Boxcar Fans

Ideally it would have been better for Sam Gagner to have this season one year ago. Why? Well, the boxcars were better last year and fans know boxcars better than they know Corsi or Desjardins or 5×5/60. So, it’s impossible to argue that Samwise is making steps forward if you’re talking to a boxcar fan. His point total is way off and he keeps making obvious and glaring errors. Plus he has proven to be vulnerable to pressure with great regularity even when he owns the puck. That runs at cross purposes with what we know about skilled men.

Let’s begin this little exercise with some of the stuff Gabriel Desjardins supplies for free on his site.

  • 07-08 5×5/60: 1.96
  • 08-09 5×5/60: 1.27
  • 07-08 5×4/60: 3.88
  • 08-09 5×4/60: 2.01
  • 07-08 Corsi: -5.6
  • 08-09 Corsi: +1.5
  • 07-08 GF ON/OFF: 38-52
  • 08-09 GF ON/OFF: 26-22

My reading of the Desjardins tea leaves are that he’s playing with lesser mates this season compared to last and both campaigns were played out against the soft parade (maybe a hair tougher this season).

Now the boxcars:

  • 07-08: 79gp, 13-36-49 -21
  • 08-09: 53gp, 16-25-41 -1

Sam Gagner’s offense is way off, but his underlying numbers are much better. A year ago, I was pretty certain he was going to be the next Vincent Damphousse:
The best old timey comp I’ve found so far is Vincent Damphousse. As a 17-year old junior, Damphousse scored at an identical level to Gagner at the same age (2.25 to Gagner’s 2.23). Damphousse’s team scored 406 goals to Gagner’s 301, so it’s probably safe to say they were either similar talents or Gagner was slightly ahead at the same age. Either way, on their respective draft days both men were considered to be among the very best talents available. As an 18-year old NHL player Damphousse scored 80gp, 21-25-46 (.575 points-per-game) compared to Gagner’s 79gp, 13-36-49 (.620 points-per-game). Damphousse was on a team that scored 3.57 goals-per game, Gagner’s club is averaging 2.88 so we can again draw the same conclusion (similar talents orGagner slightly ahead at the same age).
At 19 Damphousse’s offense ran in place but it didn’t go backwards (75gp, 12-36-48, .640) as it has with Gagner (.358). At this point we don’t know if Gagner is going to be Damphousse as an offensive player and despite huge gains in secondary numbers it’s the offense that makes him a prospect of interest.
It’s a worry, but there may be a silver lining. Sam Gagner might be a small-g Doug Gilmour. A nice run offensively in the season’s final quarter would do a lot to improve that argument.

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40 Responses to "Boxcar Fans"

  1. Icecastles says:

    Preach it, LT! I’ve been saying this all year to the naysayers and agree completely. I’d love to see a similar analysis done for Cogs and Gibby.

  2. St George says:

    Anyone know why ‘boxcars’ are called ‘boxcars’?

  3. Brett Gee says:

    Yeah, I’m kind of new and I am not sure about a lot of the terms on this site. ie. boxcars, corsi, dejardins. Is there a place on the site that explains this stuff?

  4. Icecastles says:

    boxcars means.. hmm. it’s kind of like “irony”…. it’s one of those words you use all the time and then someone stops you and makes you define it and al you can do is distract them from their question.

  5. Lowetide says:

    Geez, I thought it was a pretty well known phrase. “Boxcar” numbers are the numbers on the outside of the box:

    http://www.trainweb.org/canadianrailways/nf/sandilands/cn_boxcars.jpg

    http://www.mtco.com/~ngntw/boxcar3705.jpg

    http://rjonesfoto.com/Box%20cars/boxcar-union-pacific-blue_e.gif

    and the phrase basically means the easily seen or surface numbers. In business, boxcar numbers might be gross sales as opposed to the bottom line.

    In radio, boxcars are 12+ numbers, whereas customers buy more specific demo’s (women 25-34, men 18-34, etc).

    Boxcars.

  6. St George says:

    Brett … http://www.behindthenet.ca is where you can find the non-boxcar stars (i.e. Corsi) along with simple definitions.

