If I were to ask you who was the last Flyers player was to score 40+ goals in a season, you might guess Claude Giroux…and you’d be wrong. The last one to score over 40 goals in a season was Jeff Carter, who scored 46 in 2008-09. However, if I were to ask you who the last Flyer to score more than 40 goals twice in a career, would you guess Simon Gagne?
Gagne’s career with Philadelphia came as the Eric Lindros/Keith Primeau Era was coming to an end and just as the Giroux/Jakub Voracek Era was beginning. Because of this, I think he gets lost in the list of greatest Flyers ever. However, he truly left his mark while he was here. He played 11 years in Philadelphia and had it cut short due to concussions.
When people talk about their favorite Flyers, he will probably never come up in the conversation; which is sad when you look at his overall accomplishments. If you go to a Flyers game, you will see many jerseys of present day players as well as older stars (Lindros, Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent), but you will be hard pressed to find one with his name on it. Despite this, he is probably better than we all remember him.
He was never a big, hulking forward who could change the game like Lindros. He was not a scoring machine like Mark Recchi. He was not a bulldog like Rick Tocchet or a strong man like Brind’Amour. Gagne was not a hero in big moments like Primeau or someone who scored on the power play simply by standing in front of the net and getting rebounds like John LeClair. Gagne was different, but it was his differences that made him stand out.
First, he was fast. He was one of the fastest guys ever to skate for the Flyers. You kind of wonder, had he been on the 96-97 team, could he have skated circles around the Russian guys on the Red Wings and helped us win that Stanley Cup? And when the NHL eliminated the center ice line following the NHL lockout in 2005, he really showcased his speed by flying down the ice.
Secondly, he was versatile. He played center and left wing. He could play on the outside or start a play up the center. From 2005-06 to 2008-09, he was averaging almost 20 min of ice time a game as a forward. He played on the power play and he helped out on the penalty kill. He could do it all.
Well, do it all except not get concussions that is. The same fate that befell Lindros, Primeau, and Jeremy Roenick as Flyers hit Gagne as well. The 2007-08 season saw him limited to just 25 games where he scored seven goals and 11 assists. This comes after a two year period where he scored 47 and 41 goals respectively.
Two years later, he had a double groin sports hernia. I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds really painful! This came after a bounceback season in 2008-09 where he tallied 34 goals with 40 assists.
During the 2009-10 season, he would score nine goals during the Stanley Cup run. He was injured during the first round, against New Jersey, but shined against the Bruins. He returned in Game 4 and scored the overtime goal to keep the Flyers’ playoff hopes alive. He then scored two more goals in Game 5 as the Flyers would overcome their 3-0 deficit against Boston. It was Gagne that scored the series clincher in Game 7.
In the following offseason, he was traded to Tampa Bay for Matt Walker and a fourth round pick; which became Marcel Noebels who never reached the NHL. Walker was hit hard with injuries and would suit up for just eight games as a Flyer over two seasons with no points. He played some with the Phantoms, but injuries took their toll on him.
Gagne scored 17 goals in his one year in Tampa. He signed on as a free agent the following year with the Kings. Halfway through that season, the Flyers traded to reacquire him for a fourth round pick. He played in 27 games in the lockdown shortened season of 2012. He would score five goals with six assists.
Then in the offseason, as Gagne was a free agent, the Flyers made no attempt to re-sign him. At the time, Gagne was really upset about not being given a contract. He took a year off from hockey, came back with the Bruins, and then retired at the age of 34 after his father died.
Gagne is on many of the team’s leader boards. He is 10th in all time goals with 264, tied for 10th with 11 shorthanded goals, sixth with 64 game winning goals. He is 12th in all-time points with 535; just one of fifteen players with 500 career points as a Flyer
Still, Gagne should not be forgotten. He was a dynamic player who could score. Like many of our star players (Lindros, Tim Kerr, Primeau), you kind of wonder what would have happened had they not gotten injured. But when he played, there were few better players on the ice. It’s also a shame that, despite his talent, he was never picked to represent the Flyers as an All-Star.
Gagne is not on the Flyers Wall of Fame yet. It is only a matter of time before that happens. Hopefully the Flyers will have found another 40 goal scorer by then.