rivalry Night for the second week in a row, this time
drawing Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Washington has come on of late, winning back-to-back
games to jump out of sole possession of last place in the Eastern Conference,
and they can scramble out from the bottom of the pile with just one point tonight.
For what it’s worth, the Flyers and Caps are only separated
by six points – with Philadelphia playing three more games already – so they’re
really in no position to overlook any opponent. Puck drops at 7:30 for Rivalry
photo courtesy the Flyers
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