En route to Los Angeles’ win this past Saturday, we had a chance to see another side of Simon Gagne that we’re really not accustomed to seeing. So far in 2011-12, Gagne has not disappointed. While his 11 points on the year are good enough for fourth on the team, his six goals trail only Anze Kopitar for the team lead. The native of Ste. Foy, Quebec, is also a +5 while amassing 17.6 shooting-percentage to go along with 14 penalty minutes in 15 games so far.
Usually I don’t make any mention of a player’s penalty minutes, especially if it doesn’t involve a tough guy like Kyle Clifford or Kevin Westgarth. Simon Gagne, though, is an exception as he displayed a side to his game that is, for lack of a better term, invaluable.
Late in the second period of said game vs. Minnesota, Brad Staubitz of the Wild, who has been notorious for being a bit of a pest, ran the aforementioned Kopitar in the boards and threw in a sucker punch (or an attempt at one) while he was down. There was no harm done to Kopi but that certainly didn’t deter a nearby Simon Gagne from lunging at Staubitz and wrestling him to the ice. Gagne was given a penalty on the play and normally, I would find an undisciplined penalty intolerable. However, if I said it once, I’ll say it again: I can’t possibly get upset at Gagne for doing what he did.
Gagne was signed by the Kings this past summer to not only add some veteran presence in the locker room but to score some goals and put points on the board while hoping to stay healthy. Gagne’s history of injuries certainly made any Kings fan reluctant but it’s turning out to be a wise investment.
Even I admit that if Gagne were to stay healthy, he’d be good for putting points on the board and injecting a sense of leadership into his new club from his experience in 2002 when he helped his native Canada win Olympic gold or even in 2010 when he helped guide the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final. But it’s safe to admit that not many expected this side of Gagne to ever come out.
On Saturday, the Wild were able to score on the power play that sent Gagne to the sin bin. As frustrated as I get over undisciplined penalties, I get more so when the opposing team scores on those man-advantages. Even so, though, I couldn’t possibly be upset at Gagne for costing his team a goal, if you even want to call it that. Granted, the five-goal cushion certainly subsided any hard feelings but if you look at what Gagne did, it leaves you with a sense of pride.
So far, the Los Angeles Kings have been on a rollercoaster ride, so to speak. Earlier in the season, we witnessed the Kings dominate only to see them falter in recent weeks. It was almost as if the Kings were trying to rediscover their identity.
What Gagne did on Saturday could not have been any better. I’m not trying to sound malevolent and say that Staubitz deserved the attack. It wasn’t much of an attack – only Gagne showing off his wrestling skills. Besides, Staubitz was okay. This, however, is something that the Los Angeles Kings need: for teammates to stick up for one another whether it’s from a questionable hit on the ice or a rude comment made off the ice. Sticking up for a teammate is probably the best way for any club to build a greater sense of camaraderie and, as far as I’m concerned, Simon Gagne is ahead of his game in that respect.
Some may have questioned the signing given his injury-prone history but Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi did very well by signing Simon Gagne. Not only is he producing but he’s not afraid to pull up his sleeves and get down and dirty with the opposing team when it’s necessary.
I’m certainly glad to have Simon Gagne on my side. Aren’t you?
DISCLAIMER: If you’re giggling at the phrase “down and dirty”, you’re lucky I didn’t say that Simon Gagne’s history of injuries is what “aroused” his determination to succeed. So, please get your mind out of the gutter. To think such a way is downright silly.
Photo: Courtesy of Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images/Jeff Conner/Icon SMI