25 games into his NHL career, Sam Gagner looked like a kid who didn’t really belong. He started his NHL career 25gp, 2-8-10 and minus 10.
His next 54 games (11-28-39, -11) saw marked improvement although he was still throwing away at-bats.
I think we might be able to read Gagner’s season a little better if we split it in half. Early on he grabbed a lot of attention for his ability in the shootout and some ridiculous moves, but later in the season Gagner appeared to be turning a corner and having the game slow down for him.
If that is true, then it should have shown up in the season’s final half. Right?
- First 40: 3-13-16, (.400ppg) -11
- Final 39: 10-23-33, (.846ppg) -10
The shocking item isn’t the plus minus (that was fairly predictable, one doubts he’ll be a plus player this season either) but that the results in the final 39 games were so much better. I think we all saw improvement and that he was winning more plays than early in the season but that’s a lot of offense for someone who still doesn’t shave and 39 games is a nice long period of time for evaluation.
According to Gabriel Desjardins, Gagner played with the best possible teammates but faced tougher opponents than one would expect from a raw rookie out of junior. His points per 60 total 5×5 (1.96) was just mid-level on this roster and trailed the other wunderkind Cogliano but they put up about the same number of points at EVs. The difference? At-bats:
- Cogliano 15-20-35 in 887:44EVs minutes
- Gagner 9-24-33 in 1009EVs minutes
Gagner and Cogliano had very similar boxcar numbers at the end of the day, but Gagner required 2 more minutes a night (12:46 to 10:49) to get it done. That’s a lot of at-bats.
How did Gagner compare in this area with Patrick Kane?
- Gagner 9-24-33 in 1009EVs minutes (1.96)
- Kane 14-30-44 in 1174EVs minutes (2.25)
Kane required another minute and a half per night (14:19 to 12:46) that Gagner didn’t get but he also delivered more offense.The other big factor in a Kane V. Gagner comp? Age. Patrick Kane is 264 days older than Sam Gagner.
There has been a lot of talk about Gagner being vulnerable to a sophomore slump. I guess he’s as vulnerable as anyone, but the major factor in keeping him up all last season was injury and it would be my guess that is huge this season too. Until Gagner can compete physically against men 10-15 years older the danger of injury is greater than the danger of not being able to hit a curveball.
All that factored in, I think we’ll see some slight improvement from Gagner this season. He’ll probably start taking over someone’s PP time after Christmas and of course you’re not going to let Sam Gagner skate out there with craptastic linemates so he’ll probably get to play with some or all of Cole, Penner, Nilsson, Cogliano, Horcoff and Hemsky.
Prediction for 08-09: 78gp, 18-35-53 (.679 per game).