A tribute to Gagne: Through the years

This article can be found published on Chicks Who Give a Puck.
Simon Gagne was drafted 22nd overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. (Legendsofhockey.com)

Simon Gagne was drafted 22nd overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. (Legendsofhockey.com)

The day was June 27, 1998. The place was Buffalo, N.Y. The event was the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Vincent Lecavalier went first overall to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Some other notable first-round picks were David Legwand, Manny Malhotra, Nik Antropov, Alex Tanguay, Martin Skoula, Robyn Regehr and Scott Gomez. But none of those names hold the same meaning to Philadelphians as the player who went 22nd overall.

The Philadelphia Flyers selected 18-year-old Simon Gagne from the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. Fans were pulling for the young, scrawny kid to make the team out of training camp, but he didn’t and spent another season with the Remparts where he posted 120 points (50 goals, 70 assists) in 61 games. It was after that season the Flyers welcomed him to the big club and the Remparts retired his number alongside Guy Lafleur.

Gagne made his first appearance as a Flyer on Oct. 2, 1999 against the Ottawa Senators. It only took three games after for him to make his mark when he scored his first two goals in 3:40 on Oct. 12 in a loss to the Washington Capitals.

He went on to finish his rookie season playing in 80 games and scoring 48 points and reaching the 20-goal plateau while centering Mark Recchi and Mikael Renberg. With his play, he earned the honor of being named to the NHL All-Rookie Team. He tied all NHL rookies in the regular season in power play goals (8), second in goals (20), second in power play assists (13), second in power play points (21), third in assists (28) and fourth in points (48). He came in fourth place in voting for the Calder as the NHL’s best rookie.

It only took four games for Simon Gagne to appear on the scoresheet for his very first goal on Oct. 12, 1999. (NHL)

It only took four games for Simon Gagne to appear on the scoresheet for his very first goal on Oct. 12, 1999. (NHL)

In his very first playoff game, Gagne scored the game-winning goal on Apr. 13, 2000. He became the first Flyers rookie to score a game-winning goal in his first NHL playoff game. During the playoffs, he led the NHL rookies in points (10) and tied for the lead in goals (5) through 17 games before the Flyers fell to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals.

It was in the 2000-2001 season when Gagne moved to the wing and played on a line with former captain Keith Primeau and Recchi. His production rose to 27 goals and 32 assists in 69 games that year. His goals tied for second most on the team and he was third in points. He led the Flyers in plus/minus with a +24 and was second in game-winning goals with seven. Gagne also got the chance to play in his first NHL All-Star Game. He was awestruck at the chance to play with Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic. Alongside the two greats, Gagne scored two goals for the North American team, one of which was the game winner.

Gagne’s scoring touch elevated even more in the 2001-02 season. He became the 25th player and 10th youngest player in Flyers history to reach the 30-goal plateau. His 33 goals led the Flyers and tied for 17th in the NHL and was second on the team with a +31, which also tied for third in the NHL. His 66 points was good enough for third on the Flyers. Gagne recorded his first hat trick on Mar. 2, 2002, against the New York Rangers.

Simon Gagne extended the Flyers playoffs in overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. (Flyersfancentral.com)

Simon Gagne extended the Flyers playoffs in overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. (Flyersfancentral.com)

Gagne’s season was cut short in 2002-03 when he suffered multiple injuries. He was limited to just 46 games after dealing with an abdominal oblique muscle injury, a right groin strain (which he re-injured a short time after he returned) and his first concussion. He was only able to chip in 9 goals and 18 assists for the season. He was still able to tie for second on the team in plus/minus with a +20.

Gagne returned from his injury-plagued season in 2003-04 and played in 80 games, scoring 24 goals and 21 assists. His 24 goals were second on the team and it also marked the fourth time in his five-year career that he reached the 20-goal mark. Gagne scored his 100th NHL goal on Feb. 4, 2004 against the Capitals. He took his first penalty shot on February 21 against goaltender Pasi Nurminen of the Atlanta Thrashers. He scored on the shot, which ended up being the game winner.

One of the most memorable moments for Flyers fans came in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals against the Lightning. In Game 6, the Flyers faced elimination when Gagne scored the overtime game-winner and pushed the series to seven games, where the Flyers fell to the Lightning.

Simon Gagne produced his best numbers when paired with Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble. (Melohart.com)

Simon Gagne produced his best numbers when paired with Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble. (Melohart.com)

Following the lockout, Gagne found his stride playing alongside Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble and together the three formed the “Deuces Wild” line. He produced the best numbers of his career. Gagne scored 47 goals and became the first Quebec-born player to hit 40 since Mario Lemieux in 1996-97. He also became the 13th player in Flyers hits to reach the 40-goal mark. He led the Flyers in goals and was seventh in the NHL. He also led the team in points with 79. He recorded his second career hat trick on Nov. 5, 2005 against the Thrashers. Gagne scored the second fastest overtime goal in a regular season game in NHL history against the Rangers on Jan. 5, 2006. It only took him 0:07 seconds to win the game for the Flyers. During the summer, Gagne was awarded a five-year contract extension worth over $25 million.

The 2006-07 season is one Flyers fans want to forget. The Flyers suffered the worst record in its 40-year history. Despite the losing record and playing the majority of the season without Forsberg, Gagne became the one constant good. For the second consecutive year, Gagne reached the 40-goal plateau and was once again the team leader in goals (41) and points (68). He was named to the All-Star Team for the second time in his career, although he did not score for the Eastern Conference Team. Gagne reached the 200th goal milestone on Apr. 7, 2007 against the New York Islanders. He became the 13th player in Flyers history to reach 200 goals as a Flyer.

