Funny, how the sense of urgency to win a game is eerily similar now as it was then.
Of course, he is a world away from where he was last June, when he was battling concussion-like symptoms and trying to fit back into a Los Angeles Kings lineup that was well-oiled on it’s way to the franchise’s first championship.
Now, he finds himself back with his original team – the Flyers – trying to get back into the swing of things again, only this time to help a desperate team just get into the playoffs.
It’s funny how things work sometimes, and Gagne’s story has been ironic around every turn.
He went from being one of the most beloved Flyers in recent memory, a part of an exhilarating run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, to being unceremoniously traded to Tampa Bay because of salary cap problems the Flyers faced after that run was over.
He was a key contributor to the Lightning’s surprise run to the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, but then found himself a free agent, and chose to set up shop with the “Flyers West” in Los Angeles on a two-year deal.
To move his wife and his two young children all the way across the country was going to be difficult – somewhat to the tune of $30,000 in moving costs alone.
But, he was hoping to revitalize his career with an organization chock full of people he was familiar with from his Flyers days.
The season started O.K., but it took a turn for the worse as he wasn’t feeling himself. He ended up missing more than half the season with those concussion-like issues, only getting back in time to make an appearance in the Finals and ultimately hoist the Stanley Cup.
He needed corrective surgery over the summer on his neck to alleviate those symptoms, and said he felt as healthy as he had in a long time at the start of this season.
The problem was, he didn’t fit in any longer with the Kings plans, and was spending more time as a healthy scratch then actually playing.
He got an email in January from Flyers coach Peter Laviolette thanking him for the rental of the house Simon and his wife Karin owned in South Jersey – which they rented to Laviolette and his family for more than two years – but the Laviolette’s were buying their own home and would be out of Gagne’s home by March 1.
It was just another thing for Gagne to worry about – coupled with family life in Los Angeles, and the fact that he wasn’t playing regularly, now he ad to figure out what to do with his house in New Jersey.
So he reached out to a local realtor, who told him that because it was an expensive home, there was a limited amount of potential buyers. So he asked her to shop around for some professional athletes in Philadelphia to see if any of them were interested.
By early February, she had found a buyer – new Phillies set-up man Mike Adams.
Gagne agreed on the deal and set up a closing date of March 15.
Three weeks later, he was traded back to Philadelphia.
“I had no idea I was going to be leaving L.A. at the time,” Gagne said. “I just wanted to find someone willing to pay what the house is worth. When I bought it, the real estate market value was at its peak. I knew this was going to be tough, so I wanted to try and find someone quietly without listing it first to keep it’s value and I got lucky and I did.
“However, if I knew I was going to be back in Philly later that month…”
Instead, Gagne had to spend two weeks in a hotel. Once Karine, Matthew (son) and Lily Rose (daughter) arrived, it started to get cramped. It’s a tough spot for a family of four – which includes a three-and-a-half-year-old and a one-year-old – to set up shop.
He has since found another home in Haddonfield, N.J. He isn’t buying this time. He got a six-month lease through the end of August.
He’d like to stay in the area, but he wants to keep playing hockey too. Is it possible the Flyers offer him a contract in the summer? Sure. But is it possible that he has to look elsewhere for work too?
Hey, it’s the life of a hockey player.
Nevertheless, he’s playing right now, on a new line with fellow French-speaking players Danny Briere and Sean Couturier.
And after six games, and doing the cross-country move with his family for a second time, he’s finally feeling settled in.
“Personally it’s been pretty good so far,” he said. “The team’s had some ups and downs but we can build off the last win in Buffalo and see where we can go from there.”
Because Gagne now knows, he never knows where his career may take him next.
Matt Read is pain free. He promises. He said he feels no ill effects whatsoever from his torn rib cage muscles suffered less than a month ago in Pittsburgh.
That doesn’t mean he feels like he’s completely back.
“Physically I feel fine and back to normal,” he said. “I just have to find myself. I have to find my game again. After having two weeks off it’s hard to get right back into the swing of things. That’s what I’m worried about right now.”
Laviolette is hoping Read will find his game on the second line with Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds, after playing with Simon Gagne and Sean Couturier mostly since his return.
“We had a lot of minutes against the other team’s top line in more of a defensive role,” Read said of playing with Couturier and Gagne. “My game won’t change much but I think [the coaches] are looking for a secondary scoring line with Schenn and Simmonds since our first line is doing so well.”
Read led the Flyers in goals when he was injured on Feb. 20 with seven. He hasn’t scored since his return against Pittsburgh last week.
I owe you all an apology. When I asked someone in the organization if Erik Gustafsson would be playing today and was told yes, I assumed it was with the Flyers.
Gustafsson was sent back to the Phantoms of the AHL yesterday and will play tonight – for them in Portland.
I was told the team wasn’t happy with Gustafsson’s inconsistent play of late, even though he played really well when he was first called up.
The Flyers have an open roster spot as of now, and are considering recalling Harry Zolnierczyk to finish his four-game suspension – although that decision has not been made as of yet.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37