When Ryan Smyth was traded to the Oilers last summer, the Kings were left with a big hole on the left side – a position they were already thin in. So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when GM Dean Lombardi signed free agent Simon Gagne to take his place. The seven-time 20 goal scorer, was given a two-year contract. But, he had missed about 20 games each of the two seasons prior with various injuries.
Even so, his 17 goals in those injury-shortened campaigns were enough of a hope for a team needing offense. With only seven goals for the Kings this year though, LA sure could have used 10 more.
Yet, these days, stats aren’t the primary focus for Gagne. He’s been out of action with a concussion since the day after Christmas.
Having already missed 29 games and without any real timetable in place for his return, Gagne has recently started skating again – by himself and usually before or after the Kings practice. It’s given him a chance to be around the team again while he and the doctors assess what’s next.
Over the weekend, we caught up with him…
First question, of course, was how’s he doing?
“Not bad, it’s getting there,” began Gagne. “Still not 100%, but there are no setbacks right now. It’s improving and that’s a good sign. Sometimes with these injuries you see guys having a setback, they need to take it easy. Sometimes they push themselves and (the symptoms return). So, right now, every time I’m pushing it’s OK. So, it’s a good sign.”
How difficult has it been to sit out on the sidelines the last few months while the team has struggled to score…and, more recently, to not be able to play with Jeff Carter, his former teammate from Philadelphia?
“It doesn’t matter the situation, it’s frustrating as a hockey player when you’re not able to be on the ice and helping your team battle for two points,” he explained. “On the other side of things, especially with this injury, you need to be honest with yourself, be honest your teammates and trainers. You need to make sure you’re getting better because when you come back you need to be 100%, not 90 or 95%, just because you want to be out there and helping the team. That’s what I’m trying to do, be as honest as I can and make sure I’m 100% when it’s time to come back.”
Although it’s too soon to put any sort of official timetable on a return, what’s the overall mindset at a high-level – regular season, playoffs, next season?
“Who knows,” said Gagne. “I’d like to have a crystal ball and be able to see when it will be that day. But, right now, I’m just happy to feel OK on the ice and be able to work on my skills and working on my game shape a little bit. If that day is coming this year or for the playoffs, who knows. I don’t know. Like I said, I have to be really honest with myself with this one. It’s not the first time I’m going through this. Something I think you learn with these injuries is that I might not have been honest with myself after the other ones. I came back before I was 100% and maybe today I’m paying for it, who knows. So, this time I have to be honest with myself and come back 100%. It doesn’t matter the situation. But, right now I think I’m heading in the right direction and we’ll see where it goes.”
Even just being back on the ice has to be considered a major step at this point. In early January it was believed Gagne would most likely be out for the season. Then, things changed a month later, when he began skating.
Yesterday marked three weeks since he first returned to the ice. However, Justin Williams had previously indicated Gagne’s beard is the best indication of how ready he is to return. The longer it is, the less likely he’s coming back anytime soon.
Beardwatch 2012 begins now.