Brian Propp and Simon Gagne were impactful left-wingers during their time with the Philadelphia Flyers. Both played in different eras, but they both stood out as leaders, usually as one of the top scorers on the roster. However, head-to-head who comes out on top? Who made more of an impact on the franchise? Before diving into the comparisons, here’s a little background on both.
Gagne was a homegrown talent, selected by the Flyers late in the first round of the 1998 NHL Draft. After spending a few seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Beauport Harfangs and the Quebec Remparts, Flyers management brought in the young man in 1999-2000.
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He had thoroughly impressed in junior, where he put up 220 regular-season points between the Harfangs and Remparts (89 goals and 131 assists). In addition, he posted 20 goals and 13 assists in two postseason runs with the Remparts in 1997-98 and 1998-99.
Gagne fit like a glove when he joined the Flyers, netting 20 goals as a rookie. It wasn’t long before he was racking up over 40 goals in back-to-back seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
He became one of the faces of the team, but the spotlight was never his alone. Throughout his time in the City of Brotherly Love, Gagne shared the praise with talents like John LeClair, Mark Recchi, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Knuble, and Danny Briere among many others. Whoever he played with, he clicked with. He always found chemistry with his teammates, a credit to his adaptability and his skillset.
The highlight of Gagne’s time in Philadelphia was during the 2010 Playoffs. He was a significant contributor on that run, notching nine goals and three assists in 19 games. He was a solid complementary player whose production provided stability alongside Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Briere, Scott Hartnell, and Chris Pronger among others. The Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Final but fell short to Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
He put up the following regular season stats during his ten-year stint in Philadelphia:
- 1999-2000: 20 goals and 28 assists for 48 points in 80 games
- 2000-01: 27 goals and 32 assists for 59 points in 69 games
- 2001-02: 33 goals and 33 assists for 66 points in 79 games
- 2002-03: nine goals and 18 assists for 27 points in 46 games
- 2003-04: 24 goals and 21 assists for 45 points in 80 games
- 2005-06: 47 goals and 32 assists for 79 points in 72 games
- 2006-07: 41 goals and 27 assists for 68 points in 76 games
- 2007-08: seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 25 games
- 2008-09: 34 goals and 40 assists for 74 points in 79 games
- 2009-10: 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points in 58 games
Despite his accomplishments in his first decade in Philadelphia and almost making it to the promised land, the 2009-10 campaign was his last for a while in an Orange and Black sweater. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning that offseason for defenseman Matt Walker and a 2011 fourth-round pick.
Gagne returned to the team midseason in 2012-13 after playing around the league for a few years. He chalked up five goals and six assists in 27 contests. In total, Gagne tallied 264 goals and 276 assists in 702 regular-season games with the Flyers.
In his NHL career, Gagne also suited up for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings, and the Boston Bruins. He captured his first and only Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2012. He took the 2013-14 season off before playing for the Bruins briefly in 2014-15. He retired before the 2015-16 season, after 822 regular-season games, as well as 109 matches in the playoffs. He was honored by the Flyers in late 2015.
Propp, like Gagne, started his NHL journey with the City of Brotherly Love. He was drafted in 1979 by the Flyers and joined a team that had made a statement early in the decade with back-to-back Stanley Cup championships led by talents like Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent, Bill Barber, and Reggie Leach among others. Propp made the Flyers on his first opportunity in 1979-80, racking up 75 points in 80 games and not missing a beat.
Propp was a welcome addition and played a large role, and finally earned more of the spotlight after Clarke retired. Propp also had a few moments during his career in Philadelphia that stand out.
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He had a four-goal outing at the Spectrum on Dec. 2, 1986, against the St. Louis Blues, a team that included Doug Gilmour, Bernie Federko, and Mark Hunter on offense (Both Gilmour and Federko became Hockey Hall of Famers in 2011 and 2002, respectively). Propp outshined them all that night, as the Philadelphia faithful took home a satisfying 7-1 victory.
Propp also had a knack for scoring shorthanded goals. Specifically, there was a game against the Calgary Flames during the 1984-85 campaign where Propp notched a hat trick and two of his three goals were shorthanded. He was also a big factor in the Flyers making it back to the Stanley Cup Final on three occasions (1980, 1985, and 1987).
Propp posted the below stats over the course of his tenure with the Flyers:
- 1979-80: 34 goals and 41 assists for 75 points in 80 games
- 1980-81: 26 goals and 40 assists for 66 points in 79 games
- 1981-82: 44 goals and 47 assists for 91 points in 80 games
- 1982-83: 40 goals and 42 assists for 82 points in 80 games
- 1983-84: 39 goals and 53 assists for 92 points in 79 games
- 1984-85: 43 goals and 54 assists for 97 points in 76 games
- 1985-86: 40 goals and 57 assists for 97 points in 72 games
- 1986-87: 31 goals and 36 assists for 67 points in 53 games
- 1987-88: 27 goals and 49 assists for 76 points in 74 games
- 1988-89: 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 77 games
- 1989-90: 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points in 40 games
During the 1989-90 campaign, the Flyers made a couple of deals with the Bruins. They sent their former captain Dave Poulin to Boston, but management felt it was best to move on from Propp too. He was also dealt to the Bruins, for a second-round pick in 1990, to end a dominant decade with the Flyers, one that included a few seasons of almost hitting 100 points. Propp tallied 369 goals and 480 assists in 790 regular-season contests in Philadelphia.
Propp suited up for the Bruins, Minnesota North Stars, and Hartford Whalers before calling it a career in 1994. His number 26 is one that some think should be retired by the Flyers down the line.
Top Left Wingers in Philadelphia
Propp and Gagne were both pivotal figures during their time with the Flyers. Propp was always one of the top scorers on his team, as was Gagne. They were considered the offensive leaders and helped carry their teams to the postseason.
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In the 11 seasons that Gagne was with the Orange and Black, the team made the playoffs eight times. Propp also made consistent playoff appearances throughout his career, including every year he was with Philadelphia. After he left, the Flyers missed the playoffs for five straight seasons. It shows how valuable he was to his team, and what he brought every night. They both were considered core members that the franchise built around.
In 90 postseason games, Gagne had 32 goals and 15 assists. Meanwhile, Propp tallied 52 goals and 60 assists in 116 games. Propp bests Gagne when it comes to the depth of his postseason runs, with three Stanley Cup Final appearances with the Flyers (against the New York Islanders in 1980 and the Edmonton Oilers in both 1985 and 1987). Gagne went to one Stanley Cup Final with the Orange and Black.
When it comes to awards and honors, Propp was an NHL All-Star on five occasions (1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, and 1990). Gagne was a two-time All-Star (2001 and 2007).
Head-to-head, I have to go with Propp as the better player. It is difficult to compare the two given how different the NHL’s style of play is between their two eras, the 1980s and the 2000s. At the end of the day, Propp carried a lot of the offensive load on his shoulders as did Gagne, but the Flyers accomplished more as a team when he was at the helm.
Gagne always had a superb amount of talent around him, but he only helped lead the team to one Cup Final. Propp was a machine that could not be stopped. It didn’t matter if the Flyers were on the power play or the penalty kill, Propp was going to do what he had to to get his team the win. That is how he became known for his shorthanded goals over the years.
As great as Gagne was, Propp made a bigger statement during his time with the Flyers. That being said, they both deserve credit for the successes they had in the NHL, individually as well as with the team.