While the season is five games old for a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has four victories, Simon Gagne admits he has a few concerns about the zero.
Entering tonight's game against the New York Islanders, Gagne has yet to score a point - zero goals, zero assists. It may not seem like a big deal, but for an offensive star who has averaged .79 points per game throughout his 11-year career trying to settle into unfamiliar surroundings, it does serve as a slight sense of frustration.
"Yeah, it is a little bit,'' said Gagne, who at minus-7 is tied for worst on the team with linemate Ryan Malone. "But I've been in the league for 11 years so it's not the first time. ... I'm sure I would like to have a couple right now, but the team is winning and that's what you want. Maybe when I start scoring it will be at times when we need me to score. For the confidence for me, personally, it would be fun if I can end this (tonight).''History suggests Gagne very well could get his name on the score sheet tonight.
In 664 career games with the Philadelphia Flyers from 1999-2010, only twice did Gagne endure a stretch of more than five games without a point. The first came during his rookie season in 1999-2000 when he went scoreless for eight games, and he went through a similar stretch in 2003-04. Only one other time in his career has he gone five games to start the season without a point, also in 2003-04.
Perhaps now, with an emotional start to the season behind him, the left wing will be able to find a comfort zone and settle into his game.
Gagne, 30, has made no bones about the emotional roller coaster he rode the first three games of the season. After 11 years with the Flyers, he started his first season in a different uniform in Tampa Bay's home opener Oct. 9. The first road game of the season took the Lightning to Montreal on Oct. 13, and Gagne played in front of 20-plus friends and family from his home province of Quebec. The next night saw an emotional return to Philadelphia, where he was greeted warmly by his former team and the fans at Wells Fargo Center.
"I'm not going to lie, it's difficult at first in a new season with a new team,'' Gagne said. "I thought the first exhibition game would take care of that, but I think regular season is when you realize that it's for real. First game at home was special, then going to Montreal ... and to Philly right after that, it was weird. That's not something you are used to in the regular season as a player. You don't have those type of three games early on.
"So it's a good thing those are done and now I can focus more on my game and get into a normal routine as a hockey player, and those first three games were not.''Lightning coach Guy Boucher said because of the radical change Gagne had to undergo by moving to a new team, he is not surprised with the slow start for the two-time 40-goal scorer.
"Everything has been tough for him from the beginning and I think those first three games wore him out emotionally, and if I was him, I would find it tough, too,'' Boucher said.
What Boucher hasn't sensed is any form of overt irritation that is affecting Gagne's game. With 15 shots on goal, Gagne is tied for second on the team, and he's had plenty of quality scoring chances - he just has not been able to cash in yet.
"The last game (Monday against Dallas) he had some major scoring chances, and when things go like that, that's just what happens,'' Boucher said. "When you start picking it up, all of a sudden the same thing you did last week, it goes in and you wonder why it didn't go in last week, and that's how it's going for him right now.''Gagne hopes the conversation is being held after five games because of the microscope that comes at the start of each season.
"At this moment right now it might be hard, but if you look at the long season when things are going well, you are not going to look at the start of the season, you will look at what's going on then,'' he said. "It's part of hockey. All players go through it at some point during the season, it just happens to be taking part early in the season. At one point the team is going to need a big goal and maybe that's when it's going to be my time.''