19 July 2010
Today was a watershed moment for the future of the Flyers franchise. Today, the Philadelphia Flyers traded away their longest tenured star. A kid they drafted and kept for ten full hockey years, which in this day and age is something to be amazed at. A billable star who filled seats, sold merch and seemed like the nicest dude this side of the Schuylkill. Simon Gagne is now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning and his time as a Flyer is over.
What we got for him will be debated for months, if not years. The Lightning sent a #6-7 defenceman in Matt Walker and a 4th round pick to Philly in exchange for our 4th leading scorer last year. What we got was depth and we they took was our hearts. Simon Gagne was the left ventricle of the Philadelphia hockey heart. He was a vital piece of the Flyers for so long, his time here was spent with the likes of Rick Tocchet, Keith Primeau, Jeremy Roenick, Marc Recchi, Johnny Vermont, The Big E, The Roman Checkmanek debacle, Foppa,...all the way up to JVR, there was Gagne. Reliable, sometimes breakable, but always clutch. You saw more #12's in the rink than most other sweaters, and rightfully so. Gagne was always approachable with the fans, and never took them for granted. He was a perculiar in Philly because the oft-injured winger was still loved, even after a string of bad injuries caused him to miss big chunks of seasons. The same fate would not be for the likes of Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell or Jeff Carter. We'd have hatred for them that would fester and grow in the basement of our sports soul. We'd begin to despise them, curse them, imagine up trades for them, because they weren't performing. But that was not the case with Simon. The kid who lasted through the last 3 Flyers transistional periods (Post Lindros, Early 2000 Primeau years, Post Lockout limbo) seemed to be untouchable. But today reminded us all that professional hockey, and the Flyers specifically, are a business, and hard decisions have to be made.
In Tampa Bay, Gagne has a chance to play with a solid mixture of young talent and elite players that should help him put up some very good numbers. They still have no defence, but the Lightning got a lot better today. They added a great two way forward who can pick up any system and score from anywhere. If the Lightning go on to hoist a Cup before the Flyers do, and Simon Gagne gets to hoist Lord Stanley, I'll stand up and cheer. Also, this goes out to you, Ryan Malone. (I know you read this site you scallywag, I see your sexy emails all day, frankly, they are creeping out our interns) Give up the cot dam number 12 to Gags or so help me, I'll take Steve Downie's medication and lock him in a room with you.
I think the biggest question that this move brings up is this: who becomes Gagne? Who on this current Flyers roster has it in them to be so selfless, and make his teammates better. Who will rise up to contribute offensivly, be very active in the community, work hard, score timely goals and grow epic playoff beards? Our Gags hasn't even left the city and we already crave for someone to fill the giant hole he's leaving. Today we saw Claude Giroux and JVR's stock soar way up. In the same way that last year Homer gambled that Hartnell and Briere could replace Knuble and Lupul's contribution, Holmgren is banking on Zerdev and Reemer to fil the void left by Gagne. That gamble could be the biggest lynchpin to the Flyers success this season, and its not even August.
Its a strange day indeed Flyers fans. We've been dying for hockey news in the doldrums of summer, and unfortunately, we got a doozy of a story today. A move had to be made, and as Ryan pointed out, the value of Gagne was dropping every day. When Kovalchuk finially made up his mind, the free agency period seemd to break out of its frozen state. When the camp starts this fall, for the first time since 1999, there won't be a #12 lacing them up, slotted on the first line's wing. The Simon Gagne era is over Flyers fans. It's time to celebrate the memories, not lash out in disbelief. This day was going to come either this summer or the next, I just think that none of us were ready for it. Simon Gagne will always be a Flyer, and although he didn't win a cup, his skill, competitivness, personality and determination made him a champion.
Let's Go Flyers.
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