Reasonable Expectations for 08-09 (Gagner)

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).

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23 Responses to "Reasonable Expectations for 08-09 (Gagner)"

  1. Mark-Ryan says:

    I don’t see how you could put Horcoff on the PP over Gagner. 3.88 PPP/60 for an 18 year old is absolutely insane and it nearly matches Horcoff’s 4.00.

    All things considered, I think it’s more reasonable to expect 60 out of Gagner then 96 out of Hemsky. JMO, though.

  2. David says:

    I think he takes over on the first unit powerplay a lot sooner than Christmas, possibly straight out of training camp.

    You push Horcoff down to the second unit powerplay, and give him more minutes five on five. Honestly, if your top two centers are Horcoff and Gagner, who do you focus more on the powerplay, and who more five on five?

    Seems pretty rudimentary to me.

    I say sixty points.

  3. Lowetide says:

    mark-ryan: No big deal, but my prediction for Hemsky was 93 points.

  4. Jonathan says:

    You push Horcoff down to the second unit powerplay, and give him more minutes five on five. Honestly, if your top two centers are Horcoff and Gagner, who do you focus more on the powerplay, and who more five on five?

    That’s my thinking as well. Horcoff is oging to carry a tremendous load at evens with no veteran centres behind him, and he’s still a key ingredient on the PK as well. I think if Gagner can take over first line powerplay duties, than they can run Horcoff a little harder in other situations, and the team will be better for it.

    Of course, it would also mean that by Christmas at the latest, I’ll be forced to read a spate of “was that Horcoff contract a good idea” articles from guys who think our first line centre should have 40 goals and 50 points.

  5. Lord Bob says:

    Of course, it would also mean that by Christmas at the latest, I’ll be forced to read a spate of “was that Horcoff contract a good idea” articles from guys who think our first line centre should have 40 goals and 50 points.

    If you have ten assists by the All-Star break playing on a line with Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner as well as getting second powerplay time, you should probably rethink this whole ‘hockey’ thing.

  6. Mark-Ryan says:

    To be honest, Horcoff could probably use fewer minutes from some part of the game and the most replaceable seems to be his PP minutes.

    LT: My bad.

  7. Lowetide says:

    I don’t know that the Oilers want to inflate Gagner’s numbers anymore than what will come naturally.

    Also, I’m not certain Horcoff is the guy who is going to come off the PP unit in favor of Gagner. You have to assume that Hemsky and Visnovky are locks for the 1st unit, maybe Souray too.

    So that’s two spots for Horcoff, Gagner, Penner, Cole and maybe Nilsson who didn’t perform well in this role a year ago but would seem well suited to hanging out with this crowd.

    Horcoff is better in the FO circle than any of these other names, plus he’s a lefty shooter. I’d be tempted to slot Gagner on one wing, Hemsky on the other and have a shooting gallery with the two defensemen and Horcoff finding open spaces in the slot.

  8. Jonathan says:

    Also, I’m not certain Horcoff is the guy who is going to come off the PP unit in favor of Gagner. You have to assume that Hemsky and Visnovky are locks for the 1st unit, maybe Souray too.

    Penner’s numbers are pretty comparable to Horcoff’s, plus he can take faceoffs for Gagner.

    Splitting Penner and Horcoff up also adds a faceoff presence to the second unit, and I think if Penner is coming off the first unit than Cole is going on and statistically he hasn’t been as good.

  9. Lowetide says:

    Carolina’s PP numbers just for fun:

    PP TOI/game
    1. Matt Cullen (4:58)
    2. Ray Whitney (4:48)
    3. Jeff Hamilton (4:43)
    4. Eric Staal (4:39)
    5. Erik Cole (4:08)
    6. Rod Brind’Amour (4:04)

    And the results per 60:
    1. Ray Whitney 5.11
    2. Matt Cullen 4.63
    3. Eric Staal 4.57
    4. Rod Brind’Amour 3.75
    5. Jeff Hamilton 3.37
    6. Erik Cole 3.13

    As an aside, is Penner’s FO percentage something this team can rely on for next season? He certainly did have a nice number but in only 189 sorties.

  10. Jonathan says:

    As an aside, is Penner’s FO percentage something this team can rely on for next season? He certainly did have a nice number but in only 189 sorties.

    Does this team have a choice? They are all ready going to be relying more than I feel comfortable with on Brodziak and Pouliot.

    If only there were a RH, tough minutes centre who could take that last powerplay point spot and take faceoffs…. oh, right.

  11. Lowetide says:

    Is Smoke still available?

  12. Jonathan says:

    Is Smoke still available?

    Yeah, at least, according to the Hockey News.

