|Simon Gagne's season is over after being advised to shut it down following his third concussion in a four-month span.
Gagne, who turns 28 on Feb. 29, has missed 35 games this season because of concussions. The most recent occurred Feb. 10 in a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh when he was hit in the back of the head by Penguins center Jordan Staal. Gagne's first two concussions, which came two weeks apart, were in October and November.
"It's a tough decision," Gagne admitted. “I met with Dr. Kelly (at Colorado University's Department of Neurosurgery) and spent three hours with him going through the first concussion to the last one. We did a lot of testing, memory testing and physical testing, too. In the end, I followed his advice, which was to take the rest of the season off."
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren said Gagne made the right decision.
"The effects of the concussions that he has had, specifically this year, have left him in a position of vulnerability and Simon felt it best that he just recovers," Holmgren said. “We will see how Simon is doing in a month."
While losing Gagne is certainly a setback for an already struggling offense, Flyers coach John Stevens said the team must move forward.
"'Gags' has been out most of the year, and while he did come back for a short time, I didn't sense the guys were waiting around for him to make a return following that last injury," Stevens said. “It's important to play with the guys who are healthy now and get contributions from those guys. There's no question Simon is a world-class player and he was valuable in all situations for us, but now we just need more from everyone else. If you can get more contributions by committee, you can make up for the losses of others."
Holmgren admitted he has been working the phones in the hope of striking a deal for a wing prior to Tuesday's trade deadline.
"With Simon now out the remainder of the year, we have a little flexibility," Holmgren said. “Does this expedite things a little bit? I think there are so many teams right now that are still in the mix. Other than talk, there is very little going on. I still think we have a good foundation of young players that we certainly would like to keep together. To do anything outrageous does not make sense."
Gagne, who has another three years left on a five-year, $26.25 million contract, admitted his returning to the ice too quickly following his first concussion of the season, back on Oct. 24, might have been a mistake. In the first period of that 4-3 loss to Florida, Gagne exited the game with dizziness after taking a hit from Panthers defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and did not return.
"Dr. Kelly believed that the problem was coming from the first concussion I suffered," he said. “He did not think it was three different concussions. He felt the first one wasn't quite healed and that every time I was getting a little hit to the head, the symptom was recurring. He believes strongly that if I take the time to just relax, that is the best medication. He had some players in the past that did that (Paul Kariya in 1998) and never had problems, so he believes strongly that if I do the same thing, I am never going to have problems and that was great to hear."
Unfortunately for the Flyers, concussions have been a routine problem within the organization. Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau and Jeremy Roenick, all high-profile athletes over the last 10 years, each suffered multiple concussions while in Philadelphia. Even today, right wingers Steve Downie and Denis Tolpeko, in addition to Gagne, have also experienced concussions.
Holmgren realizes his team has had its unfair share of concussed players over the years.
"I still think it's a big mystery," Holmgren said. “I know the League is doing more and more studies on concussions and effects of consecutive concussions as I think all sports are. With our team, more than anything, we've had what seems to be more than our fair share. With Simon now, we just have to hope for the best and hopefully, he will be better prior to next season."
Stevens noted that the organization has always placed the health of its players in the highest regard.
"The Flyers have always taken care of the players here and given the best medical care you can find," Stevens said. “Players have all the resources to get better when they are injured. I've been an injured player in this organization and worked with (Athletic Trainer/Strength and Conditioning Coach) Jim McCrossin before and we set records for getting people fully rehabilitated and back on the ice. I think we provide all the resources, whether it's medical or rehabilitation. The Flyers have always done things to help the player first."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.