Were you entertained Philadelphia? When you evaluate the highs of Simon Gagne's career, the rookie season, the game 6 goal against Tampa Bay, the 40 goal seasons, the successful return from concussion, the Boston comeback: did this great hockey player entertain you? The answer, emphatically is yes.
When you look back at Simon Gagne, now, in five years, in ten years, in twenty years time, you will see a man who gave his heart and soul for a team. A flashy playmaker who turned himself, through pure hard work and committment, into one of the premier two-way forwards in the game. A two-way forward, who after a lockout that took away a year of his prime, proved himself to be one of the most dangerous snipers in the game. A man who has played with the Flyers for 11 years, who has been through the Lindroses and the Primeaus and the Richards of the Flyers and stood tall through all of them.
The tributes will be coming in from all corners, mine will be focussed on the memories. After the jump, join me to relive the ride.
1. 1998 - Simon Gagne is drafted by the Flyers
FLYERS OPT FOR SPEEDY CENTER WITH FIRST ENTRY-DRAFT PICK \ ALSO, PAUL COFFEY WAS SENT TO CHICAGO FOR A FIFTH-ROUND PICK IN THE NHL ENTRY DRAFT.
The Flyers invested in speed and creativity with their first-round choice in yesterday's NHL amateur entry draft at the Marine Midland Arena and freed nearly $2 million for the upcoming free-agent bidding by trading 37-year-old defenseman Paul Coffey to the Chicago Blackhawks for a fifth-round selection. On the same day that Simon Gagne, a bright-eyed 18-year-old center from Ste.-Foy, Quebec, spoke excitedly in a thick French accent about his hopes to help the heavy-legged Flyers.
It was the Vinny Lecavelier draft. The no. 1 pick went to Tampa Bay. The Flyers, trying to reload for another cup run, just went with the kid from Quebec at #22. Gagne ended up being one of four future all stars from that first round (the others were Lecavelier, Tanguary who went #12 and Gomez who went #30). Only Lecavelier would ever net more than 40 goals.
So who was this kid? He definitely always had potential, as highlighted by his junior stats the following season, where the Flyers were getting increasingly excited:
|1998–99||Quebec Remparts||QMJHL||GP 61||G 50||A 70||P 120||+51||PIM 42|
The QMJHL is pretty high scoring, but 2 points per game is always impressive. But what was also impressive was that the kid won the Paul Dumont Trophy as Personality of the Year, and that the Remparts went on to retire the #12. Gagne was only the second player to have his number retired by the Remparts, the other being Guy Lafleur. Not enough? How about 7 goals in 7 games at the World Juniors?
2. 1999-2000 - The rookie year
Philadelphia Inquirer - September 12, 1999 - D05 SPORTS
GAGNE IMPRESSES IN TRAINING CAMP
THE CENTER, 19, HAD THREE ASSISTS AND A GOAL IN YESTERDAY'S SCRIMMAGE. BUT IS HE READY FOR THE NHL?
Three days into Flyers training camp, all of Peterborough - at least those who watched at Peterborough Memorial Centre yesterday - got to see the real Simon Gagne. The one with the swift, jaguar-like moves. The one who carries the puck quickly and weaves up the ice. The one who sees the bigger picture, finds his open wingers, and comes up with three assists and a goal, as he did in yesterday's intrasquad scrimmage. This is the Gagne the Flyers want to judge...
Of course, we had to sign him to a contract:
Philadelphia Inquirer - August 18, 1999 - E03 SPORTS
TALKS BETWEEN FLYERS, GAGNE TO HEAT UP
THE HOT-SCORING PROSPECT WAS THEIR FIRST-ROUND PICK IN 1998. THE SIGNING BONUS IS THE STICKING POINT.
Contract discussions between the Flyers and the agent for scoring phenom Simon Gagne - the club's first-round pick in 1998 - are expected to intensify today over Gagne's demand for a three-year deal and a substantial signing bonus, believed to be in excess of $1 million. Gagne, 19, dominated the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season with 50 goals and 70 assists for the Quebec Remparts. He will undoubtedly get the maximum allowed on a rookie contract...
