Probably one of the biggest fan favorite players in Flyers history, Simon Gagne dominated the scoresheet for the orange and black for over a decade. He scored one of the most important goals in franchise history in game seven of the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals, he was part of an offensive force known as the Deuce’s Wild Line in 2005, as well as helping Team Canada to a gold medal and the Kings to a Stanley Cup, Gagne did it all during his 15 year career.
Born in Sainte-Foy, Quebec City, Canada on February 29, 1980 he first turned heads at the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament in 1993 and 1994 and that made him a prized prospect heading into juniors. He was drafted 10th overall in the 1996 QMJHL draft by the now-defunct Beauport Harfangs. During his rookie season in 1996-97 he played predominantly in the bottom six, scoring only nine goals and 31 points in 51 games.
The following season, the Harfangs relocated to Quebec to become the second incarnation of the Remparts. The move did good for Gagne, who broke out in 1997-98 who scored 30 goals and 69 points in 51 games. That summer, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers 22nd overall in 1998. Gagne was shocked to be drafted by the Flyers as he never met with them before the draft. He spent one more season with the Remparts and he would be a dominate force registering 120 points in just 61 games.
Simon Gagne made the Flyers out of camp in 1999 and was immediately a force to be reckoned with. primarily playing center, he scored 20 goals and 48 points in 80 games. The Flyers finished atop the Eastern Conference in 1999-00 and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, though losing to the Devils in seven games. Gagne chipped in five goals and five assists in the Flyers 17 playoff games.
Gagne continued to improve in 2000-01 playing on a line with Mark Recchi and Keith Primeau. His point totals climbed to 27 goals and 59 points, though playing just 69 games due to a mid-season shoulder injury. The Flyers made the playoffs despite losing six of their last nine regular season games, but were dispatched in six games by the Sabres in the first round.
Once again, Gagne set new career highs in goals and points in 2001-02 with 33 goals and 66 points. The Flyers finished first in the Atlantic Division and second on the East, but again lost in the first round, this time to the Senators. Gagne finished first on the team in goals and second in points, but when pointless in five games in the playoffs.
Gagne was named to his first Winter Olympics representing Team Canada in 2002, scoring four points in six games to help Canada win their first gold medal in 50 years.
Gagne dealt with a groin injury during the 2002-03 season limiting him to just 49 games, leaving him with just nine goals and 27 points on the season. Luckily the Flyers offense continued to roll even without Gagne and they made the playoffs, though were two points shy of securing the Atlantic Division title. The Flyers beat the Leafs in seven games during the opening round, but once again got eliminated by the Senators in the second round.
The Flyers once again won the Atlantic Division title in 2003-04. Gagne played almost a full seasons worth of games, but injuries to key offensive players in Jeremy Roenick and Keith Primeau left the team struggling. Gagne scored 24 goals and 45 points in 80 games helping the Flyers make the playoffs. The Flyers beat the Devils in the first round, they beat the Leafs in the second round, but fell to the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final. Gagne struggled to produce in the playoffs, with only five goals and nine points in 18 games, though he scored a crucial game winning goal in game six against the Bolts, but the Flyers lost game seven.
The 2004-05 lockout ruined the season, but Gagne did not play for another team during the dispute. He did, however, suit up for Team Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, scoring one goal and one assist in six games in Canada’s first place win.
When play resumed in 2005-06, Gagne found himself on a line with newly acquired Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble, collectively known as the “Deuces Wild” line. The trio combined for 100 goals and 219 points of which Gagne contributed 47 goals and 79 points, both of which are career records for him. The Flyers had many changes after the lockout including losing Roenick, LeClair, and Tony Amonte, as well as losing Keith Primeau to a season-long injury in late October, but the Flyer still made the playoffs, but lost to the Sabres in the first round in six games.
