Analysis: Injuries spark Flyers' trade for Gagne

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Analysis: Injuries spark Flyers' trade for Gagne

On the surface, it didn’t make much sense: Simon Gagne to the Flyers for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft (see story).
 
How would another ex-Flyer -- who turns 33 this Friday, doesn’t have a goal in 11 games and has been benched in Los Angeles -- help get the Flyers’ offense going?
 
After all, this isn’t the same Gagne whose last most-productive season as a Flyer was 2008-09, when he scored 34 goals on Mike Richards’ line with Mike Knuble.
 
The deal didn’t make sense.
 
Not when there were rumors out there about the Flyers' interest in forward/defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, a guy who could have an impact in two parts of the lineup.
 
And then general manager Paul Holmgren finally shed some light Tuesday night when he revealed that Tye McGinn had suffered an orbital bone fracture during his fight with Toronto’s Mike Brown on Monday. McGinn will likely need surgery, a source said.
 
Now the trade makes sense.
 
“Obviously, with the injury bug and Matt Read being out [six weeks with rib cage injury], and now we lost Tye McGinn last night for a few weeks, we have some holes," Holmgren said on a conference call.   

"Simon is a guy who has a lot of experience and played in a lot of positions -- penalty kill, power play and regular shifts. He is a good two-way player that can skate. We think he will add to us a lot.”
 
Gagne had fallen in disfavor with coach Darryl Sutter because he didn’t finish his scoring chances and he is not a grinder who can play on a fourth line. Gagne admitted he felt confused as to just what his role was.
 
Kings GM Dean Lombardi called the Flyers prior to McGinn’s injury -- in the midst of Gagne getting benched for five games -- to gauge interest in moving him here.

“He wasn't fitting in, so to speak,” Lombardi said. “We were able to put him in a place where he would be happy. He was very pleased with it.”
 
It wasn’t until the McGinn injury, on top of Read’s, that Holmgren bit on the deal, which required a bit of a cap maneuvering (see story).
 
“I talked to Dean a few days ago,” Holmgren said. “He said he might be in a position to move him and asked if we would have any interest. I said we might and then when the injury bug hit us in the last few games, it was a good opportunity [for someone] who can play higher up our lineup and add to our team.”
 
Gagne seemed taken aback with the whirlwind of activity, including the sale of his South Jersey house that was previously rented to coach Peter Laviolette.
 
Gagne is slated to take a red eye back to Philly tonight to play Wednesday against the Washington Capitals.
 
“It’s going to be maybe a tough one tomorrow night. I think they want me to be in the lineup,” he said. “First of all, I’m excited to be back and play in front of the fans in Philly tomorrow night.
 
“Right now, the plan for me was there is no flight left for this afternoon, so I have to take the red eye and fly all night. So it’s going to be a special game tomorrow, but I’ll try to take all that emotion and try to bring that energy to the game.”
 
Three seasons ago, Gagne had 17 goals for Tampa. All he has now are five assists. The Flyers need more scoring. There is no guarantee how many goals are left in his stick even though he is physically fine (concussion free) and his neck issues have been surgically repaired.
 
He has always kept himself in shape, too.
 
Gagne was very close to Danny Briere and Claude Giroux. He has a Stanley Cup ring now. Perhaps he can help relax a young player like Sean Couturier, who seems to be going through the “sophomore jinx” this season.
 
Then again, Gagne himself needs to get going.
 
“It’s not an easy situation,” Gagne said. “As a hockey player not playing a lot last year and not playing at the end in the [Stanley Cup Final] and having the long lockout, not playing for almost six months before we started the season.
 
“But I have to say, I felt really good -- the games that I played this year, I felt really good on the ice. My leg was feeling good, the skill was coming back, but it’s hard when you start to feel your game coming back and you’re not playing the next five games, and after that you have to go back into the lineup.
 
“[For] any player it’s going to be hard to ask someone to go back in the lineup after not playing for five games. It’s almost like a week not playing. It’s hard. But like I said, the games I played here this year I was feeling really good. I think it’s just a matter of playing a little more hockey and all that stuff will come back.”
 
