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Analysis: Injuries spark Flyers' trade for Gagne

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Analysis: Injuries spark Flyers' trade for Gagne

On the surface, it didn’t make much sense: Simon Gagne to the Flyers for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft (see story).
 
How would another ex-Flyer -- who turns 33 this Friday, doesn’t have a goal in 11 games and has been benched in Los Angeles -- help get the Flyers’ offense going?
 
After all, this isn’t the same Gagne whose last most-productive season as a Flyer was 2008-09, when he scored 34 goals on Mike Richards’ line with Mike Knuble.
 
The deal didn’t make sense.
 
Not when there were rumors out there about the Flyers' interest in forward/defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, a guy who could have an impact in two parts of the lineup.
 
And then general manager Paul Holmgren finally shed some light Tuesday night when he revealed that Tye McGinn had suffered an orbital bone fracture during his fight with Toronto’s Mike Brown on Monday. McGinn will likely need surgery, a source said.
 
Now the trade makes sense.
 
“Obviously, with the injury bug and Matt Read being out [six weeks with rib cage injury], and now we lost Tye McGinn last night for a few weeks, we have some holes," Holmgren said on a conference call.   

"Simon is a guy who has a lot of experience and played in a lot of positions -- penalty kill, power play and regular shifts. 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.
 
Kings GM Dean Lombardi called the Flyers prior to McGinn’s injury -- in the midst of Gagne getting benched for five games -- to gauge interest in moving him here.

“He wasn't fitting in, so to speak,” Lombardi said. “We were able to put him in a place where he would be happy. He was very pleased with it.”
 
It wasn’t until the McGinn injury, on top of Read’s, that Holmgren bit on the deal, which required a bit of a cap maneuvering (see story).
 
“I talked to Dean a few days ago,” Holmgren said. “He said he might be in a position to move him and asked if we would have any interest. I said we might and then when the injury bug hit us in the last few games, it was a good opportunity [for someone] who can play higher up our lineup and add to our team.”
 
Gagne seemed taken aback with the whirlwind of activity, including the sale of his South Jersey house that was previously rented to coach Peter Laviolette.
 
Gagne is slated to take a red eye back to Philly tonight to play Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.
 
“It’s going to be maybe a tough one tomorrow night. I think they want me to be in the lineup,” he said. “First of all, I’m excited to be back and play in front of the fans in Philly tomorrow night.
 
“Right now, the plan for me was there is no flight left for this afternoon, so I have to take the red eye and fly all night. So it’s going to be a special game tomorrow, but I’ll try to take all that emotion and try to bring that energy to the game.”
 
Three seasons ago, Gagne had 17 goals for Tampa. All he has now are five assists. The Flyers need more scoring. There is no guarantee how many goals are left in his stick even though he is physically fine (concussion free) and his neck issues have been surgically repaired.
 
He has always kept himself in shape, too.
 
Gagne was very close to Danny Briere and Claude Giroux. He has a Stanley Cup ring now. Perhaps he can help relax a young player like Sean Couturier, who seems to be going through the “sophomore jinx” this season.
 
Then again, Gagne himself needs to get going.
 
“It’s not an easy situation,” Gagne said. “As a hockey player not playing a lot last year and not playing at the end in the [Stanley Cup Final] and having the long lockout, not playing for almost six months before we started the season.
 
“But I have to say, I felt really good -- the games that I played this year, I felt really good on the ice. My leg was feeling good, the skill was coming back, but it’s hard when you start to feel your game coming back and you’re not playing the next five games, and after that you have to go back into the lineup.
 
“[For] any player it’s going to be hard to ask someone to go back in the lineup after not playing for five games. It’s almost like a week not playing. It’s hard. But like I said, the games I played here this year I was feeling really good. I think it’s just a matter of playing a little more hockey and all that stuff will come back.”
 
The thing is the Flyers are running out of time. They need points. They are a bubble team that right now doesn’t appear headed to the playoffs.
 
Gagne, a true class act and one of the most professional of athletes ever to play in Philadelphia, returns with a certain amount of pressure on him -- to help get this team into postseason.
 
“He seems excited to be coming back and looks forward to an opportunity to play and help us,” Holmgren said.

Gritty the Maple Leafs' mascot? This parody account has gone too far

Gritty the Maple Leafs' mascot? This parody account has gone too far

How does one even begin to explain how they're feeling after *this*? 

It seemed like another business as usual day in the good ole’ NHL bubble on Tuesday. Six games between Edmonton and Toronto seemed like the perfect recipe for a grand time … right? 

Well, moments following the Leafs win against the Blue Jackets, something came across my Twitter feed that shook me to my core. I sat in disbelief, unsure what to make of this cursed image in front of me. 

It was a blue Gritty — on an account called @/LeafsGrittyNHL. 

I’m sorry … what? 

