Sam Gagner

I’m a big believer in comps. It goes back to hours and hours of reading Bill James and his historic work for baseball players.

James argument in regard to rookies went like this: if you can find (in history) a player who delivered similar offense in similar circumstances at a similar age while playing a similar position, you can gain a general idea about the rookie’s future.

His findings were incredible. Through him we know that age is the single largest consideration in these things. If a player can do at 20 what a 21 year old did, then even that one year makes a world of difference in terms of peak value and sustain.

Which brings us to Sam Gagner. At 18-years old he is having a very similar season to Ales Hemsky at 19-years old. I’ve mentioned this a few times but Gagner has now played just about a season (certainly Hemsky’s season as a rookie) and we can get a terrific look at the two teenagers at this very instant.

Let’s compare the boxcar numbers:

  • Hemsky (59gp, 6-24-30)
  • Gagner (58gp, 6-25-31)

Pretty damn close. Okay, let’s compare their EV/60 point totals:

  • Hemsky (6-15-21 in 557 mins)2.26
  • Gagner (5-17-22 in 621.19 mins) 1.91

Edge Hemsky, but maybe by less than imagined when we consider the numbers in context. Here are the numbers for each with GF totals for their respective teams and their % contribution to the offense:

  • Hemsky (21/157, 13.3%)
  • Gagner (22/103, 21.3%)

Gagner has been a bleeder at EVs, but with the bat in his hand I’d say you could reasonably argue he has had more of an impact for his team than Hemsky did in 02-03.

Now let’s look at the powerplay:

  • Hemsky (0-9-9 in 153.21mins)3.52
  • Gagner (1-8-9 in 141.21mins)3.81

Marginal difference here, there’s no real edge to either player. Let’s look at how they compare in terms of overall offense for their respective teams with the man advantage:

  • Hemsky (9/56, 16.1%)
  • Gagner (9/41, 22%)

Gagner has played similar minutes on the PP, gotten similar results and has done it for a team that is more offensively challenged than Hemsky’s rookie team. I do not have enough evidence either way to argue each player’s case in terms of quality of linemates or soft opposition, so will argue only the points available to me. Also, it’s always a good idea to approach these comparisons with caution. I think there is some evidence that Sam Gagner at 18-years old is comparable to Ales Hemsky at 19.

If that is true, then it might be fair to suggest we are looking at a superior player.

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34 Responses to "Sam Gagner"

  1. CWK says:

    Is there a good resource (besides good old fashioned research) to find NHL comps, like you can at Baseball Reference.com?

  2. Lowetide says:

    cwk: No. We fans usually talk about “style comps” and then you’re going to get Doug Weight as a comp but really we have no frame of reference to compare the two. Generally the idea of a “comp” is misunderstood by fans (imo).

    Using the comp in this thread, Hemsky is about 10 times more exciting as a player than Samwise but the results imply the gap offensively is either small or non-existent.

    So if we make a list of Sam’s negatives (speed, size) and Hemsky’s positives (speed, stick handle in a phone booth) all of those elements existed in their rookie seasons and we are still left with these results.

  3. PunjabiOil says:

    How about Patrice Bergeron’s 18 year old season? They’re fairly close in PPG.

  4. rananda says:

    hemsky 19′s year old season was his 3rd ever played on the north american sized ice, and he, i imagine, had a far less than perfect grasp of english and of relating to north american hockey players. these were non-inconsequential disadvantages a 19 yr old ales would have faced. but the comparison is interesting enough and gagner is going to be a player for sure. he’s going to look great for years with doughty head-manning him the puck. oh right. hee hee.

  5. Vic Ferrari says:

    There is a stark contrast in the manner in which Hemsky was brought along and the way that Gagner has been played.

    Hemsky played largely with Moreau and Reasoner (still with knees then). And of course they didn’t play against good players.

    Hemsky looked terrific then, but the point totals at the end of the season didn’t match. The popular theory is that Moreau and Reasoner hit posts with Hemsky’s sweet feeds (Dennis still sees this when he looks at the past through the acetone vapours, but it flat out never happened).

    I think the GA rate for Hemsky was next to nothing though. The Oilers were a very good 5v5 team at the time as well, a lot of unspectacular but good players, they could afford to bring him along Red-Wing-Style.