    I think a post listing and defining all the numbers would be useful but have not found one.

  7. St George says:

    Thanks LT. I thought I was old and worldly, but it seems I am just old.

  8. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Lowetide said…
    Geez, I thought it was a pretty well known phrase. “Boxcar” numbers are the numbers on the outside of the box:

    http://www.trainweb.org/canadianrailways/nf/sandilands/cn_boxcars.jpg

    http://www.mtco.com/~ngntw/boxcar3705.jpg

    http://rjonesfoto.com/Box%20cars/boxcar-union-pacific-blue_e.gif

    LT I do believe you’ve missed http://www.lioneltwain.com

    Often referred to in Mel Brooks movies as 22 Twain.
    or in Oiler’s lingo as 22 Derailment.

    Seriously, “Murder by Death” is one of the cleverest movies of all time.

    Okay, I’ll go now.

  9. Chris says:

    While I do have to agree that its good to see Gagner with a better Corsi number and it looks like defensively his game has improved the G/60 and Pts/60 are fairly important tracking numbers. Gagner fell off significantly offensively and he’s not exactly being thrown out there to play head to head against Joe Thorton. He’s playing soft minutes on the secondary scoring line and he’s not scoring. That’s showing up on the boxcar numbers.

    Sam Gagner is having a crap offensive season its a bit disingenius to say “yes but look at the underlaying numbers”, all that really serves to show is that his defense right now is improving. If he was a grinder that might be encouraging, or if he was still putting up good offensive numbers that would be great. But if his ticket to the show is offense and he’s not bringing it, that’s a problem.

  10. Lowetide says:

    Boxcars is also a pair of sixes in dice games (craps) btw.

    Corsi is the number of shots directed towards the net while the player is on the ice. Gagner’s plus number tells us more good is happening.

    5x5EVs/60 is the number of points put up by Gagner in 60 minutes of 5 on 5 play.

  11. Lowetide says:

    Chris: Excellent post. One of the things we should break down is the quality of linemates year over year. It seems to me (and Dennis has talked about this recently) that Gagner benefited tremendously last season from:

    1. best available linemates
    2. soft parade
    3. lots of playing time

    These have also contributed to his season, but your original point is right: if Gagner is a better player defensively without the offense he would in fact be a dreadful miss by the scouting department.

  12. namflashback says:

    Here’s another analogy:

    math terms
    - the formula for the line is the boxcars
    - the formula for the slope of the line is the underlying numbers

    BTW – in business, net income is a boxcar too. Underlying number might be customer churn, delta in gross profit relative to $ in product development and all sorts of more insightful measures (specific to the type of business.)

  13. Icecastles says:

    In other news, I see we’ve lost our chance at getting John Tortilla Chip as HC. Funny how in December people was saying that it’s too far into the year to change ships mid-horse or something like that. Meanwhile, this is the third (?) coaching change since December and the sixth of the year. At this rate there are going to be no coaches left to pick up in the summer other than the ones fired over the past season!

    I wonder if there are any that would be a better fit here… (assuming of course that MacT is going which, by firing or early retirement, I think is going to happen).

  14. oilerdago says:

    Great post as always LT. It does show that Gagner’s taken a step back offensively and he’s compensated some by not neglecting the defensive side of his game.

    Also, I seem to remember (and we won’t know probably til after the season is over) that Gagner’s been playing some with a bum ankle.

    It was about this time last year that Horc went down and the kid line took over. Not so sure that’s going to happen over the last part of the season but I wish he’d get untracked.

    I’m sarting to get very concerned about both him and Cogs this season. Don’t want to call it a sophomore slump, but they just aren’t producing and MacT’d do himself a lot of good if he could find a way to make it happen.

  15. HBomb says:

    Tonight, in HBomb’s chemistry lab, he has revised the cherry whisky paralyzer recipe and made it both tastier AND boozier.

    1 shot Three Olives brand Cherry-flavored vodka
    1 shot cherry whisky
    1 shot Kahlua
    1 part Cola (Cherry Coca-Cola ideally, if you have access to it)
    1 part milk

    combine in that order, mix with spoon, serve.