Gagne was again named to Team Canada at the 2006 Winter Olympics, but Canada finished in seventh place after losing to the Russians in the quarter-finals. Gagne scored three points in five games in what ended up being his last international appearance.
the Flyers had a franchise-worst 22-48-12 record during the 2006-07 season, forcing major changes in the front office. GM Bobby Clarke was relieved of his duties and head coach Ken Hitchcock was fired. Even though Forsberg was injured for most of the season before being dealt to Nashville, it didn’t stop Gagne from having another great season. Gagne broke the 40 goal mark for the second consecutive season to go along with 68 points, both of which were easily the best marks on the team.
The 2007-08 season was miserable for Gagne, who allegedly suffered multiple concussions in three months. He was shut down for the season in mid February after trying to comeback two times after the initial injury took place in late October. Gagne finished the season playing just 25 games scoring seven goals. The Flyers returned to the playoffs being carried by young stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Final, but lost to Pittsburgh in five games.
Gagne returned for the 2008-09 season and posted what would be the last dominate season of his career. He was part of the Flyers potent regular season offense, finishing second on the team in goals with 34 and third in points with 74 points. The relatively young core of the Flyers struggled in the playoffs, losing to the Penguins again in the first round. Gagne did score three goals in their six playoff games.
Injuries returned during the 2009-10 season for Gagne, as he missed significant time from late October to early December after having surgery to repair two hernia’s in his groin. He still managed to score 40 points in 58 games helping the Flyers make the playoffs. Gagne was injured in the opening round against the Devils but the Flyers were able to pull out a win in five games. The Flyers fell behind the Bruins three games to zero in the second round before Simon Gagne returned in game four. He scored the overtime goal in game four to stave off elimination, then scored two goals in game five to keep the Flyers alive. They forced a game seven and Gagne scored the series-winning goal in the third period to secure the Flyers comeback and pushed them to the Eastern Conference Final.
The seventh seeded Flyers met the eighth seeded Canadiens in the Conference Final, the first time a seventh and eighth seeded teams would meet in the ECF. Even though the Flyers didn’t have the best series, they still eliminated the Habs in five games, pushing the Flyers to the Cup Final. The Flyers were able to take the Blackhawks to six games, but failed to hoist the Cup. The 2010 playoffs would prove to be Gagne’s last games in Philly, the only team he played for him his career to that point.
Gagne was named to Team Canada’s roster for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but a groin injury kept him off the final team selections.
The salary cap forced the Flyers to part ways with the ten-year vet Simon Gagne as he was traded to the Lightning for defenseman Matt Walker and a fourth round pick in 2011. He had one season left at a cap hit of $5.25 million.
Gagne found himself in a supporting role offensively behind the big three of Vincent Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos. Injuries limited his to 63 games, but he managed to score 17 goals and 40 points as well as chipping in 12 points in 15 playoff games as the Lightning made the Conference Final, but lost to the eventual Cup winner Bruins in seven games.
Gagne opted to test free agency in the summer of 2011, eventually signing a two-year, seven million dollar deal with the LA Kings on July 2, 2011. Recurring neck injuries limited him to just 34 games. The Kings went on a magic run that year, winning the Stanley Cup. Gagne only appeared in four playoff games going pointless. Gagne’s name was engraved on the Cup for the first (and only) time in his career.
Now 32, Gagne was used sparingly by the Kings in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. He appeared in just 11 games, registering just five assists. On February 26, 2013 he was dealt back to the Flyers for a fourth round pick to help replenish an injury-depleted roster. In his first game back he scored his first goal as a Flyer in almost two years, it also ended a 32-game goalless streak, the longest of his career. He played 27 games as a Flyer to finish out the season, but the team missed the playoffs.
Simon Gagne took the 2013-14 season off to think about his future in what many considered his retirement. Gagne surprised everyone by signing a professional try-out with the Boston Bruins during training camp in 2014. He played well enough in camp to earn a contract for the 2014-15 season. He scored three goals and one assist in 23 games but he left the team on January 12, 2015 after the passing of his father. 15 days later the Bruins terminated his contract and on September 15, 2015 he announced his retirement from professional hockey.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: bleacherreport.com