    One hopes that Gagner isn’t being brought along in the fashion of our favourite drek teams (NYR and VAN). But it is a genuine concern methinks.

    He clearly has skills, and I’ll not likely find anyone to agree with me on this, but I think his biggest problem is that he doesn’t think the game quickly enough yet. But Christ, he’s 18.

    And his underlying numbers have gone from nightmarish early on, to merely terrible in recent weeks, leaving Enstom, J.Johnson and Cogliano and a few others in his modest wake.

    To my mind Gagner has terrific stick skills, but he needs to be able to win puck battles, and he won’t out-muscle anyone in this league, so he’d better learn to get there first. And I think he will, in time. Good player imo.

    The habit of betting against the odds will fade with time too, it seems to with almost everyone, or at least the ones that stick around. And I suspect that we’ll be timing that type of progress with a calendar, not a watch.

  6. Lowetide says:

    Vic: Interesting post. Bill James had a theory about pitchers that no matter the type (fireballer through finesse down to slop) if a kid could just stay healthy sooner or later he’d figure it out and have a career.

    And you can see it too, guys who really didn’t have outstanding stuff, coming up and getting sent down, struggling to find their way but finally getting a groove.

    Avoid injuries, put up enough good innings to grab another chance. Sooner or later, time and experience tell you when to look for the fastball.

  7. RiversQ says:

    Cleary could be a great example of that.

    NHL GMs hate eating sunk costs when it comes to 1st round picks. It makes you wonder if this effect feeds their bias. Cleary figured it out, but he’s far from the draft day promise, isn’t he?

    As far as Gagner, I agree with Vic to a certain degree about Gagner’s failings and I hope the Oilers address this issue in the long run.

    The Oilers need to keep picking up forwards that are hard on the puck. They seem to be a little too dazzled with non-functional skill at the moment. MacT’s previous good 5V5 teams weren’t skating through the boards but they were definitely hard on the puck. That’s a quality to have on any team.

    Maybe the 4th line exploits will help turn the tide.

  8. Dennis says:

    Vic: why acetone?:)

    Finally, Moreau DID hit some posts, I clearly remember this. I never said Reasoner hit posts but I remember 83 setting up 18 for some of those “sweet feeds.”

    We saw Gagner show some fire when he took on Kesler last Sat, of course we also saw some of that from Comrie too when he had a couple of fights and low-bridged Hatcher that wonderful Sat night, and I also remember that from Hemsky as well.

    Despite what Vic might tell you;), there was a game against the Blues in either ’03 or ’04 where Hemsky ran Reed Lowe into the bench after Lowe had hammered Moreau. I thought for sure that Hemsky would get killed by someone after that but he’s a really tough fucker.

  9. Oilman says:

    You guys and your post hits – seriously – that has to be one of the most irrelevant things that you’ve tried to quantify the effect of yet…it’s no more than a missed net with a “ding” sound attached to it.

  10. Simon says:

    So was Hemsky’s rookie year 2001-2002? And his breakout year was 2005-2006, right? So that’s 4 years. If that’s the case, we’re looking at a breakout season by Gagner in 2011, or maybe 2010. Is Hemsky still under contract then to put the two of them together? Are those the seasons we’ll make a cup run?

  11. Lowetide says:

    Simon: Hemsky was drafted in 2001 and his rookie season was 2002-03. He ran in place for two seasons and then played extremely well in Czech Republic in the lockout season.

    So, his breakout NHL season was year three, but I think the lockout season was the real one.

  12. danny says:

    Is Marc Savard a better player than Ales Hemsky?

  13. Tyler says:

    Are those the seasons we’ll make a cup run?

    Not without a fuck of a lot more.

    And his underlying numbers have gone from nightmarish early on, to merely terrible in recent weeks, leaving Enstom, J.Johnson and Cogliano and a few others in his modest wake.

    I have some real wonder as to how much of this is a softer schedule and whether MacT has changed the way he runs the bench. It just strikes me as damned weird that so many of the young guys saw their numbers bump at once.

  14. Big T says:

    I want to prefice this by saying it is based on a huge quantity of ifs: This could be a good team by the ’09-’10 season. It’s based on a lot of good moves happening this off-season though.

