People will look at Simon Gagne's numbers this season, 17 goals and 23 assists, and think, "Whatever happened to the Simon Gagne who four times exceeded 30 goals, reaching a high of 47 in 2005-06?"
They'll figure he's over the hill at 30, declining from 34 goals and 40 assists a year ago.
Don't be deceived. Gagne underwent surgeries for two hernias at the start of the season and missed the first 24 games.
While it's true he declined from nearly a point a game to two points in three games this season, he started slowly and has recently been looking like the Simon Gagne of old, a finisher who knows how to get in position and where to shoot.
Every season, there's an over-30 veteran who has never won the Stanley Cup who people identify as someone they'd like to see raise the hardware at least once. Players like Cory Stillman, Hal Gill, Teemu Selanne, Dallas Drake, Dave Andreychuk and Chris Pronger have tasted that late-career joy and satisfaction in recent seasons.
Those who have followed Gagne's career have watched him go from a highly-skilled, fresh-faced young talent to a hard-working, mature, intelligent player, but one with that haunted look of too many close calls over too many seasons. Gagne was a member of the Flyers that lost the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.
Today, Gagne is in the middle generation of Flyers, younger than Ian Laperriere, Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Danny Briere, Brian Boucher, Arron Asham and Blair Betts and older than stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Although he's an assistant captain, Gagne is a quiet type, unlikely to dress down a teammate or make a dressing-room speech.
His kind of leadership is based on hard work and making a difference in tight games. Nearly 20 percent of his career goals, 47 of 259, have been game-winners. Gagne has also posted 265 assists for 524 points in 664 NHL games over 10 seasons. He has 23 goals and 12 assists for 35 points in 71 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
There's a reason that Gagne has emerged as the longest-serving professional athlete with a Philadelphia team. He's a good fit and a constant threat to score a big goal.
Contact John McGourty at firstname.lastname@example.org