And how little time it took for Gags to become an important part of the team, in December:
Philadelphia Inquirer - December 1, 1999 - E02 SPORTS
SHOULD HE GO OR STAY? GAGNE AND FLYERS WEIGH TOURNAMENT
SURE, THE WORLD JUNIORS EVENT IS PRESTIGIOUS. STILL, THE ROOKIE - ITS MVP LAST YEAR - IS NEEDED HERE.
Canada is expected to announce today which hockey players have been invited to play for its national team at this month's World Junior Tournament in Skelleftea and Umea, Sweden. But Simon Gagne, a rookie center for the Flyers, said yesterday that he didn't want an invitation. NHL clubs have been asked by the Canadians to send their 19-year-old juniors to the tournament that Gagne dominated last year in Winnipeg as an 18-year-old.
Of course, a rookie goes through some slumps, but Gags came out and contributed when it mattered:
TOM GULITTI, Staff Writer
The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
ROOKIE COMES THROUGH
EAST RUTHERFORD -- Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Ramsay never stopped believing in Simon Gagne.
His faith was rewarded in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night as the rookie left wing scored the clinching goal in a 4-2 win over the Devils. The victory gives the Flyers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Err...let's just stop with that playoff run for a second eh? I'll let this just say what happened:
Philadelphia Inquirer - June 22, 2000 - E03 SPORTS
TEAMS NOT CLAMORING TO TRADE FOR LINDROS, FLYERS' CLARKE SAYS
Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said yesterday that the team is actively trying to trade star center Eric Lindros. So far, however, there has been little interest from other teams, he said. "Hardly any interest," Clarke said in a conference call. "A couple of teams have called us and asked because of the problems we have had with Eric, and whether we are going to trade him or not."
Concluding the season, Gags ended up with 20 goals, 28 assists and 48 points from his 80 game rookie season
3. 2000-2001: Simon Gagne: The All Star
Gags then went from promising rookie to sophomore star. Put on the first line, happily converting to wing, Gags not only played in the All Star Game, he also put in the game winning goal for good measure.
Comment on SportsIllustrated: The Philadelphia Flyers will represent in the East because this year there are no distractions. Mark Recchi will have an MVP year and the young Simon Gagne will be great.
Bob Raio, Cedar Brook, N.J.
The season was inconsistent:
Miami Herald - October 25, 2000 - 8D Sports
GAGNE LEADS STRUGGLING FLYERS
Keith Primeau scored just 12 seconds in, and Simon Gagne had three assists as the Philadelphia Flyers snapped a seven-game winless streak with a 5-4 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. The Flyers, who were 0-5-2 after beating Vancouver on opening night, also got goals from Jody Hull, Daymond Langkow, Justin Williams and Peter White.
Philadelphia Inquirer - November 19, 2000 - C01 SPORTS
STREAKING FLYERS STOP CAPS WILLIAMS AND GAGNE EACH SCORE TWO GOALS
Suddenly, the youth movement on the Flyers is blooming, the wins are piling up, and as key players return from injury, a team that looked dreadful in October is playing some exciting hockey while challenging for the Atlantic Division lead. That was evident again last night at the First Union Center as 20-year-old Simon Gagne and 19-year-old Justin Williams each scored two goals to give the Flyers their fifth straight victory, a 5-3 win over the Washington Capitals. Gagne is sizzling...
GAGNE BEGINS THREE WEEKS OF REHABILITATION ON HIS SHOULDER THE WINGER HAD AN MRI YESTERDAY. THE FLYERS COULD NOT PREDICT HIS RETURN BUT SAID HE SHOULDN'T MISS THE REST OF THE SEASON.
Flyers left winger Simon Gagne will undergo three weeks of rehabilitation for his partially dislocated left shoulder and then be reevaluated, but he is not expected to miss the remainder of the season.That's the best that can be said after yesterday's MRI exam at Pennsylvania Hospital. An exact date for the return of the Flyers'sterling winger to the lineup is not known. "It's hard to predict
The injury broke apart what would have been his first 35 goal season. His stats remained impressive:
The season ended, however, with a first round loss to Buffalo.
