19 July 2010

Going, Going, Gagne: Playoff Hero Shipped to Tampa Bay

Gagne celebrating his OT-winner against Boston last May. Photo: Matt Slocum, AP

It all happened so fast.
After more than two weeks of deliberation, Ilya Kovalchuk finally re-signed with the New Jersey Devils this morning via the team’s official Twitter.
Cue anticipated domino effect.
Within hours, sources were reporting that Flyers GM Paul Holmgren had traded Simon Gagne to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Shortly after the rumor was confirmed, the exact terms of the deal were revealed as well:
The Flyers needed to clear cap space, but this felt very rushed. There’s no question that half of the NHL was interested in Gagne’s services, so why not wait for a better offer?
Bringing back a top-six forward would nullify the cap relief created by trading Gagne; that’s not what I’m suggesting the Flyers should have done. I’m simply talking about acquiring prospects or a veteran winger for the 3rd line.
Several Flyers analysts, including CSN Philly’s Sarah Baicker, believe that Walker might be sent to the Phantoms to avoid his cap hit this season. If that’s the case, then Gagne was essentially traded for a 4th rounder in the 2011 draft.
That plain hurts.
Gagne’s numbers and leadership command much, much more than a measly late-round pick. The guy is a forty-goal scorer when healthy, as well as an incredibly responsible two-way forward.
Oh, and don’t forget clutch. Five regular season overtime game-winning goals and two overtime winners in the postseason.
Forget the numbers for a minute and consider this: Gagne has the natural ability and pure skill that most players work their entire careers to try to emulate.
I’m talking about the kind of hockey smarts you can’t teach in books or hockey camp or even games and practice.
Gagne’s vision, anticipation, and understanding of the game is enough to make Peter Forsberg choke on his Swedish meatballs.
He’s just that good.
On a more personal note, I grew up watching him play. Gagne was as much a part of my childhood as lincoln logs and Disney movies.
My first Flyers jersey was an orange CCM Gagne replica.
I remember post-game interviews before he knew a word of English.
My dad took me to Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004 when Gagne scored in overtime against Tampa Bay to send the series of seven.
I’m already dreading seeing Simon in a Bolts jersey, but still wish him nothing but the best for the remainder of his career.
Who knows, maybe he’ll retire a Flyer. One can only hope.
Here’s my top five Simon Gagne moments of the last few years:
5. Scuffle With Anton Volchenkov, 3/23/2010:

4. Coatesy's Corner - French Connection, 4/9/2009:

3. Game Four OT Winner Against Boston, 5/7/2010:

2. Game Six OT Winner Against Tampa Bay, 5/20/2004:

1. Game Seven GWG Against Boston, Capping Greatest Comeback in Flyers History, 5/14/2010:

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