    - Extend Horcoff another three years at $5.5MM per.
    - Sign Pitkanen for $4.5MM per over at least 2 yrs.
    - Sign Gilbert for $3.0MM per over at least 2 yrs.
    - Don’t break the bank signing youngsters!!! All three of Stortini, Pouliot and Nilsson should be had for a total of $2.4MM per season at most over the next two years at least. That’s $1.0MM per for one player and $600K per yr each for the other two.
    - Sign a Glencross type UFA for under $1.0MM per yr.
    - The most difficult one to my eye is next – sign a Dan Cleary type UFA this offseason for around Pisani money!!!
    - Doing all the above leaves at least $3.5MM per season to sign a goalie – Garon if need be, or someone else – whatever.
    - Trade Stoll for picks this season. Trade Staios and Torres for picks next season.

    2009-’10 Roster:

    Horcoff, Penner, Hemsky
    Gagner, Nilsson/Schremp/surprise player, Cleary type
    Cogliano, Moreau, Pisani
    Brodziak, Glencross type, Stortini

    Pitkanen – Gilbert
    Souray – Smid
    Peckman/Petry – Greene

    Garon??? – JDD/Dubnyk

    Not usually into this type of wild hypothesizing and of course there are a huge amount of ‘ifs’ but there appears to be a great deal of value contracts on that roster if these players continue to hold their own or develop. Souray still appears to be the only obvious boat anchor.

    All the above forwards save Nilsson/Schremp should be able to hold their own at EV’s. The defense should be very respectable if they are healthy and continue along their current development curve. Throw in a deadline aquisition or two and this is a very competitive team that post-season.

    Here’s hoping Lowe does something along these lines. I especially hope he can get decent return on Stoll, Torres and Staios either this season or next. None of these players are providing great value for the contracts they’ve signed or will sign.

    T

  15. Big T says:

    Sorry to go off topic there LT – thinkng of Gagner two seasons from now got me thinking about what the rest of the team might look like at that time. Needless to say, I’m cautiously optimistic.

    T

  16. Vic Ferrari says:

    MC:

    Yeah, the schedule had a lot to do with it I’m sure. As well as the fact that young players, collectively, get better with time. And the addition of Glencross is big. As well as the resurgence of Pisani (who wasn gawd awful aside from the first couple of games back after injury) … that’s made the difference. Especially the latter. When you’re difference makers come back from injury too soon and start making a difference in the wrong direction … it’s always fugly. Remember a couple of Smyth’s early returns from the IR in year’s past?

    As an aside: This whole notion of “windows of opportunity” for NHL teams is wildly exaggerated around here IMHO. This isn’t baseball after all. The Oilers need to dig themselves out of the hole and build a solid team, that’s all. Because that is sustainable.

  17. Big T says:

    OH,

    For those about to call me on it, I have Brodziak signing for $1.5MM for the ’09-’10 season and Smid and Greene each signing for $2.0MM per that same season. Peckman will still be under contract at $600K and Petry should sign in the $850K neighbourhood.

    End Hijack.

    T

  18. Big T says:

    Agree Vic, that’s why I’d like to see Stoll, Staios and Torres gone for picks. The next couple of drafts could really help sustain this franchise for a long time if they pick well. Here’s hoping.

    T

  19. Alice says:

    //It just strikes me as damned weird that so many of the young guys saw their numbers bump at once.//

    Horcoff’s out, and the kids are doing their share – or more – of picking up the slack. That’s all.

    At a higher level, while the stats might be fascinating for the moneyball junkies and hockey pool guys, I think it’s often a red herring. The stats are [mostly] offence, the game is played by lines, not like baseball which is mostly pitcher vs batter; lines seldom hang together long enough to collect any meaningful sample, and the lines have different roles. I understand the Attraction, but how would Gainey’s figures compare to Lupul’s? How do each of those contribute to the team’s WL? That’s the stat they count to see who plays in April.

  20. mc79hockey says:

    Horcoff’s out, and the kids are doing their share – or more – of picking up the slack. That’s all.

    At a higher level, while the stats might be fascinating for the moneyball junkies and hockey pool guys, I think it’s often a red herring.