4. 2001-2002: the first 30 goal season
The 21 year old Gagne had high expectations this season, and he played an instrumental part in the Flyers making their way to an Atlantic Division Title.
In the meantime, he became a gold medal winner with Canada in the olympics. At 21 years old.
DEFENCE: Rob Blake, Eric Brewer, Eric Desjardins, Adam Foote, Ed Jovonovski, Al MacInnis, Richard Matvichuk, Derek Morris, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Wade Redden, Scott Stevens.
FORWARDS: Simon Gagne, Paul Kariya, Brenden Morrow, Ryan Smyth, Alex Tanguay, Steve Yzerman, Jason Arnott, Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Joe Nieuwendyk, Michael Peca, Keith Primeau, Joe Sakic, Pierre Turgeon, Anson Carter, Theo Fleury, Owen Nolan.
The ideal four-pack up the middle might be Lemieux, Lindros, Sakic and Peca, so the other centres might start thinking about auditioning for winger spots now
Philadelphia Inquirer - December 1, 2001 - D07 SPORTS
Flyers'failure has been a team effort, With the exception of Simon Gagne, the play of the forwards has dragged the team backward.
Confidence is a fragile thing for an athlete and a team. Right now, the Flyers'confidence is as fragile as your grandmother's china. You can point to many of players who are struggling - Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi, Keith Primeau, Jiri Dopita, Jan Hlavac and John LeClair. "My game has been up and down,"LeClair said yesterday. "It has to be more consistent. I'd like to contribute more, not just scoring...
Simon Gagne finds the elite class. (Knight Ridder Newspapers)
PHILADELPHIA _ It was an optional practice.
Only two of the team's veterans were in the locker room. Forward Jody Hull was there with his little boy, along with defenseman Adam Burt, who wasn't getting much ice time in games.
In the corner of the old practice facility in Voorhees, N.J., rookie Simon Gagne was dressing like the building was on fire. It took the young French-Canadian less than 10 minutes to get his gear on and run out the door to the ice.
Seconds later he reappeared in the locker room. Still running, he grabbed his helmet from his locker. As he ran back toward the ice, jamming the helmet down on his head, he paused only to tell Hull apologetically that he had forgotten it.
Hull just grinned and shook his head. Rookie.
Eight days ago, there was another optional practice, this time in the Flyers' new practice rink. The Olympics were over. Canada had just won a gold medal for the first time in 50 years. Only a few veterans were around. It was a quiet Tuesday.
Then, from around the corner, came Gagne dragging an equipment bag and carrying a gold medal.
Despite this, they lost to the Ottawa Senators in the first round.
Philadelphia Inquirer - April 23, 2002 - F04 SPORTS
Gagne yearns to regain scoring touch
Perhaps the most baffling thing about the Flyers is how their top goal scorer, Simon Gagne, fizzled after the Olympic break. It didn't happen right away. Gagne, who led the team with 33 goals during the regular season, had 23 at the Feb. 12 break. After an outstanding Olympic tournament, in which he was a part of Team Canada's gold-medal effort, Gagne returned to the Flyers and scored six goals in four games. Then, like most of his teammates, Gagne hit a wall.
If you really want to remember that time:
Barber out as Flyers' coach ; 5th Philly boss fired since 1997
5. 2002-2003: Injury rains on the party
Gagne's career thus far had been nothing short of phenomenal. Things then began to get tough:
Flyers re-sign Gagne to lucrative new two-year contract
Posted: Wednesday September 11, 2002 6:27 PM
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Simon Gagne signed a two-year, $4.7 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, following a season in which he led the team in goals, won an Olympic gold medal and scored the winning goal in the All-Star Game.
"We think that Simon is one of the better young players in the game and certainly has a chance to be a terrific player," general manager Bob Clarke said.
Gagne, 22, emerged from the shadows of teammates John LeClair and Jeremy Roenick last season to have 33 goals and 33 assists in 79 games, including seven game-winners. He was second on the team in points and had the third-highest plus-minus rating in the NHL.
