Not much has gone as planned for the Philadelphia Flyers this season. Expected to be among the elite in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, the Flyers have languished near the bottom of the standings for much of the young year. Six times Philly has had an opportunity to get its record back to .500 on the campaign, and six times the Fly-Guys have come up short. The latest such example—a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday—was apparently enough to force general manager Paul Holmgren to make a move.
Philadelphia reacquired Simon Gagné from the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday afternoon, sending west a conditional fourth-round draft pick in exchange for a man who excelled in orange and black for a full decade. In 664 games with the Flyers, Gagné registered 528 points and scored 259 goals.
He returns to a team that is currently searching for answers at multiple positions.
Talk to anyone who knows anything about hockey and they will tell you the Flyers have significant issues. The only problem is, half the experts say Philly’s difficulties derive from an inexperienced and unathletic defense. The other half will say the troubles arise from a weak frontline that lacks scoring punch.
Who is right? The realistic answer is not good news for Flyers fans. To at least some degree, there is truth behind both theories.
So does the addition of Gagné at least solve Philly’s offensive issues? Not necessarily. It might if he returns to his 2009 form; but that is not all that likely. After all, Gagné scored just seven goals in 34 games with the Kings last season. During L.A.’s Stanley Cup run, the forward missed all of the Western Conference playoffs and appeared in only four of the six games in the Finals. He has fared better so far this season, but has been far from unstoppable with five assists in 11 games this year.
Obviously the Flyers need more from Gagné if he is going to be the tonic for their inconsistent offense, but the good news is, the move came with virtually no risk whatsoever for Philadelphia. A fourth-round pick is essentially meaningless in the grand scheme of things, and the only way the Flyers have to pay a higher price for Gagné’s services is if they win the Eastern Conference (the conditional part of the trade). I am pretty sure Philly puck heads would sign up for that immediately. Like, yesterday.
That is not going to happen based on this move alone though. Flyers fans are hoping it is just the opening salvo of Holmgren’s grand scheme to turn a mediocre team into a contender. With just 27 games remaining in the season, it seems like a daunting task; but in a league where the eight-seed in the west won the Stanley Cup last season, the name of the game is getting into the playoffs.
What happens from there is anyone’s guess.