(Voorhees, NJ, July 19) – As the summer moves along and the start of training camp grows ever closer, the players that will make up the 2007-08 Flyers' roster will slowly but surely be trickling back to the training facility.
Two such players that have returned to South Jersey include veterans Simon Gagne and Sami Kapanen. They were eager to give their thoughts on how General Manager Paul Holmgren and the hockey operations staff have added to the roster for the upcoming season.
“I think Homer has done a great job,” said Gagne. “I had a chance to meet with him at the end of [last] season and we had a great talk about the future of the team. To see what he’s done in the last couple months is amazing.”
“I think he’s done a tremendous job,” said Kapanen of Holmgren. “We’re going in the right direction, and it’s going to be exciting to get to training camp and show that it was just one year of unfortunate events [last season] and we’ll be a solid contender this year.”
Gagne may be the single-biggest beneficiary of the offseason moves. There is much speculation that he will be on the left side with usual partner Mike Knuble on the right and newcomer Danny Briere
centering the two.
Getting a top-notch center to replace Peter Forsberg was a priority for the Flyers, and now that they have one of the best in the league, it could pay huge dividends for a sniper such as Gagne, who is coming off of his second consecutive 40-plus goal season.
“If you look in the past with Peter, when Peter was maybe the best player on the team, Danny is going to be the best player on the team,” said Gagne. “When Peter was in the lineup, we had a different team, and when you bring a guy like Danny Briere
to the team, that’s going to bring the same impact.”
Although Gagne has not spoken to Briere since the free agent signed a multiple-year deal on July 1, the two have exchanged text messages. The anticipation of playing together seems to be mutual.
|Simon Gagne had 47 goals in 2005-06 and 41 goals in 2006-07. (Getty Images) |
“He seems really excited to be here, and we texted each other that we might be playing together, which is not a bad thing,” said Gagne. “I think we’re both excited that we might have that chance.”
Much has already been made of the fact that three of the team’s new additions were captains of their previous teams. Defenseman Jason Smith wore the ‘C’ in Edmonton; Kimmo Timonen
was the captain in Nashville and Briere was a co-captain, along with Chris Drury (now on the Rangers), in Buffalo.
While Gagne and Kapanen both agree that there wasn’t necessarily a lack of leadership last season, they do concur that having so many players with leadership qualities all in the same locker room certainly can’t hurt.
“Obviously, the way we played last year, something was going wrong,” said Kapanen. “They wanted to make sure they had a solid core of leaders on this team in the upcoming years, and adding those three players is going to help us for the next little while.”
Added Gagne: “When you trade veterans for young players like we did, at the end of [last] season, there were not a lot of veterans in the locker room. Now, we still have a young team, but it’s good to have some leadership around and having guys like Smith, Timonen and Briere is going to bring a lot of leadership and help the team to go the right direction.
“I’m very excited to see where the team is going and I can’t wait to be on the ice with those guys. We’ll be a fun team to watch.”