This is Denis Potvin, really early on. It might have been his rookie photo. Potvin was a wonderful defenseman, I think a player like Phaneuf could learn a lot about playing the game effectively from watching the way Potvin went about his business. He was always a bit of a dink if you went just by the quotes and never really struck anyone as being a deep thinker, but he could play the game and was excellent in all areas. He also had an impressive mean streak and had zero hesitation to make a vicious play when the opportunity presented itself in a game.
I hated the guy.
When the Oilers won the SC in 1984 it was an added bonus that they were able to win it against Potvin. He had a few events in his career that involved the Oilers, including the record for most PP goals (D) in a playoff game (3) against Edmonton in 1981.
Potvin also suffered a major (thumb) injury against the Oilers (November 30, 1979) so he probably didn’t like the Oilers too much either.
Three Norris trophies, the 4 Stanleys, won the Calder, 5 1st and 2 2nd All-Star teams (the season ending ones, the tough ones to get). He also played in a lot of playoff games every spring. From 1975-1984 he played in 157 games (almost two extra seasons) and helped out on offense (50-96-146) and was a rock on the blueline. He had gifted teammates, played for a great coach and delivered on the hype (#1 overall) to become a franchise player along the lines of Joe Sakic or Steve Yzerman.
I wonder why the Islanders don’t glory in their past more than they have since the dynasty. I believe the Oilers do too much of it, to the point where the new Oilers must wonder if the organization and its fans will ever get over it. The Islanders on the other hand seem to have all the presence and history of a franchise 8 or 10 years old based on the things you see and hear from them.
The Oilers do too much looking back, the Islanders not enough. Surely there’s something in between that would be a better plan.
There are a lot of Oilers fans who aren’t terribly happy about Sam Gagner’s season. You’ll see and hear people talking about his struggles and the team’s inability to send him to the minors, or about the wasted seasons on the entry deal and the tremendous cost to the club when he starts actually earning the dollars.
It’s my opinion that it has very little to do with Sam Gagner and a lot to do with the Oilers organization. They turned back the cluster age to the point where not only the Roloson’s, Staios’ and Moreau’s were cut off but the Horcoff’s and the Pisani’s were in danger too. They were under pressure, coming off a poor season and looking down the barrel of another. Sam Gagner must have looked like manna from heaven.
And he was overmatched. Badly. Despite the numbers we knew from the secondary indicators that all kinds of bad things were undercover and having a negative impact. This season, fans seemed to catch up to those underlying numbers and pointed the Gagner’s lack of offense (compared to the season ending stats in 07-08). Incredibly, they did it just as the underlying numbers began to show hope for the future.
Let’s run last season’s numbers (boxcars and the obscure ones) through 34 games against Gagner’s current season (which is also at 34 games):
- 07-08: 3-13-16 -7
- 08-09: 3-11-14 E
Gagner’s performance is certainly in the range of expectation from where it was a year ago, and since he “got hot” at the plate last winter there’s no reason to think he can’t finish north of 40 points this year. In fact, in the “reasonable expectations” post I did on Gagner before the season my guess was that he’d finish with 53 points. Should Gagner perform at the identical level this season as he did one year ago, his final stats will read 79gp, 13-31-44 which is most certainly in the range of expectation.
But wait! There’s more! A year ago, Gagner was at -7 on his way to -21. -21 is a big number, even for a rookie. When most rookies get overwhelmed the coach will send them to the pressbox for a game or two, but that didn’t really happen much with Gagner (he played 79/82 a year ago, 96% of the schedule). So this season’s EVEN would have to be considered a bit of a step forward, especially considering he’s playing against slightly better pitching.
We’re not done! Remember we discussed the secondary numbers? Well, let’s have a look.
- 07-08: 1.96EVs; -5.6CORSI; GF/GAON: 38-52
- 08-09: 1.44EVs; 3.2CORSI; GF/GAON: 20-16
These numbers tell us a very interesting story. Gagner is off the pace (but catching up) at EVs in terms of point production, but is contributing to a healthier, more balanced collective when on-ice. This is reflected in both the Corsi and GF/GA numbers.
Young players seldom progress in a straight line. Denis Potvin is one of the few who I can ever remember having a completely consistent and predictable progression.
Does this mean Sam Gagner is out of the woods and not prone to slumps? Certainly not, he’s on a nice streak currently which will be followed by a cool down period. However, I’ve said before and will say again the concern with Gagner is injury (Kane in Chicago is currently hurt) which can have a major effect on young players.
That aside, and with the understanding that prospects ebb and flow more than the seasoned veterans, I’m pleased with Sam Gagner’s progress this season. At the end of the year we’ll look back and see a slump with good underlying numbers that had an impact on his year.
We won’t see a series of comments, articles and quotes about Sam Gagner questioning his ability and having a crisis of confidence. That tells us a very good story about Sam Gagner.