When Philadelphia fans think of the Los Angeles Kings, most go right to ex-Flyers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
Sure, there are plenty of other Philly connections on a team known as “Flyers West,” but if the Kings win the Stanley Cup, the perception will be that Richards and Carter vindicated themselves after their shocking exiles less than a year ago.
Yes, Richards and Carter were the faces of the Flyers’ franchise until last season. Richards was the 17th captain in team history, and Carter led the team in goals last season.
But Flyers fans should be watching someone else tonight in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals
No one on the Kings — not Richards, not Carter, not even Kings vice president and Flyers legend Ron Hextall — has played more games in the orange and black than Simon Gagne.
Gagne has become an afterthought after a concussion cost him most of this season, but he is expected to return to the Kings’ lineup tonight.
Gagne played 664 regular-season and 90 playoff games for the Flyers from 1999-2010.
His 259 career goals in a Flyers uniform rank ninth in franchise history — behind only Bill Barber, Brian Propp, Tim Kerr, Bobby Clarke, John LeClair, Rick MacLeish, Reggie Leach and Eric Lindros. He’s ahead of guys such as Rod Brind’Amour, Mark Recchi and Rick Tocchet.
Gagne was clutch for the Flyers, too. His 47 game-winning goals rank sixth in franchise history, ahead of Kerr, Clarke and Lindros, among others.
Gagne was a fan favorite. He was drafted in the first round in 1998, a few months after the Flyers had lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Buffalo Sabres. The Flyers couldn’t match Buffalo’s speed in that series, and they drafted the swift-skating Gagne with that in mind.
Gagne made the Flyers as a 19-year-old in 1999 and soon became a fixture in the lineup. His best season came in 2005-06 on a line with Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble.
The end of his Flyers career was marred by injuries, and he was traded to Tampa Bay in the summer of 2010 in a salary dump.
But Gagne will go down as one of the all-time greatest Flyers. And if Claude Giroux and Co. can’t get their names etched into the most hallowed trophy in sports this year, a nice consolation prize would be to see Gagne’s name on it.