For the second year in a row, a seemingly shrewd forward pickup seems like it’s backfiring for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Last season, free agent acquisition Alex Tanguay floundered in Florida, scoring four less points (37) in a 80-game 2009-10 campaign than he had in a 50 games in 08-09. This time around, another French Canadian addition is struggling, as Simon Gagne cannot seem to find his feet after being traded from the Philadelphia Flyers.
First, he was snake-bitten; he managed exactly zero points in six games with a pitiful -8 rating even as the Lightning started the season with a quick-strike offense. Now he cannot even get back on the ice as the oft-injured forward is dealing with “mysterious” neck problems, according to Joe Smith of Tampa Bay.com.
The news seems pretty cloudy at this point, although the good news is that the injury doesn’t appear to be related to the concussion problems that plagued Gagne throughout his career.
Gagne, who has missed the last seven games while on injured reserve, said he’s feeling better, but is “still not quite where I want to be.” Gagne has seen several doctors, including local neurologist Ed Grant, and said the good news was that tests appeared to show there isn’t anything wrong with his brain, nor are their symptoms stemming from his last concussion a few years ago. But the hardest part is that he can’t pinpoint the exact injury he suffered when he got hit hard into the boards against the Islanders Oct. 21.
“We’re still not quite sure what’s going on,” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to be really careful. We want to make sure we know what we’re dealing with.”
Head athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said the next step is a nerve conduction test today to make sure the nerve patterns are properly coming out of the neck. Mulligan said an MRI of Gagne’s cervical spine showed some fluid in the back of his neck, but they believe that’s from an old injury while Gagne was with Philadelphia, and not a cause for his current symptoms.
For now, Gagne has been riding the stationary bike and getting treatment, hoping to find an answer. He said his neck is still stiff, and Mulligan said there is some vision issues related to Gagne’s focus when he’s moving his head from one position to another.
It’s a real shame, too, because Gagne is an explosive player when healthy. He’s in a contract year, so the injury must bother him quite a bit to keep him off the ice.
So, the bad news is that Gagne is on the shelf indefinitely. The good news is that Steve Downie – a player whose tendency to deliver dirty hits overshadows his considerable grit and offensive talent – will fight through back problems to stay in the Lightning lineup.
He’s a valuable energy/toughness element in the Steve Stamkos-Martin St. Louis line, so Tampa Bay won’t feel too bad that he insists on playing through the pain.