    You don’t know what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about G-A-P. The discussion, at least from me, is about the SF/SA ratio.

  21. Vic Ferrari says:

    Big T,

    I think I’ve been misunderstood. These are the reasons that you KEEP Staios, Stoll and Torres. IMO.

  22. Vic Ferrari says:

    Quick note:

    My spelling in the post a bit above, it’s appalling. My apologies to all English majors.

  23. mc79hockey says:

    This whole notion of “windows of opportunity” for NHL teams is wildly exaggerated around here IMHO.

    Not if our GM is determined to pay our third liners and backup goalies the way Kevin Lowe is.

  24. Vic Ferrari says:

    Alice:

    That’s not the point really. If we’re looking at the bark of the tree, those are the groovy patterns we see.

    But if we sit back and look at the forest, and think like Ron Wilson (and hopefully don’t act like him), then it’s a different thing altogether.

    Which is kind of the point of the Oiler Blog universe. Or if it isn’t, it is at least the reason that I read it.

    Peace.

  25. Dennis says:

    Staios, I can see keeping him and Torres isn’t gonna cost a helluva lot next year either.

    Not sure about stoll though, Vic. what’s your cut-off point salary wise for bringing him back? He’s a question mark now.

    He started off terribly, then was some use to us in a shutdown role, then had some chances without scoring, had a little bit of a run and now he’s back to doing nothing at EV. He hardly even has a scoring chance.

    I never thought a lot of the fellow because I’ve been on his EV play since the ’06 run. But he did pop some points and played very physical with 14-34 around xmas last year. But now he’s fallen off the map again.

  26. doritogrande says:

    Sportsnet’s reporting Moreau fucked up Smid in practice today, here’s the link: http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2008/02/21/smid_injured_practice/

    Also I have another off topic question, hopefully some of the more rule knowledgeable posters can help me out. I seem to remember an obscure rule where if in overtime a team elects to pull their goalie and gets scored upon, they don’t get the single point. Is this an actual rule, and does it also apply to the AHL. Manitoba Moose goalie Drew MacIntyre was credited with a goal last night on a delayed penalty in overtime when the Wolves goalie left the net for an extra attacker.

    Thanks guys.

  27. doritogrande says:

    T, I’d much rather pay a little extra cash and get a Rolston over a Cleary.

    Also, it’s Peckham, but you probably meant that. Pretty sure Chorney’s going to get that spot over him anyway.

  28. Bruce says:

    I seem to remember an obscure rule where if in overtime a team elects to pull their goalie and gets scored upon, they don’t get the single point.

    Good question DG. That was indeed a rule, invoked exactly once that I know of, designed to stop teams — possibly both at once — from yanking the goalie in the dying seconds of a tie game to go for the winner point. This was designed to plug a loophole in the first version of the Bettman Point rule, pre-shootout, where the third point was awarded only to the team that scored in OT. The zero-point-ENGA rule was brought in to stop teams from taking the carrot of the bonus point to the logical extreme of going for it at all costs, and to actually punish losing in overtime if embarrassment of the league was at stake. (They should be embarrassed with that entire “free lunch point” concept … )

    With the addition of the shootout ensuring the third point in every OT game, there became a new and compelling reason for teams not to pull the goalie … why risk giving up an empty netter when they’re still assured of a shot at the third point merely by staying tied through OT? So the rule should have been taken off the books as no longer necessary.

    Whether it was or not is an open question. Maybe it’s still in there as a loose end and the Wolves get screwed out of their point due to an administrative oversight.

    Certainly there’s precedent for rule changes put in for a particular reason to persist even after that reason went away. Case in point: the “Don Cherry” goal crease, where the semi-circle was cut down to have fewer disallowed goals during the no-tolerance in-the-crease rule. Once that no-toenail-clippings-in-the-crease restriction was loosened, the truncated Cherry crease lost its purpose .. but it’s still there on the ice for all to see.

    I always kinda wondered all during the time the rule was definitely in effect, what would happen in the event of an accidental open-netter on the delayed penalty, as happened last night. Or maybe the geniuses that came up with this bullshit Bettman Point system never got that far in their “logic”.

  29. doritogrande says:

    Thanks Bruce, appreciate it.

