Islanders at Oilers, G38/08-09

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):

Box Cars

  • 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.

Obscure Numbers

  • 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.

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215 Responses to "Islanders at Oilers, G38/08-09"

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  1. Jonathan says:

    Hunter: I’m not sure what the blackout rules are in the NWT, but the stupid NHL blackout rules mean I’m only allowed to watch Canucks games on TV.

    Which is why I watch so many games on the computer.

  2. Scott says:

    Basically, he’s not spending 3/4 of his time hemmed into the defensive zone these days. That’s important for a young player, because now you don’t worry about send him out on the ice in important situations, and because he’ll get more opportunities to show his scoring prowess over the long haul.

    I understand that he’s improving, especially on the defensive side of the ice, but I think the increase in competition this year is fairly marginal compared to last season. I would still worry about him going onto the ice for defensive zone draws, especially against the best the other team has to offer, and it seems like that’s reflected in his faceoff numbers to this point.

    The issue, as far as I can see, is that looking at historical comps, we don’t have Corsi but do have points and Gagner just isn’t keeping up there. I really thought that Vinny Damphousse would be a good comp for Gagner, and so far he’s lagging well behind this year.

    I realize no one is saying that Gagner is better than Kane, but Kane’s progress has been fantastic by comparison. His QC is up to second among Chicago forwards while his Corsi has shown slight improvement AND his scoring has continued to come.

    I don’t think that this means that there’s something wrong with Gagner, just that he might not be the exceptional player that we were (I was) hoping he was.

  3. hunter1909 says:

    I love the way the NHL is run like a idiot’s convention.

    People love fighting, so the NHL tries to abolish it.

    People want rivalries, so the NHL expands so much there are now entire divisions 99% of the fans simply know nothing about.

    Then the NHL takes a nordic sport, and tries to sell it to Mexicans.

    All the while jacking off at the thought of average Americans “potentially” giving a shit about a sanitised hockey league.

  4. Dennis says:

    It’s not like Canadians Don’t like violence but we can also surmise that Amerks love it so in a way I’m sorta proud that the NHL hasn’t publically admitted this and gone Gong Show in the process of trying to sell it.

    Regarding rivalries, Bettman’s eight games a year vs Div rivals along with not playing every EC team once a year just about killed my desire to watch EC hockey. There was a time I watched all kinds of hockey and if the Oilers were on sked to play Philly, I’d probably watch the last two Flyers games before the Oilers met up with them. But knowing there were teams we’d never match up sorta made me not care about some Of those teams.

    A star could turn up in Any market and every team should travel to every arena every year.

  5. quain says:

    Sometimes I jerk off just because I’m American, I don’t even bother to wait until I see some sanitized hockey.

  6. Bruce says:

    You mean you’re only in Yellowknife and there’s no way for you to see the Oilers?

    Hunter: No, I meant I was in Yellowknife for reasons which had nothing to do with hockey, with people who don’t even like hockey. Some might even call it “getting a life”. Whatever you want to call it, I have other obsessions, ya know? :D

  7. knighttown says:

    Bruce said:

    “Hunter: No, I meant I was in Yellowknife for reasons which had nothing to do with hockey, with people who don’t even like hockey. Some might even call it “getting a life”. Whatever you want to call it, I have other obsessions, ya know? :D”

    Blasphemy!

    You’re not a hockey fan unless you watch the first period of the Canada game, go play in your beer league, come home and watch the 2nd and 3rd periods on PVR. Then at 12:30 START watching the God-awful Oilers play the God-awfuler Islanders and wake up to smiling 2 year old at 7AM and go to work. Ah, life as an Oiler fan on the east coast.

  8. Bruce says:

    Hey Knighttown, I’m watching the (beauty!) Dallas game on my PVR right now. Sometimes my obsessions need a little planning, is all.

  9. hunter1909 says:

    What about original six hockey – 5 teams and 14 games each per season?

  10. Ribs says:

    Some might even call it “getting a life”. Whatever you want to call it, I have other obsessions, ya know? :D

    Collecting rocks again, Bruce?

    Man, what a lame game from the Oilers last night. I think Lowe might need to start “throttling” some of his players soon. Wake up!

  11. Bruce says:

    Collecting rocks again, Bruce?

    Ribs: In a manner of speaking. Meteors, not meteorites this time.

    Man, what a lame game from the Oilers last night.

    I’m just glad they won; nice comeback from 0-2.

    So far I have watched the first two periods vs. Dallas. Both teams really brought it physically in a real ding-dong affair; some of the best action of the season.

    It figures that the next game against an Eastern also-ran might lack the same intensity. That’s the kind of game where the absence of Hemsky probably made things a lot tougher than they “should” be. Ottawa game was the same, except we didn’t win. If you’ll pardon a bad pun, life without Ales has been sobering.

  12. hunter1909 says:

    I’m not so sure about losing Hemsky as being a bad thing:

    Now players like Moreau can really show us what they’re made of.

  13. docweb says:

    A comment and a concern…

    Up until a year ago concussions were graded 1-3. Grade one with symptoms less than 15 minutes, Grade two with symptoms greater than 15 minutes, Grade 3 with any loss of conciousness. Along with them went the usual guidelines for return to play,etc.

    Now there are only two categories. “Simple” concussion which is any concussion with symptoms lasting less than a week and “Complex” concussion with symptoms lasting more than a week.

    By this new definition Poo had a “simple” concussion and Hemsky has a “complex” concussion. If you were a Family Doc and Hemmer were your patient you would be sending him into see some sort of Specialist.

    Hemsky and Gagner both played after they were concussed and both later said “they just didn’t feel right”. Poo looked bad right from the hit but here he is within a week back playing and feeling well. He did not play at all after the hit.

    Without a doubt there are individual differences in symptoms,length of recovery,etc.

    But…if you don’t “feel right” don’t play!! Honestly, sitting out for one game in the means nothing but recurring concussion problems can lead to career ending issues.

    K.Lowe(the other one) and/or the players need to be clear…

    If in doubt,sit out. It can’t be any simpler.

  14. Ribs says:

    I always thought it it was “When in doubt, suck it up.” when it came to hockey injuries.

    To be serious though, sometimes it’s hard to tell until after the game how much a hit is effecting you physically. It’s especially true with concussions when you’ve had no or very little history with them. They are tricky buggers.

    So far I have watched the first two periods vs. Dallas. Both teams really brought it physically in a real ding-dong affair; some of the best action of the season.

    I missed the Dallas game and I wish had one of those magical PVR devices. Sounds like it was a good one. It’s amazing how much the Oil can flip-flop from night to night in their performance.

  15. hunter1909 says:

    I’ll bet there weren’t so many concussions in the 60′s when they didn’t even wear helmets.

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