Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who is This Year's Simon Gagne for the Flyers?

2010 NHL Playoffs: The Flyers were the long shot 7 seed with the cards stacked against them. They were down 3 games to none against the Boston Bruins and it seemed that the golf course was closer than any ice rink.

But Simon Gagne didn't listen to the odds. He didn't throw in the towel or scream "uncle." Gagne scored game winning goals. He brought the team back to life with his overtime winner at home in Game 4. He propelled them to Game 6 with a 2 goal effort in Game 5.

And after a 2-1 victory in Philly, came Game 7. After going down 3-0 in the first, the Flyers clawed their way back, tieing the game at 3. On a power play with just over 7 mins. left, Simon Gagne netted maybe his most important goal of his career. The goal would cement the Flyers unbelievable comeback and give them momentum that would carry them throw the Eastern Conference Finals and onto the Cup Finals.

Gagne had a few more clutch goals in the playoffs last year, but ultimately the team came up short. However, it was Gagne who was a big reason they got as far as they did.

Gagne was moved this offseason for salary cap reasons, and as the playoffs open Thursday the Flyers look to find their Gagne of this year. A player who will jump start the offense when their backs are against the wall.

This year the Flyers come in as the number 2 seed, but are not clear cut favorites in the opening round. More commentators than not have picked the Sabres to win the opening round match-up than the Flyers. The reason for this is the lack of passion and team play coming from the offense. In simpler terms, the Flyers have lacked clutch play lately.

Without Simon Gagne, who will be playing this post season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Flyers are in desperate need for a clutch goal scorer. They have the talent up front and, to me, it is just a question of which forward fills that role.

Their is the captain, Mike Richards, whose competitive edge in the playoffs is second to few. He showed this in the Eastern Conference Finals series against Montreal. Their is Danny Briere who put up enormous numbers last post season and has a knack for finding the net. Their is sophomore James van Riemsdyk who has grown into his frame and taken over some regular season games. Their is Jeff Carter who has the natural talent but has yet to step up in the playoffs. But doesn't that mean he is due?

Carter just might be, but the real clutch player this year will be Claude Giroux. Giroux is the most offensively talented player on the Flyers roster. He showed late flashes of his clutch-ness in the Stanley Cup tipping in an overtime goal against the Blackhawks.

Giroux has the hands, the vision, the shot and the poise to be clutch, to impact any game at any junction. He throws his body around enough to create turnovers in the offensive zone. He plays on the penalty kill and creates chances down a man.

At any point of the game, shorthanded, man advantage, down a goal, up a goal, first, second or third period, this kid is a threat. He tallied 21 points in 23 playoff games last year. He put up 76 points this year, including 25 goals and 51 assists.

If anyone is primed to break out this post season and put the team on his back when they need it most, it is Claude Giroux. And that is why he is my pick to be this year's Simon Gagne.

Who do you think will be the Flyers clutch player this post season?

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