It’s becoming an ugly trend for the Flyers. Week after week, they fail to establish momentum, instead opting to tread water at the .500-mark in the win-loss column. The past four games have provided no relief. After a stellar win in Pittsburgh, the team followed it up with a completely deflated effort against the Panthers. They seemed to rebound with a come-from-behind victory over the Jets, but any thoughts of a winning streak quickly vanished as they failed to deliver against the Maple Leafs.
This time, Paul Holmgren had seen enough. His (first?) response was swift, yesterday sending a conditional draft pick to L.A. for Simon Gagne, the silky-smooth French-Canadian we all know and love. Now that the shock and joy of having #12 paired with the Gagne nameplate again has slightly subsided, does this move really help the Flyers? In the short-term and the long-term sense, it’s hard to argue against it.
At the low cost of conditional third or fourth round pick, the Flyers have added a true scorer with proven two-way ability. While he is obviously not the guy who once compiled back-to-back 40-goal seasons playing gunner for Peter Forsberg, he has the touch to contribute on the offense while still adding to the defensive presence of their forward core. In the off chance he regains some of his old school offensive momentum, that’s just an added bonus.
One of the Flyers biggest issues in their own zone has been the winger’s tendency to end up below the circles, well out of the reach of the defender they should be keeping an eye on. With Gagne back, they have a guy who knows how to play responsibly in his own zone. Not only will he help right away, but he can convey his wisdom to many of the younger players on the team. Some of the kids – especially the Canadian ones – are sure to benefit.
Once Matt Read comes back, having Gagne in the fold gives the Flyers even more options on the offensive side of the puck. Suddenly, the team has a mass of mid-level forwards ready and waiting to go. The secondary scoring on the team is once again strong, and Peter Laviolette is sure to use it to his advantage.
Let’s be clear: Gagne is not going to be the reason this team necessarily turns this season around. However, if he still has as much ‘tread on the tires’ as some may say, he should be a solid addition to the team.
In addition to his contributions now, he could potentially be in the plans down the line. Once this season is over, the Flyers will continue to hold his rights. Assuming all goes well, the team would have first crack at re-signing the winger, an idea that could surely appeal to both sides now that his career has come full circle. If not, they can once again part ways.
For now, Gagne and the Flyers need to focus on the present and the climbing that lies ahead. First, they host a suddenly red-hot Washington on ‘Wednesday Night Rivalry’ before getting a chance to rest for a few days. From there, it’s a matinee affair with the Senators on Saturday before heading to Madison Square Garden for a date with the Rangers on Tuesday. The quality of opposition has become moot; nearly halfway through the season, almost every game has become a must-win.
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