Things started off rosy. Simon Gagne, the most noticeable aquisition made by Steve Yzerman in the off season, came to Tampa in the best shape he‘s ever been in, according to his own words. All seemed so idyllic back in September. Gagne was healthy, motivated, excited. In the four pre-season games he notched 3 goals and 3 assists for the total of 6 points. That was Gagne everyone wanted to see. But then the regular season started and everything went down the hill since then… for Gagne at least.As everyone likes to point out, in the first 6 games of the season, Simon didn’t score a point and his +/- rating stopped at minus-8. I am not a person who just looks at the scoresheet, sees two zeros next to Gagne‘s name and comes to a conclusion that he played awfully. I am not a fan of quick judgements based on the stats. Not trying to say they don’t matter at all, because they do, but they can’t tell you everything. Simon tried his best out there on the ice, he hit the post multiple times, few inches prevented him from hitting the net sometimes… bad luck? You could say that. On the other hand, I am not that biased to blame solely "the luck", to say that he played spectacularly and just dumb luck was the reason for Gagne’s scoring drought. No. He played decent. Not great, but good. He’s been getting better and everybody, including coach Boucher, felt that finally the first goal would come for him any time soon. But it didn’t.
The injury, something that so many people feared, came instead. You all know the story – on October 21st, during a home game against the Islanders, in the third period, Michael Grabner sent Simon Gagne into the boards, who hit them awkwardly, neck first. Simon came back for one more shift but on the next day, a "stiff neck" diagnose was made. And that’s when things started to get ugly. What was first considered a minor issue that would have Simon out of the lineup only for few days, had become something mysterious and much more serious. "Concussion!" was heard more than a "Flyers suck" chant is heard at the Penguins games. Many tests were done, while many games were played with Simon already on IR. When Gagne was finally cleared for playing by the doctors, the team’s schedule prevented him from participating in practice, hence his return was postponed once more.
And that’s where we are right now. Simon Gagne still out, most likely frustrated. The Lightning fans left in doubts and uncertainty, frustrated. And on top of it, coach Boucher, getting frustrated as well by the same question being thrown at him day after day: "When will Gagne return?" It is frustrating situation, indeed. Considering the high hopes everybody had in Gagne and the fact he’s being paid over $5 millions for being out yet again. Many people are already "over him", many people would like to dump him and his "injury prone ass". But is it really fair to him?
Not even a half of a year ago, this guy played on a broken foot, helping his team to get into the Stanley Cup finals, only to be crushed by a heartbreaking loss in overtime and on top of things, to be traded away for a garbage. Not only did Simon lose his lifetime dream, he also lost his home in the span of few weeks. Think I am exaggerating? I beg to differ… Besides Quebec, Philadelphia was the only place he ever lived in. He spent 10 years there, he settled with his family there. He planned on spending the rest of his life there. What does this have to do with his lack of production? Even though it probably shouldn’t, huge changes like that affect the player, whether we like it or not. A guy who’s been used to cold, mist, drizzle and snow is now dealing with a spring-like weather. A guy who had familiar places and faces around him is now a stranger in a completely new environment. A guy who was respected and loved is now bashed and hated.
Patience. That is a quality not typically possessed by hockey fans. They want to see goals, they want to see production, they want to see their team win. And they want it now. They don’t want to wait, they don’t really care about players and what might be the true reason for their slumps. But I don’t blame them. It’s not in their nature.
Let me ask you again though… does Simon really deserve this kind of treatment? Look at Vinny Lecavalier for instance. He’s already missed 9 games with a broken hand and most likely won’t come back in another three weeks. Do people freak out over it? Do people bash him for it? No. So what’s so different? I’ll answer it for you: The set timetable of his return. Vinny broke his hand, was examined, underwent a surgery and is now recovering with a probable date of his return. That was not the case with Simon’s injury. People got so frustrated because of the uncertainty of "when in the hell will he come back?". It took them bunch of days to even figure out what was his actual diagnose so trying to set a timetable for his return was practically impossible.
All I want from you, dear fellow Lightning fans, is a second chance. Second chance for Simon Gagne to prove that he was not a bummer or a risky move that didn’t work out. Yes, he already missed 18 games and he was anything but stellar in those 6 games at the start of the season. But is it really already the time to throw him off the deck? There are still 58 games to be played and who knows, maybe the playoffs even? Last season, Simon started off a season with the Flyers with 1 goal and 4 assists in 9 games before he had to undergo a surgery. Yet again, not the best start for him. But when he came back he notched 4 goals and 3 assists in his first 6 games after his return and to say that he was a clutch in the playoffs for the Flyers is an understatement. Given the things he had to go through since losing the Stanley Cup finals back in June… don’t you really want to give him another chance?