Philadelphia Inquirer - October 26, 2002 - D05 SPORTS
Gagne struggles to score as his line struggles to jell
There is little question that Simon Gagne hasn't had a blazing start for the Flyers. Not because the 22-year-old forward isn't working. His work ethic is among the best on the team. Rather, he is not finishing at the net. Gagne has had numerous chances for goals, yet all he has to show is a goal and three assists through seven games. Yet upon closer inspection, Gagne and linemates Keith Primeau and Justin Williams are still trying to develop some chemistry
Philadelphia Inquirer - December 11, 2002 - D01 SPORTS
Revived Gagne repels Panthers, The winger, who had scored only two goals so far, doubled his total in a surprisingly offensive win for the Flyers.
Maybe this was the start of a turnaround, for the Flyers in general and Simon Gagne in particular. The struggling winger matched his season output by scoring two goals last night at the Office Depot Center to help his equally hard-pressed teammates beat Mike Keenan's Florida Panthers, 5-2. The five goals are the most the Flyers have scored since Halloween, when they ripped the Phoenix Coyotes, 6-2.
Philadelphia Inquirer - February 27, 2003 - E07 SPORTS
Can Gagne play? He's not so sure
Even the Flyers'best-laid plans seem to go awry when it comes to players fighting through injuries. Coach Ken Hitchcock was bubbling with enthusiasm Tuesday morning in Chicago at the thought of left wing Simon Gagne reentering the lineup tonight against the Blackhawks as the teams close out a home-and-home series. Those hopes took a hit yesterday when Gagne said his chances of playing are no better than "50-50"
Reading Eagle - 22 Feb 2003
Flyers' Gagne nears return as trade rumors continue
Article: Flyers routed by Rangers; Gagne may be out for the season.
Article from: The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Article date: March 7, 2003
6. 2003-04: The Run That Should Never Have Ended
Roenick to coach: Lighten up
By Chuck Gormley, (Cherry Hill, N.J.) Courier-Post
Roenick said he views Gagne and Williams as his "kid brothers" and has tried to give them positive reinforcement, "because it's not going to come from anywhere else."
Williams, who had six goals in his first 22 games, has gone without a goal in his last 23 games. Gagne had eight goals in his first 22 games but just one in his last 23.
The Timing's Right, Flyers prevail in Game 1 Flyers wake up as playoffs start to edge Devils
What goalie problems? What do you mean, the penalty kill isn't working? If there is such a thing as turning on the switch once the playoffs begin and eradicating two weeks of miscues and mishaps, the Flyers are living proof. They defeated the New Jersey Devils, the defending Stanley Cup champions, 3-2, last night at the Wachovia Center in the opening game of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
This year really belongs to Keith Primeau for his playoff performance. But right in the thick of things was Simon Gagne, scoring in overtime in Game 6 to keep the Flyers alive:
Flyers top Leafs in opener; Ragnarsson, Amonte and Gagne able to put pucks past Belfour
From HFBoards' game thread of the day:
Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal!
Here's one for Primeau and Gagne!
I can't believe how many times I shook my fist in glory after Gags potted the winner. This one I'll remember for a long time.
the gagne goal was such a delayed reaction, gagne even peaked around the corner of the net to check the puck went in, then raised his hands, THEN bedlam..to take you thru it..."whoa...uh...uh...THATS IN!!!!! YEAH!!!!"
For one night, Gagne joined the elite
The challenge was issued by the general manager to Simon Gagne through the media. Which is how it sometimes works with Bob Clarke. The Flyers'GM said Gagne needed to raise his level of play from merely "good"to "great." In Game 6 against Tampa Bay, the left winger scored twice, including the game-winner with 1 minute, 42 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Flyers an emotionally draining 5-4 victory.
Flyers rise to the occasion, force Game 7 ; Gagne, Primeau lead 5-4 OT win against Lightning
On the winning goal, [Keith Primeau] sent the puck to [Roenick] in front of the goal, and he tipped it to [Simon Gagne]. "I just shot it as hard as I could," Gagne said.
Unsolicited, Primeau said he hadn't read [Bob Clarke]'s comments on Gagne, but he clearly believed Gagne had been playing well.
GAGNE KEEPS FLYERS ALIVE IN OT ; HIS GOAL FORCES DECIDING GAME 7
Continued in Part 2.