  30. Tyler says:

    Or maybe the geniuses that came up with this bullshit Bettman Point system never got that far in their “logic”.

    I’m pretty sure that Roger Nielsen was the guy responsible for the goalie thing – I think that they asked him how he’d game the system and that’s what he came up with.

  31. Slipper says:

    He had a nickname that was something like Rule Book Roger because he’d always find loopholes to take advantage of. A couple more notable changes inlcuded that during penalty shot the shooter must face a goaltender. Neilson atleast once substituted a defender in for the goalie and had him rush the shooter at the whistle. Neilson would also instruct his goaltenders to leave their sticks in the crease when he pulled them, causing for the ouck to be deflected for long distance shots.

  32. Bruce says:

    You don’t know what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about G-A-P. The discussion, at least from me, is about the SF/SA ratio.

    I don’t quite understand what you’re talking about. Why this fixation with shots? Not all shots are created equal, to say the least. The most unimaginative of players can direct a bunch of pucks toward the net, that’s hardly a hallmark of excellence. The puck needs to actually go in once in a while.

    It’s like judging the best offensive baseball players on batting average. Sure it helps, but if the guy can’t run, has no power, and can’t wait for ball four he ain’t a fuck of a lot of use unless he hits .360. And if he can’t catch or throw, not even then.

  33. mc79hockey says:

    Why this fixation with shots? Not all shots are created equal, to say the least. The most unimaginative of players can direct a bunch of pucks toward the net, that’s hardly a hallmark of excellence. The puck needs to actually go in once in a while.

    He can’t direct ‘em at the net if he’s not at that end of the ice. It’s a proxy for where the guy is spending his time, subject to a number of caveats noted by Vic at his site. In any event, when talking about changes in a player’s own game – and that’s what we’re talking about here – barring some concern that the guy has suddenly started lobbing ‘em at the net every time he crosses the red line, I think a lot of your concern is attenuated.

  34. Bruce says:

    He can’t direct ‘em at the net if he’s not at that end of the ice. It’s a proxy for where the guy is spending his time, subject to a number of caveats noted by Vic at his site. In any event, when talking about changes in a player’s own game – and that’s what we’re talking about here – barring some concern that the guy has suddenly started lobbing ‘em at the net every time he crosses the red line, I think a lot of your concern is attenuated.

    Well I have some caveats of my own, first and foremost “not all shots are created equal”. If your guy hitting below the Mendoza Line gets 625 AB it’s gonna affect your production.

    Let’s see if we can catch Lightning in a bottle; maybe we can even attenuate it. :) I’ve recently done a bunch of in-depth research on Brad Richards (buried at the very bottom of the “Cammelleri?” (sic) thread a little further down the page). It’s especially pertinent just now cuz Tampa have just started to “officially” dangle Richards and Edmonton has been one of the clubs rumoured to be interested. I don’t know why I’d be worried that Lowe might make a bad move for a big name, but I just am.

    Richards has bad stats, ranging from mediocre offensively to brutal defensively. But one stat that appears superfically decent is his Corsi number of +4.0, in the top five on the Lightning and almost 5 shots/60 better than his fellow Big Three-ers, VL and MSL. So why are they plus players while he’s a league worst -25?

    If shots were the be-all and end-all one might conclude that BR is just unlucky, the other goalies are hot and his are cold while he happens to be on the ice. An alternate interpretation is that he concedes more than his share of high percentage shots while taking a lot of low percentage shots. The latter can be proven, at least on the personal level.

    Richards is a big-time shooter, taking around 250 shots per season. Yet his shooting percentage sucks, just 8.7% on his career. Lecavalier at 13.1% is fully 50% more efficient as a shooter; MSL at 14.4% more efficient still. Richards and St.Louis have both been in Tampa since 2000, and in 7 seasons Richards’ career best shooting percentage (11.7% in his rookie season) is worse than MSL’s worst season as a Bolt. Every year Brad takes more shots, and every year Marty scores more goals. And it’s usually not close. So why judge their relative merits on shots?

    I will agree that it might be useful in judging changes within a player’s own game, as MC recently demonstrated re: Zack (Joe Hardy) Stortini. But in the case of Brad Richards who has been an inefficient shooter his whole career, his game hasn’t changed so much as it needs to change.

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