Meh. Check back with me in two months.
Yes, he scored his first goal of the season last night in his first game back with the Flyers. It was certainly nice to see, uplifting even. Still, I can’t shake the sense that this trade was as much about pandering to the fan base as it was improving a team that appears destined for the 6th-8th playoff seed at best. Is that overly cynical? Probably. However, this isn’t Simon Gagne circa the first few seasons after the previous lockout. This isn’t even Simon Gagne from his last few seasons with the Flyers. This Simon Gagne is a shell of the player who became a quasi-star in Philadelphia, someone best suited for a bottom-six role. Can he still be useful? Of course. Is he the type of player who will push the Flyers from middlers to contenders? No.
When I found out about the Simon Gagne trade, I had two initial reactions: 1) This is pointless and 2) PR move by the Flyers, who can sense the season might not turn out the way they’d hoped. Then I found out the deal was for a conditional 4th round pick. The condition: If the Flyers make the playoffs, it becomes a 3rd round pick. I know such compensation might seem trivial. It’s just a mid-round draft pick, right? I’m not as forgiving. If the deal had been for a 5th-7th round pick, I wouldn’t be as irked, but Paul Holmgren does this with infuriating frequency: Throw away valuable draft picks for players who provide little to no long-term value. If the Flyers make the playoffs — and, by the way, if they do it’ll be as the 6th, 7th or 8th seed — then that 3rd round pick is a top-90 selection… in a draft that’s being hailed as the deepest in a decade. Hey, maybe for an encore, Holmgren can jettison young, promising talent for veteran rentals in a myopic attempt to make the playoffs. I can almost hear the directive from THE BOSS, Ed Snider, next time he witnesses his baby put forth a pathetic effort against a good team. I’m waiting for the panic button to get mashed soon because that’s what always happens with the Flyers. Newsflash: There isn’t a quick-fix trade that will make this team a legit Stanley Cup contender. At least not in my eyes. Sorry.
Anyway, as for yesterday’s performance, it was more encouraging than I anticipated. I love watching enjoyable hockey, after all. On his initial shift, Simon Gagne showed immediate chemistry with young Sean Couturier, firing a quick one-timer off a nifty pass that Braden Holtby had to alertly save. Then in the second period, he scored into an empty net — despite shooting the puck right back in the direction of Holtby, who got his stick on it but not enough — on the power play after a no-look pass from Brayden Schenn. Yay, happy feelings all around! For real, though, for once I’m not being sarcastic. It warmed my heart when Gagne scored that goal.
Now, let’s see the Flyers dominate a game against a team that doesn’t suck — and the Capitals, mired in last place in the Eastern Conference, suck. Color me pessimistic, given what I’ve seen so far this season. But hey, I always welcome being pleasantly surprised.