The 2007-08 season was a tough one for Gagne. He was able to only play 25 games before being sidelined with multiple concussions. He was only able to contribute 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists) and missed all of the playoffs. Many feared Gagne was headed down the same path as former Flyers Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau. Gagne was able to reach his 200th career assist on Jan. 20, 2008 against the Senators. He became the 21st player to record 200 assists as a Flyer.

Simon Gagne scored his 500th NHL point, all with the Flyers, on Jan. 9, 2010. (Philadelphia Flyers)

Simon Gagne scored his 500th NHL point, all with the Flyers, on Jan. 9, 2010. (Philadelphia Flyers)

Gagne rebounded in 2008-09 and played in 79 games. He was second on the team in goals (34) and tied for second in assists (40) and third in points (74). It was his second highest points total in his career and also the fourth time in his nine seasons that he reached the 30-goal mark.

2009-10 saw the Flyers go from 29th in the NHL at one point and end two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup. During the regular season, Gagne played in 58 games. He was once again hampered by injuries in the season. Only roughly a month in, he had surgery on a double hernia in his groin. Only 11 days after returning from injury, Gagne recorded his third career hat trick and first natural hat trick against the Rangers on Dec. 30, 2009. He finished the season with 17 goals and 23 assists. He also recorded his 500th NHL point on Jan. 9, 2010 against the Lightning.

In the first round of the 2010 playoffs, Gagne suffered a broken toe in Game 4. In the second round against the Boston Bruins, the Flyers fell behind 0-3 in the series and Gagne made a quick return to the team in time for Game 4. His impact was felt immediately when he scored the overtime game-winning goal that started the historic comeback. He also topped off the comeback in Game 7 when he scored the game winner to seal the series for the Flyers. The Flyers lost in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals and Gagne ended with a career best 12 points (9 goals, 3 assists) in the playoffs.

1999 through 2010: 10 seasons with one team. It almost seems unheard of anymore in today’s sports. Gagne has been through two general managers, six coaches and seven captains. He’s gone from the last team in the NHL all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals and just two short of winning it all. He was one of the current longest-tenured athletes in Philadelphia, second only to the Eagles’ David Akers, and that is only because their season begins first.

He started his Flyers career with Mark Recchi and Mikael Renberg and ended it with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. During that time, he played in 664 games with the Flyers, compiling 259 goals and 265 assists for 524 points. He also added 90 playoff games with 32 goals and 15 assists for 47 points. He was considered multiple times for the Lady Byng and Selke awards.

He was, and still probably is, arguable the most beloved Philly athlete. He is a class act, on and off the ice. Tampa Bay will be pride to have a player of his caliber and personality on the team. I am sure the Lightning fans will fall in love with Gagne just as Philadelphians had, but I don’t think any city will ever love Simon Gagne as much as Flyers fans. They embraced him from the beginning and stood by him through all the years. There was never a shortage of Gagne jerseys at any game. To Philadelphians, Gagne will always be a Flyer.

In his interview with the media shortly after being traded, Gagne made sure to mention the Philadelphia fans before he left.

“I think the thing I will miss the most are the Flyers’ fans,” said Gagne. “All the support I got there for the 10 years that I played, even during the tough times when I had some injuries, the fans were really fair with me the whole time. There were a lot of No. 12 jerseys in the stands even when I started with the team in 1999. To them, I would just like to say a huge thank you. Those are the people I amgoing to miss the most.”

Playing for Team Canada, Simon Gagne has won two goal and two silver medals. (Philadelphia Flyers)

Playing for Team Canada, Simon Gagne has won two goal and two silver medals. (Philadelphia Flyers)

TEAM CANADA

  • 1999 World Junior Championships – Silver Medal
    7 GP: 7-1-8, 2 PIM
  • 2002 Winter Olympics – Gold Medal
    6 GP: 1-3-4, 0 PIM
  • 2004 World Cup – Gold Medal
    6 GP: 1-1-2, 0 PIM
  • 2005 World Championship – Silver Medal
    9 GP: 3-7-10, 0 PIM
  • 2006 Winter Olympics – Seventh Place
    5 GP: 1-2-3, 4 PIM

AWARDS

  • 2000-01 Pelle Lindbergh Memorial (Flyers’ most improved player)
  • 2001-02 Toyota Cup (Flyers’ most three stars selection)
  • 2005-06 Toyota Cup
  • 2005-06 Bobby Clarke Trophy (Flyers’ most valuable player)
  • 2006-07 Toyota Cup
  • 2006-07 Bobby Clarke Trophy

FLYERS RECORDS

  • 14th for rookies in points (48) in a single season in 1999-00
  • Tied for 15th for goals (47) in a single season in 2005-06
  • Tied for 16th for shorthanded goals (4) in a single season in 2008-09
  • Tied for 20th for game-winning goals (7) in a single season in 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2005-06
  • Tied for 17th for goals (9) in the playoffs in 2010
  • Tied for 11th for plus/minus (10) in the playoffs in 2004
  • Tied for 14th for power play goals (5) in the playoffs in 2010
  • Tied for 11th for game-winning goals (2) in the playoffs in 2010
  • 10th in career points (524)
  • Ninth in career goals (259)
  • 16th in career assists (265)
  • 10th in career games (664)
  • Tied for 16th in career plus/minus (143)
  • 11th in career power play goals (72)
  • Tied for 10th in career shorthanded goals (11)
  • Sixth in career game-winning goals (47)
  • 11th in career playoff goals (23)
  • Tied for 17th in career playoff plus/minus (7)
  • Tied for 10th in career power play goals (6)
  • Tied for sixth in career playoff shorthanded goals (2)
  • Tied for 15th in career playoff game-winning goals (3)
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Categories: Ice Hockey, NHL, Sports

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