Comparing Sam Gagner’s numbers this season to 07-08 makes it even more obvious that the Oilers teenager is struggling.
The questions are “how much?” and “what should the organization do about it?”
Based on watching all of the games so far this season, many fans believe Sam needs to either find the pressbox, be sent back to junior or possibly head to the World Junior Championships (obviously not an option at this time since the tournament is just around the corner).
Let’s begin by comparing box car numbers year over year:
- 07-08: 25gp, 2-8-10 -10
- 08-09: 25gp, 1-5-6 -2
Okay. I think we can agree that although Gagner’s start this season has been a struggle to watch it’s also true he had a slow start one year ago. Fair? As we all know those are the boxcars and only show one side of the equation. Here’s some modern numbers that put things into focus:
- 07-08 through 25gp: 1.90/60 EV points
- 08-09 through 25gp: 0.77/60 EV points
There. I think we can really see Gagner’s struggles at EV strength when looking at his season in this way. He’s not covering the bet in terms of ice time given offensively. Even though his point total is not far off one year ago (4 points in 25 games is not a huge gap, luck and circumstance can account for it) it’s clear that Gagner is performing below what we might expect from an “average” NHL player.
Next up, Corsi number. Do you know the Corsi number? Corsi number is the number of shots directed towards each net while the player is on the ice. The number can be broken down into whose net the shots are directed towards (their own net (-) and their opponent’s net (+)) and is somewhat similar to the plus minus statistic. The idea being that if you have a good Corsi then something is going right when you’re on the ice and in fact Corsi is a nice predictor moving forward for said player. By that I mean a good Corsi for a player not playing at his established level often predicts a flood.
So, if Gagner had a good Corsi we’d be able to establish that some good things are happening outside the HR-RBI-BA baseball card numbers. Here’s the Oilers 08-09 Corsi for forwards:
- Hemsky 14.4
- Horcoff 13.2
- Penner 12.5
- Gagner 2.3
- Cogliano 1.8
- Nilsson -2.4
- Cole -4.0
- Pouliot -8.0
- Moreau -8.9
- Brodziak -12.2
- Reddox -16.2
- Stortini -17.2
- Pisani -17.9
- Schremp -19.7
Now before we go any farther down the path it’s important to point out that toughness of minutes should be factored in. Hemsky’s line certainly faces tougher opponents than Gagner’s line, so the fact that #83 is the vaunt (along with Horcoff) tells us he is actually the vaunt. Gagner’s number was acquired against middling (Desjardins says the opposition faced by Gagner is in the middle or a little tougher but I don’t really trust it) opposition but we can at least agree that his line isn’t getting buried against the butter (based on Corsi) this season. Fair?
Let’s run the Corsi from last season (this is the full year) for Oiler forwards:
- Glencross 5.4
- Pouliot 3.4
- Penner 1.4
- Hemsky -0.8
- Horcoff -2.0
- Nilsson -2.5
- Torres -5.3
- Brodziak -5.4
- Gagner -5.6
- Reasoner -7.0
- Stoll -7.6
- Sanderson -8.1
- Stortini -9.2
- Pisani -10.2
- Cogliano -11.7
- Moreau -17.4
Now that’s for the entire season. I think we can establish that Gagner’s scoring results a year ago may have marched ahead of the indicator lights implied he should have. Fair? I mean, Samwise finished with 49 points a year ago in a full season and there was more headed the other way pretty damn often. What’s that old MacT line about it’s what you accomplish AND what you leave?
If that’s the case, can we reasonably argue that the opposite is true this season? By that I mean that the indicators are more positive than one year ago and are marching ahead of the results for this player?
Is that something we can agree on? If that is the case, then Craig MacTavish is doing the right thing sending Sam Gagner out there every night even though the goals aren’t coming. Sooner or later, logic, math and the earned run average tell us that when enough 9-inning outings have been put to bed life inevitably draws toward the median.
For me, it’s all good. I’m thrilled the Oilers organization is hanging in with him and sending him out there every night. Sam Gagner’s a unique talent and as I mentioned last night in the GDT the ship has already sailed on Gagner in terms of demoting him.
If my choices are ruining him but making the playoffs this spring or playing him, having him become a better player on the other side and missing the playoffs, I take door #2. Said it when Hemsky struggled, saying it now.
Sometimes a kid arrives who’s worth the price. I think Sam Gagner is such a player.