The thing is the Flyers are running out of time. They need points. They are a bubble team that right now doesn’t appear headed to the playoffs.
 
Gagne, a true class act and one of the most professional of athletes ever to play in Philadelphia, returns with a certain amount of pressure on him -- to help get this team into postseason.
 
“He seems excited to be coming back and looks forward to an opportunity to play and help us,” Holmgren said.

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

Travis Konecny leaves impression with vets in Flyers' preseason win

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Michael Raffl had just finished playing alongside Travis Konecny, the 19-year-old kid that has Flyers fans abuzz about the now and future.

Yet for Raffl, he wasn’t thinking forward. Instead, he was looking back.

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t do that when I was 19, that’s for sure,” the 27-year-old said smiling, eyes wide open. “No, it’s impressive, he’s a really, really good hockey player.”

Konecny had that resounding affect Wednesday night at the PPL Center, recording a goal and an assist while leading the Flyers to a 2-0 preseason win over the Devils (see 10 observations).

He dazzled with speed and shiftiness.

He showed off vision and smarts.

When he touched the puck, he had everyone’s attention.

Paired with Raffl and Brayden Schenn in a game featuring mostly prospects, the 2015 first-round pick made the molding of Ron Hextall’s roster that much more difficult. With the general manager looking on, the highly touted winger started fast before making his imprint during a span of just four minutes and 34 seconds in the second period.

First, he redirected a blast by Andrew MacDonald to hand the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Not long after, the 5-foot-10, 184-pounder deceived the defense to find Raffl right in front off a backdoor pass for a 2-0 advantage.

“We had a cycle play going and he had a nice fake up top there and I was just going to the net,” Raffl said. “Somehow I was all by myself and he saw me, put a perfect pass on my tape and I just went around the goalie and put it in.”

Following his first goal, Konecny nearly tacked on another less than a minute later when he appeared to hit the crossbar on a shot. He also flirted with a few more assists.

“I think I just played relaxed,” Konecny said. “I came into the game tonight trying not to do too much and just keep things simple. The main thing for me was getting pucks out of the zone, so I think I did that well tonight and hopefully I can keep building on it.”

Relieving pucks from the zone isn’t a real problem when you possess the speed and skill of Konecny, who racked up 101 points last season at the junior level.

At just 19, that’s where he’ll have to return if he doesn’t crack the Flyers’ roster.

With cuts already made and more coming, that sometimes is on Konecny’s mind.

“It weighs on you a little bit. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it and it’s definitely the time I need to step up and make sure I’m playing good hockey,” Konecny said. “And just earning another day — that’s just the way I’m looking at it. Every day I wake up and just work hard and move forward from there.

“I think everyone comes into camp and tries to give them (management) a reason not to send you back and make it hard on them.”

Wednesday night didn’t hurt his chances.

“He played a good hockey game,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had an impact offensively. He did a pretty good job. There’s some youthful mistakes in there, but overall, he had a real good night tonight playing with Raf and Schenner.”

Placing Konecny with two capable NHL forwards offered the Canadian an opportunity to prove what he could do if he was in fact on the big club.

“We played well together,” Konecny said. “I think from the start we just had a lot of communication, we talked in the room, in warmups, we all knew what we were going to do throughout the game and in certain scenarios.”

If anything, Konecny left an impression on Raffl.

“He’s a very smart player,” Raffl said. “Once he has the puck, he makes smart decisions with it. It was very easy to play with him out there. He plays a mature game and I really enjoyed it.”

Time will tell if more enjoyment is in store come Oct. 14.

