Gagner of late has been playing some solid minutes and against some established NHL players. I’m wondering if this is MacT’s “baptism by fire” being applied to the 18-year old or if he really believes the kid is the best option available.
Either way, it’s a season in which first year Edmonton Oilers are taking a major number of at-bats that one would have thought would have been devoted to Pouliot, Jacques and Schremp.
In order to get a good glimpse of this season in historic terms, let’s look at all of the forwards during Craig MacTavish’s time as Oilers coach and their Average-Time-On-Ice (ATOI). Rookies Only:
- Jarret Stoll (03-04) 945:18
- Patrick Thoresen (06-07) 776:33
- Ales Hemsky (02-03) 712:12
- Jason Chimera (02-03) 710:06
- Sam Gagner (07-08) 618:24
- Andrew Cogliano (07-08) 613:33
- Marc Pouliot (06-07) 600:12
- Dom Pittis (00-01) 506:13
- Brad Winchester (06-07) 476:18
- Mike Comrie (00-01) 466:54
- Shawn Horcoff (00-01) 452:12
- Fernando Pisani (02-03) 375:18
- Jean Francois Jacques (06-07) 292:44
- Zach Stortini (06-07) 207:27
- Brian Swanson (00-01) 174:38
- Mike Bishai (03-04) 128:18
- Tony Salmlelainen (03-04) 125:27
- Michel Riesen (00-01) 118:53
- Jani Rita (02-03) 114:26
- Kyle Brodziak (05-06) 110:20
Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano are extremely likely to pass every other rookie MacT has employed as a forward since 2000.
Gagner played almost 16 minutes last night, over 15 against Calgary Sunday. Earlier in the month there was a game in which he played just over 7 minutes and another period which he was a HS (I believe the first two January games). Now he’s playing big minutes and against something other than the soft parade.
As a development technique, does this have value? Do we have any previous examples of this kind of thing working? Have the Oilers ever employed this technique with another skilled player? Do you recall Ales Hemsky getting this kind of treatment?
Louise sat with me at training camp and suggested that MacT saw something in Sudden Sam that was greater than his pure skill, more than his ability to impact a game with the puck. I didn’t see it then, and honestly I don’t see it now. I respect Louise’s opinion a great deal and am prepared to say that Gagner may one day develop into a more complete player, but it seems unreasonable and slightly irresponsible to use him in this way.
Having said that, Craig MacTavish is no dummy.
What am I missing?