Can Simon Gagne, Ville Leino Offer the Bruins Anything?


Bruins fans probably remember Simon Gagne for this dagger in the heart on May 14th, 2010.

The longtime Flyer finished off his team’s 3-0 comeback in both the series and the game. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have the pleasure of watching this game 7 meltdown because I was too busy at junior prom. If you listen closely, you’ll notice that Ville Leino added an assist on that goal and ironically enough, they are both trying out for the Bruins four years later.

Gagne and Leino are two completely different players, but both seem to be in the same situation. Unemployed. If I were to say that the Bruins picked up a former 47 goal scorer and the holder of multiple Stanley Cup records, people would be pumped, right? I doubt it.

After the lockout in 2004, the NHL’s offensive talents burst back onto the scene. Gagne, who potted 24 goals the year before the lockout, came back and nearly doubled that total as a 25-year-old with Peter Forsberg centering his line. The following year, he scored 41 more times despite Forsberg only appearing in 40 games for the Flyers. However, since then, he’s only played in one full season which, not surprisingly, was his last season with over 30 goals. Several concussions and other injuries, including hernia and neck surgeries, have held him off the ice for large portions of seasons. Not to mention, all of last season. Gagne wasn’t even on a roster last year. If he doesn’t make the Bruins roster and doesn’t get calls from any others, he would have played his last game at age 33.

There are a couple of stances to take on Gagne. One is that he is a low-risk, high-reward type of player that could potentially score a handful of goals if healthy. Not 47 goals, but maybe around 20. He would have to be paired up with a solid line that helps him out though, and according to Zack Cox of NESN, he has been finding some chemistry with Daniel Paille and Ryan Spooner. With Shawn Thornton already gone, Gagne could find himself on a new-look merlot line.

On the other hand, why have Gagne take a roster spot away from one of the youngsters trying to make the team. We’ve seen glimpses of the likes of Spooner, Alex Khokhlachev, Matt Lindblad, and Matt Fraser, but none have been able to earn a true role with the big squad. Even if Gagne does show some promise, what are the chances he can stay healthy? How rusty is he from his one year hiatus? Can he provide anything other than his nice left-handed shot, which the Bruins already have too many of as it is.

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Leino, on the other hand, was never the talent Gagne was. Hailing from Finland, he played in the Finnish Elite League until the 2008-09 season, when he signed with Detroit. At the 2009-10 trade deadline, he was dealt to the Flyers and may have caught lightning in a bottle for about a one year period. He tied the NHL record for most points in a Stanley Cup playoffs with 21 and broke the record for assists with 14. The following season, he had a career high 53 points for the Flyers, which earned him an insane contract. Possibly one of the worst of all time if you ask me. The Sabres gave Leino a six-year, $27 million deal before deciding to buy him out this offseason. In his three seasons in Buffalo, Leino amassed a whopping 10 goals and 36 assists in 137 games. Last season, he couldn’t find the back of the net in 58 games. Talk about snake-bitten.

Leino’s injury history is also a bit scary. He has undergone surgeries on both sides of his hip, one in 2010 and one in 2012, the latter keeping him to only 8 games in the 2012-13 season. His 31st birthday falls on October 6th, just two days before the season opener against the Flyers, so age shouldn’t be as much of a factor as it is for Gagne.

By next week, we could already have a good gauge of the chances for these two to make the roster. They are both left-handed left wingers, so it’s doubtful they will both make the team. All things considered, I would have to put my money on Gagne, but I wouldn’t be surprised if either don’t make it. First round draft pick David Pastrnak has already been impressive and made the all-tournament team at the rookie tournament in Nashville. He has a chance of playing alongside David Krejci on the first line, while some of the rookies mentioned earlier may be better suited for a bottom-six role.

The Bruins preseason action starts tonight against the Habs in Montreal at 7:30. Check out my Twitter during the game for updates and analysis @TopShelfSports5.