I told myself I would most assuredly start blogging on hockeybuzz immediately after Ilya Kovalchuk signed on somewhere. I said that yesterday. About three hours before the news actually broke.. so I was unprepared. I figured I would have another week. At least a few more days. I was wrong. My thoughts were there, but they were unharnessed. I knew what I was going to say, but not in which manner I would say it.
Then I see that Gagne was traded.
This didn't help matters and essentially changed the whole ballgame.
The Flyers v.2.0 (the kings) lost out on both Kov AND Gagne. And since Stevie Y has brought Gags to Tampa, I doubt he's looking to trash this coming season, which probably (most definitely) means that he will stop trying to shop Vinny Lecavalier, if he was even doing that to begin with. Which effectively means that Los Angeles lost out on three elite forwards in one fell swoop.
So what's next for them?
I haven't the slightest clue.
I suppose if they offer a sweet enough deal, they could still swing for Lecavalier. But I doubt it. So maybe Marc Savard? I don't think he would fit in LA though. But save for the fact that Ron Hextall is the assistant GM in los angeles, I don't quite care much about the kings. so...
Back to Gagne.
I understand that there are very few who can fully appreciate my love for that man. As a child, I had dreams of a top line with Justin Williams and Simon Gagne on either wing tearing it up for decades. Justin Williams wasn't in Philly long enough to realize that dream, but Gagne played an astute game during his tenure in Philly.
I remember him and Forsberg playing on Hitchcock's DEUCES WILD line with Mike Knuble (I miss Hitch's creative line names. He once had Roenick on a line with Amonte and Zhamnov on a line he called "the Blackhawk down line." So epic. Anyway...) Forseberg and Gagne were in the top 10 in the league in points for a stretch, whilst Antero Niittymaki (my favorite obscure Flyer ever) was in the top 5 in GAA. I paid for NHL Center Ice that year, so I taped the league-wide stat line one night because all three of those guys are favorites of mine and I wanted to remember it. It didn't last, but I still have the tape. I had an opportunity to throw it away a few days ago. Long story short.. I kept it.
Gagne fetish aside.. stat time.
scored the game winner in game six in the east finals against tampa.
brought us back from 3-0 to beat Boston.
been to two all star games.
won two gold medals.
nearly a solid 1 in points-per-game in his career.
played his way into the top 10 in: points, goals and games in Flyers History.
and that's all just off the top of my head.
But I know Philly sports fans. You won't remember all that.
Your going to remember the injuries. And the lack of championships.
I'm going to remember the fresh faced kid who we drafted in 98 and how he evolved into the bearded assistant captain on an energetic team finals team 12 years later. I'm going to remember the goals and the fierce play. I'm going to remember the positives. And nothing less.
If we win it all this year, the first thing I'm going to think about is how I wish he was still in Orange and Black. I feel that it will trouble me more than seeing Brindy get traded. or seeing LeClair lace up the skates with Sidney Crosby.
It's that serious.
When all is said and done, Simon Gagne will most assuredly end up on my list of top ten favorite Flyers of all time. Even if he is French Canadian.
Anywho (or whom)..
Now that Kov is off the market, the floodgates have opened. Expect mad (meaning: allot of) moves league-wide. MAD moves. But that isn't anything that you don't already know.
So what's next for the Flyers?
I highly doubt much else. Maybe a move here or there, but nothing huge. But don't get complacent and assume they are done altogether. Paul Holmgren said in an interview after trading Gagne:
Right now we like where we’re at. Its July 19 today, so we’ll see what the rest of the summer brings. If this were our team in training camp, I’d be completely comfortable with it.
Focus on the IF.
Hockey, whether I want to admit it or not, is a business. This is why guys who I love (like Gagne) get traded, cut loose or waived. Holmgren said that he's comfortable with the roster IF this is what it looks like heading into training camp. That 'if' means he's going to be at least kicking tires around the league to see what he can come up with.. if anything.
And that's his job. He is a general manager. And I am a sucker for astute front office management. Objectively speaking, I legitimately feel as though Homer is a genius in that field. Any good move he makes is a great move and any "bad" move he makes is usually a precursor to a better deal (ie: trading gagne for matt walker frees up cap space to go after another goalie.. or a deadline trade to put us over the top.. or re-sign jeff carter.)
But right now, he is right. Our team looks solid at this particular juncture in time.
There is much talk about our defense. Right now it is better than last year. Without a doubt. The additions of Meszaros, Odonnell and even Walker mean less minutes for our top four guys. Seeing as how Meszaros is himself a top 3 d-man, we'll have five (5!) top 3 defensemen, with a solid rotation at the sixth spot. That's at least what I would do. Go with Pronger/Carle, Kimmo/Coburn Mes/(Odonnell, Walker, Bartulis). You cannot argue with that.
And on offense, the subtraction of Gagne, while disheartening, can be offset and in a perfect world, will be offset by the progression of Claude Giroux. I have to imagine Giroux plays at a high level next year. I also have to imagine that between JVR and Zherdev, one will step up and play like the top 5 pick that they are (my money is on Zherdev.) Assuming injuries aren't a problem (knocking on wood. fervently.) we might even be better on offense this year than we were last year.
Which leaves us with the goalie situation, or... a problem that doesn't exist. I cannot in good conscious denounce either brian boucher or michael leighton. One got us to the playoffs and the other to the finals. Where we lost to a much deeper team. Our goaltending wasn't an issue. I am 100% comfortable going into the season with 49 and 33. Although, I read an intriguing rumor that we might be kicking aforementioned tires pertaining to former Flyer Robert Esche. This does in fact please me, as the man has been playing at an elite level in the KHL. I'm a huge Robert Esche fan and I believe that he would be an upgrade over at least Boucher. However, I shant say anything further unless this story comes out as more than a rumor.
Two goalies rumored to be in the mix, if you will are: Marty Turco and Jose Theodore. I want nothing to do with either of them. I have a sinking feeling that Theodore will bounce back for a season or two and play like he did a few years ago in Montreal, but I have been wrong before (see: Colt Brennan's pro football career). Plus I like Leighton, Boucher and Esche infinitely better than number 60.
On a closing note:
Whether 49 and 33 carry their momentum into this season or not... in three years our goaltending situation will be set for the next decade. Joacim Eriksson will be a player in the pros. The second he comes up (I predict 2-3 years) I'm buying his jersey.
And I haven't bought a legitimate pro hockey jersey since I bought the number 19 Renberg jersey after we traded him to Tampa some years ago. That's how sure I am that Eriksson is going to be a factor in the pros.
Just you wait.
We know that hockey is where we live, where we can best meet and overcome pain and wrong and death.. Life is just a place where we spend time between games.