Truth be told, I don’t have much to complain about. All told, I’ve been dealt a pretty fair hand. I was never much of an athlete while young, but I move around without pain while all my jock friends are nursing their old sports injuries that prevent them from living a complete life. Financially, I am better off than some, worse off than others, but there are no possessions that I covet, no property I wish I owned. For the most part, I never experienced the most pernicious of the Seven Deadly sins, that of envy.
That was before I watched Simon Gagne skate. Always partial to winter sports, I am an above average skier who has no problems hurtling my body down a mountain. Ice Skating has always presented more of a problem even though I started at a relatively young age. Despite many lessons, a decent pair of skates and plenty of ice time, I am reconciled to the fact that mediocre is the best I can ever hope to achieve on the thin twin blades. So, when I see Gagne make it seem so effortless, as if the ice is merely a personal conveyor belt rapidly taking him wherever he wants to go, I am actually jealous.
Admittedly, my expertise resides in many of the off-ice aspects of the sport. Scribe has actually played the game and knows more about the nuances that allow players to excel. But, I have been a fan for a long time, and there is a player that Gagne reminds me of, another Canadian of French descent. Yvan Cournoyer, ‘The Roadrunner’, was a mainstay of the great Canadiens teams of the 1970s. Cournoyer was vertically challenged, but he was a blur whose skill on skates was a marvel to behold. Who needs to forecheck when you can always beat the defender to the puck?
Gagne and Cournoyer play in different eras, and it is unreasonable to expect Simon to put up similar numbers to the Hall of Famer. Yet, it is clear that the former brings an element to the Kings that we have lacked for a long time – a player that forces defenders to back off when he has the puck. Take a wrong step with Gagne bearing down on you, and he will be in solo on your goaltender before you can even react. Hopefully, he can remain healthy, but I was thinking last night I would much rather have Gagne at $3.5 mm a year than Brad Richards at $7 mm plus. Sometimes, the best deals are the ones not made. Welcome to Los Angeles Simon, and damn you for making it look so easy.