    I could get behind that contract; even if he is slower than Reasoner.

  13. devin says:

    LT – it boggles the mind that CAR had SIX forwards with higher PPTOI/G than Hemsky (and ZERO that approached his scoring rate). I am largely a MacT guy, but there are a couple things about him that bug me. That’s one of them.

    The other thing is Horcoff on the PK. My biggest issue with not having Reasoner is you don’t have a LH C that you can trust for own-zone PK draws apart from Horc now. But apart from FOs Horc is little more effective statistically on the PK than, say, Brodziak. My point is that you should be able to train up 78 or someone to be able to replace Horc’s PK minutes, but you’d have a much harder time replacing Horc’s PP effectiveness (you couldn’t).

    Conclusion: Why doesn’t MacT just follow the path of least resistance to positive goal differential?

  14. devin says:

    btw- Sorry that post was kinda OT. On Gagner- I think he’s playing catch with Hemsky from the left corner from day one. He is the only guy on this squad who executes the super-simple-yet-effective plays from there (eg. just driving the puck to the net, letting Penner tap in the rebound). I think he scores at 4.50pts/hr or better on the PP this year. That in mind, and considering he’ll get the EV butter, I’m saying 16G 46A 62Pts.

  15. David says:

    Horcoff is the most likely candidate for Gagner to bump off the top powerplay unit because the half-boards are where you slot him. Unless he takes Souray’s spot at the point, but honestly, you’re paying Souray 5.4 million… the least you could do is give him all he can handle in his area of specialty. At worst, it makes him more tradeable if he doesn’t fit into the Oilers plans over the next few years.

  16. Bruce says:

    Of course, it would also mean that by Christmas at the latest, I’ll be forced to read a spate of “was that Horcoff contract a good idea” articles from guys who think our first line centre should have 40 goals and 50 points.

    Jonathan: Ha ha, I remember that post, even if Lord Bob doesn’t. Nice one. And, you’re right.

    Devin, you are so right about the super-simple-yet-effective play that comes oh so naturally to Master Samwise. If Ales in Wonderland could ever figure out shit like that, he really might become a 90-point scorer.

  17. Jonathan says:

    If you have ten assists by the All-Star break playing on a line with Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner as well as getting second powerplay time, you should probably rethink this whole ‘hockey’ thing.

    Sorry, it was a joke, based on a column by Terry Jones.

  18. devin says:

    bruce- I am of the opinion that Hemsky is an elite winger in this league (see my post about scoring rates in the Hemsky post). However, I can’t help but think he isn’t gifted with the kind of hockey sense that Gagner is. Hemsky just isn’t pragmatic out there most of the time. He makes up for it with his insane individual abilities, but he rarely plays the percentages. He’s getting better…

  19. Sean says:

    Devin/Bruce I’m with ya on Hemksy. I think thats why the Horcoff contract was so important. Horcoff is smart enough to play with Hemsky and not many people are (Sykora the other thus far?).

    I think thats part of the reason why Penner struggled early last season. There is some adjustments needed to play with Hemsky. But Penner succeeded where Lupul, Torres and Stoll failed. Given that Penner came to camp out of shape and all the other pressure, he did fine.

    Similar to Horcoff and Sykora, Gagner fits into the incredibly bright category. He did things at 18 that takes most players years to learn. Plus, he can pass better than Horcoff or Sykora so the chemistry should form naturally. I remember early on in the year when several times Gagner and Hemsky collided on the PP and got in each others way. By the end of the year I didnt see that happening. The transition in Gagner’s game last year was outstanding.

  20. speeds says:

    The problem with betting against Gagner is that he’s really smart on the ice. If not saying that Gagner posting 53 points would be a disappointment this year, but it also wouldn’t completely shock me if he jumped to 70+ points.

    Players his age, and quality, sometimes do. Obviously it’s no given, but the way he trended at the end of the year says it isn’t impossible.

  21. dave says:

    Here is some other ways to look at it. Penner for sure plays with Souray in the traffic department. Gagne and Hemmer for sure with Vish and or Gilbert. One unit is looking for slapper and garbage. The other tires out the pk with the movement and works it down low or point.

  22. Lowetide says:

    speeds: The two most difficult players to project are Gagner and Cogliano imo. We don’t have any kind of established level of ability and they are both at ages where steps forward are typical.

    However, when it comes to young NHL players history tells us to cheat on the low side.

  23. Dennis says:

    I think it makes an absolute tonne of sense to have 89 playing with 83 plus on the first forward PP unit and thus rolling out ??/10-34/18 for the ever important first shift after the PP expires.

    And if 89 gets that gig along with playing the soft min then I don’t think ~65 points is out of reach in the least.

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