Better With Popcorn

Spurned, Slighted, Stung

Yes, I know it stings.

Simon Gagne, the elder statesman of the Philadelphia Flyers has flown the coop. Not by his own doing, but rather by the salary cap stricken Paul Holmgren. The first reaction as a fan is to feel upset and betrayed. I understand it, I really do.

When Brian Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos in the summer of 2009, it was a complete nightmare for me. Hands down my favorite athlete of all time, he had wanted to stay in Philadelphia for the remainder of his career. He was the lifeblood of the team, the fans, and the organization. His identity was green. In the blink of an eye, all of that changed. It was one of the saddest sports-related days of my life. I felt the very same as many of you do today. You’ve all worn these shoes before, and if not, then I envy you. I felt betrayed by the way the Eagles front office acted that offseason. The simple truth was that they were my team first and foremost. Like a spurned lover, I couldn’t believe they would do that to ME. It was extremely easy to forget that my love for the Eagles came before Brian Dawkins, not because of him. If I had chosen a team because of a player, then yes, I could have finagled a way to divorce the birds and root for Denver. But that was not the truth. I loved Dawkins because he was the embodiment of the Eagles to me. The same way that Simon Gagne will always be the embodiment of the Flyers. That will never change.

I’m happy for Gags because he moves onto a place where he is in a great spot to achieve success. Many are already clamoring for a ‘French Connection’ line of Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Gagne, a line that would display some impressive offensive firepower. He can put up some great numbers there, relax in the warm weather and vie for a playoff spot. He will play for an NHL icon that has always appreciated him for what he can do. Praise from Steve Yzerman is nothing to downplay. For these reasons and more, I’m happy that Gagne has landed in Tampa Bay.

However, I believe the Flyers will be fine next season without Gagne. There are three main reasons for my belief.

1- A full season of Ville Leino will add contribution on the offensive end of the ice. He has also shown that he can be a two-way player in Laviolette’s system.
2- James Van Riemsdyk should contribute more next season. He hit quite the ‘rookie wall’ last season and another offseason of conditioning will only help avoid that. Also, he comes into this season knowing what is expected, whereas last season he may have been ecstatic to even make the team.
3- Nikolai Zherdev has an unbelievable amount of offensive ability. Yes, I know he can be enigmatic but he provides another legitimate 20 goal scorer.

Aside from the three premises, I also feel that Jeff Carter will play much better this year. It is a contract year for Beavis (whoops, Jeff), and if the history of sports is any indication, he will raise his game for his upcoming payday. Also, Claude Giroux figures to gain a much bigger role in the team’s offense after his impressive postseason last year. Oozing with talent, Giroux should contribute not only to the team, but also to my man crush all season.

Yet, It still stings. Those reasons alone will not help Flyers fans forget Gagne. The point is, no one should try to forget Gagne. Number 12 is irreplaceable when it comes to sentimental value. No return would have been enough to satisfy our memories of Gags. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Sure, I would have loved to see Simon go out as a Flyer, but that’s not the hand that I’ve been dealt. He’ll always be remembered as a Flyer, and that’s all that matters. Trust me, those words seem sacrilegious now, but they’re true. I’ve learned to release my resentment towards the Eagles by now (most of the time); someday you’ll learn to release yours towards Holmgren (most of the time). That’s the way it is and that’s the way it always goes. For now, embrace the memories of that slick French-Canadian wearing his number 12 orange sweater with pride. Embrace his goal against Tampa Bay in the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals. Embrace his game four goal in overtime that sparked one of the most tremendous comebacks in sports history last season. Embrace how he was the consummate professional, a role model for the likes of Mike Richards and every other kid that came up in the Flyers organization. Embrace him now, embrace him forever. Just be sure you remember what team drafted him.

Your team.

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