The Philadelphia Flyers have started out the season much better than many anticipated. It has not all been perfect, including a 7-1 blowout loss to the Florida Panthers, but the team still has a winning record. Both of their goaltenders have had ups and downs and their offense has struggled to score at times.
It has not been a perfect start of the season for the Flyers, but forward Sam Gagner has stood out. He’s been a healthy scratch twice, yet he’s still making an impact.
Gagner’s Impact On The Flyers
During the Flyers game against the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia lacked energy and routinely failed to clear the zone. Their defense was lackadaisical at times and their forwards usually counted on to produce offense were held without a point. Yet, despite the team around him, Gagner played perhaps his best game of the season.
Gagner has a reputation as bad defensively and it’s not incorrect. He’s far from a Selke trophy winner, but he is also much better than advertised. Throughout his career, Gagner has played for three teams, the Edmonton Oilers, the Arizona Coyotes and now the Flyers. Only the last team mentioned could have been considered a decent defensive team. Unsurprisingly, Gagner was a -77 skater with the Oilers and actually was a +3 skater with the Coyotes.
Through his six games as a Flyer, Gagner is a +3 skater and has produced four points. Considering the deal that brought him to Philadelphia, Gagner looks like a steal. He’s been much better defensively than many initially expected and he’s chipped in offensively. It should also be noted that Gagner has been asked to play as a wing and a center, and he’s looked great in both roles.
Here’s what head coach Dave Hakstol had to say about Gagner, who recently came under fire from Jeremy Roenick.
Everybody’s got to play the game a little different, but I’ve been pleased with Sam’s battle level. He’s a worker. I think that’s the best way I can sum it up. A lot of times I think after a player’s been in the league for a few years, there may be a preconceived notion on him. I think he came in here and from day one has been a worker
Center Sean Couturier is out with a concussion and he might come back as the second line center, but Gagner should not lose his spot in the lineup. Move him over to the wing because he is not part of the Flyers current struggles.
The only other scratched forward is veteran center Vincent Lecavalier. He makes $4.5 million per season, but yet he has not played in a single game. That should not change if it is at the expense of Gagner.
Once considered an afterthought in the “trade of Chris Pronger’s contract” Gagner now should become a fixture in the Flyers lineup. When the team isn’t producing, he has stepped up this season.
Gagner showed what he was capable during the Flyers overtime loss to the Sabres. He was increibely effective during the 3-on-3 overtime period and he even almost won the game for the team.
No one expected much from Gagner after coming off of disappointing stints in Arizona and Edmonton. However, in six games of action, it seems he’s left his demons behind and as of now, Gagner should keep a permanent spot in the Flyers lineup.
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Michael Pityk is an analyst who has written for numerous sites since beginning his professional career. He’s acted as a credentialed member of the media for the Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pittsburgh Penguins. His work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The Sports Journal, MSN, PensLabyrinth, Montreal Hockey Talk, ESPN Pittsburgh, The Hockey Writers, Todays SlapShot and The Bleacher Report. He formerly was the editor of Pens Labyrinth and an analyst for The Sports Journal. Michael presently acts as an NHL Analyst for The Hockey Writers