As President of the Gritty Committee, this is an outrage. Everyone knows the mascot belongs to the Flyers and while this is clearly a joke — some jokes just aren’t funny. 

Seriously, take a look … it just feels wrong. 

This mystery account even tweaked Gritty’s precious billboard he made for the Flyers in the bubble. 

If the Leafs want a blue mascot so badly, go get Cookie Monster. Gritty is taken. And I’m sure Carlton the Bear — the Leafs’ actual mascot — won’t be too happy about this either. 

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The Flyers were never on a hot streak — they're just that good

The Flyers were never on a hot streak — they're just that good

Four and a half months without playing hockey is quite a significant stretch of time. 

Even though that could be the length of a typical offseason, players still have the ability to train and stay as ready as possible for the following year. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, many were not able to even skate for the majority of the pause following the announcement of the NHL's hiatus to keep up with social distancing guidelines. 

This raised a lot of concern for when play would ultimately resume — conditioning, chemistry and the ability to pick up right where things left off

Just a few weeks into the pause, it was clear those were concerns for players as well. 

“I think our team had come together in a great way and we were really playing for one another and everyone was buying into the system that A.V. put together,” Kevin Hayes said in early April. “And now there’s a possibility that we’ll never see the outcome of that … I assume that we’re going to be this good all the time, but who knows if we’re going to have this feeling again.” 

Looking back to right before the pause, the Flyers were the talk of the NHL. They won nine out of their last 10 regular-season games, had the duo of Carter Hart and Brian Elliott making them a threat at home and on the road and it was clear that the team’s chemistry was unmatched. 

Luckily, Hayes and the Flyers will be able to see the outcome of the work they put in, but would they be that good again? Would that feeling of being on top return once play resumed? 

If you watched the Flyers’ exhibition against the Penguins or their first round-robin game against the Bruins and wondered how the team stayed hot during all that time — you must not have been paying attention. 

Since the calendar year turned, this team was more than a feeling, it was more than a hot streak — it was the hottest team in the NHL. 

And yes, there is a big difference. 

There’s a reason the Flyers are one of the top teams in the East, there’s a reason they were able to pick up right where they left off after the hiatus. It’s time to start acknowledging the Flyers for what they are — and that’s a legitimate contender — now more than ever.

Before anyone truly knew how long the wait before playoff hockey would be tangible, if at all in 2020, the Flyers looked like a well-oiled machine. 

Through the span of the last 25 games of the season, the Flyers never lost consecutively. They evaluated poor outings and came out swinging the next night. One of the best examples falls back to Feb. 6-8 when the Flyers were set to play the Devils and then Capitals. 

The Devils finished their season 28-29-12 for a grand total of 68 points. They had more games played (69) than points themselves. This should have been an easy win for the Flyers, but instead, they were shut out, 5-0, on home ice. It was probably one of the ugliest losses of the season — and the players knew it. 

After an embarrassing loss to the worst team in the Metropolitan Division, it was time to face the first-place Capitals. It was an opportunity to right the ship and make a statement that the previous game was not the identity of this team. And boy, it looked like they were on a mission. 

Not only did they take down Washington in its home barn, but steamrolled over it. The Flyers pulled out a 7-2 victory, Claude Giroux earned his 800th career point and they were able to silence Mr. Great Eight himself, Alex Ovechkin, while he was on the hunt for his 700th career goal. 

The Flyers endured absurd travel at the start of the season, the always brutal midseason West Coast road tip and injuries popping up at the most difficult of times — and all while competing in the tightest division in the league? That’s no small feat. 

Because of their hard work throughout the season, Travis Konecny earned his first All-Star appearance, Alain Vigneault is a Jack Adams finalist and Sean Couturier a Selke finalist. Giroux earned quite the career milestone in points, along with Jakub Voracek, who earned his 200th career goal. Hart boasted an impressive home record of 20-3-2 and won nine of 11 starts following the All-Star break. Ivan Provorov ranked eighth overall in defenseman with average time on ice with 24:51 and played his 300th career game in just four seasons. They overcame the news in December when it was announced their teammate and friend Oskar Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma. It has been a season like no other. 

It’s not a fluke. The Flyers aren’t hot — they are on fire.

With the additions made in the offseason of Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, Tyler Pitlick and others, the Flyers went from a roster with a few strong players to one of the most complete teams this franchise has seen in the past decade. Rookies Joel Farabee and Nicolas Aube-Kubel found their home with the big club in no time and only solidified things further. 

Whether it’s the top line or the fourth line, you never know who’s going to step up and take control of that game. It’s great for the Flyers and absolutely terrifying for any opposing teams. 

So, instead of looking at the opposing team and wondering what they did wrong — why not look at the Flyers and see what they’ve done right?

If you’ve paid attention from the start of the season, this should be no surprise. 

The rest of the NHL better look out — this team isn’t going anywhere but up for the foreseeable future. 

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