Loose pucks
Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon combined for the shutout. Stolarz started and made 11 saves over 29:23, while Lyon played 30:37 and stopped seven shots. “I like both of our guys tonight,” Hakstol said. “Stolie did a good job, he made a difference in this game in the first 10 minutes, those two or three really good saves there. Then Alex came in halfway through, which isn’t an easy thing to do and was ready to go and did his job.” … Schenn, MacDonald and defensive prospect Robert Hagg finished with an assist apiece. … With the roster currently standing at 49, the Flyers expect to make 15 cuts on Thursday. … Defenseman Nick Schultz is out four to seven days with a lower-body injury suffered in Tuesday night’s preseason game. ... The Flyers are off Thursday before likely practicing Friday ahead of Saturday's preseason game at 7 p.m. against the Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

10 Flyers-Devils observations: Travis Konecny impresses

10 Flyers-Devils observations: Travis Konecny impresses

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Flyers on Wednesday night took to the PPL Center — home of the AHL affiliate Phantoms — to give fans an early glimpse of the organization’s young talent, much of which will play on a nightly basis in Lehigh Valley.

One player that may reach Philadelphia before he ever lands in Lehigh Valley did not disappoint as the evening’s main attraction.

In his quest to make the Flyers’ roster at 19 years old, heralded prospect Travis Konecny scored a goal and tallied an assist to lead the orange and black past the Devils, 2-0, in their fourth preseason game, improving to 2-2.

Let’s dive into the action with 10 observations from the game:

1. We start with who else? Konecny. Head coach Dave Hakstol paired the talented winger with Brayden Schenn and Michael Raffl, two of the few NHLers to suit up Wednesday. Konecny jumped all over the opportunity, deflecting an Andrew MacDonald shot for a goal 4:30 into the second period. Just shy of five minutes after, he delivered a pretty touch pass to Raffl in front for a 2-0 lead. Konecny just narrowly missed adding another goal and assist, as well, later in the stanza. You know when he’s on the ice because you’ll see bursts of unmatched speed. 

The 5-foot-10, 184-pounder is incredibly shifty with the puck and adept at avoiding contact. At times, he’ll get pushed around when a bigger body squares him up, but he makes up for it with his elusiveness. The 2015 first-round pick sure played the part of an NHL player ready to contribute to a team in need of playmaking.

2. Samuel Morin is a big boy. The 6-foot-7 defenseman really utilizes his tall frame and upper-body strength when battling along the boards. Obviously he needs to work on his skating and puck handling, but he has the size and makeup to compete.

3. Goalies Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon will duke it out for playing time in Lehigh Valley. It’s an impressive tandem. Both combined for the shutout. Stolarz, 6-foot-6, made eight saves in the opening period and 11 total over 29:23. He showed good quickness and instincts. Lyon, not so big at 6-foot-1, is sound and holds records for his time at Yale. He converted seven saves. It’s a duo worth keeping tabs on throughout the season.

4. Forward Colin McDonald will be a nice safety net for the Flyers if they ever need a body willing to bring nothing but physicality. He made loud, impactful hits and had a fight — albeit a short and weak one — early in the first period.

5. Defenseman Mark Alt lost a fight quickly in the second period. He may have lost his balance, but he went down hard. Alt appeared fine when he got up. However, he never returned to the game.

6. The Flyers killed two power plays on the night. The PK continued to show more aggressiveness and disruptiveness on the puck carrier, which wasn’t always the case last season. It’s a big reason the Flyers fell in such a big hole against the Capitals during the playoffs. So far this preseason, the Flyers are 16 for 17 on the penalty kill.

7. Along with Schenn, Raffl and MacDonald, other Flyers to play were Boyd Gordon and Chris VandeVelde, who handled themselves well, as expected. Defensive prospect Robert Hagg had an assist, as did Schenn and MacDonald.

8. Keith Kinkaid was in net for the Devils. He’s expected to be New Jersey’s backup netminder. The 27-year-old is 15-14-5 in his career with a 2.71 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. Not crazy stuff, but still a goalie with NHL experience. However …

9. The Devils visit the Rangers Thursday night, so they too deployed a fair share of prospects, resulting in Kinkaid without a ton of help.

10. The PPL Center is a beautiful venue and should be a hot-spot for Flyers fans throughout the 2016-17 season. The trip is doable, parking is accessible and cheap and the arena doesn’t sport a bad seat. The Phantoms should be fun with added experience and talent.