    Delicious.

  16. knighttown says:

    Jesus H-Bomb, its Monday night!

    t seems to me (and Dennis has talked about this recently) that Gagner benefited tremendously last season from:

    1. best available linemates

    The problem with this is that we KNOW who is linemates were/are and they weren’t better. Last year he played primarily with the kids. Three rookies. This year he’s almost always had 2nd line minutes, whether its with Cole, Penner, Cogs or Nilsson. That’s the inherent problem with QT. If you are playing badly and you’re always with the same guy(s) then they will produce poorly and their rating will go down. All of a sudden you’re playing with the dregs and its the same bloody guys you played with all along.

    I LOVE the business analogies, btw. In Gagner’s case, his sales are down, his margins are down but he scored well on his customer service survey and the Health and Safety Inspector scored him 100% on his safety audit. Whoop-dee-do. There are fire extinguishers all over the place and one kick ass eye wash station but dammit if Sam hasn’t forgotten to flip the sign to read “OPEN”.

    A marginal increase in CORSI and an improvement in GA/60 is better than nothing, but lets be clear; it’s not better.

  17. HBomb says:

    Jesus H-Bomb, its Monday night!

    Your point being?

  18. Oilman says:

    Maybe instead of Vinny Damphousse, Gagner is the new Stu Barnes. Lets just hope he doesn’t get paid like the next Damphousse.

  19. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    HBomb said…
    Tonight, in HBomb’s chemistry lab, he has revised the cherry whisky paralyzer recipe and made it both tastier AND boozier.

    1 shot Three Olives brand Cherry-flavored vodka
    1 shot cherry whisky
    1 shot Kahlua
    1 part Cola (Cherry Coca-Cola ideally, if you have access to it)
    1 part milk

    combine in that order, mix with spoon, serve.

    Delicious.

    HBomb.

    I’m putting together an online video bartending course.

    Any chance you can get someone to shoot you mixing up your potions and send me the footage?

  20. Coach pb9617 says:

    Gagner has also suffered from ever rotating linemates. It’s really hard to ask a kid for consistency when you give him none around him.

  21. Coach pb9617 says:

    If Grebeshkov and Pisani come back next week, I might go moist.

  22. knighttown says:

    The boxcars discussion reminds me of something else. I think LT needs to be acknowledged for his unwavering support of Liam Reddox. A few weeks back, virtually everyone on here took the opposing point of view to his flattering comments about the kid but damn if the Old man wasn’t right as usual.

    I mean, his underlying numbers are still ugly at least one gem can be found:
    -0.59G/60 is ahead of 26, 10, 12, 89 and 51.

    He’s on pace for about 10 goals (as are 51 and 46) which would quite good for an exclusive 4th liner. And the bottom line is that lately he’s become an “I saw him good” kind of guy, at least for me. IIRC, Reddox’s BTN numbers were especially awful early and have since stabilized. Can someone back that up?

  23. HBomb says:

    FCM: I’m too amateur to put on camera. Feel free to use any recipes I’ve provided though.

  24. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    HBomb said…
    FCM: I’m too amateur to put on camera. Feel free to use any recipes I’ve provided though.

    I will.

    Thanks.

  25. Coach pb9617 says:

    The CEO calls them headliners. Revenue, net income, etc. The underliers are net minus pass-through markup, things like that.

    Headliners, boxcars, it’s all the same

    . A few weeks back, virtually everyone on here took the opposing point of view to his flattering comments about the kid but damn if the Old man wasn’t right as usual.

    The coach is also right. The coach has had a comfort zone with Reddox from the beginning. In his first game up, he did two things that the Oilers couldn’t do at the time — clear the zone and actually get the puck to the corner on a dump-in. A couple of people here noticed immediately. Those are the things that the coach wants out of a kid and a veteran. Even though the ice was slanted the wrong was for this season, he was still clearing the puck and getting it deep and taking the body when the little guy can. If Pouliot would do that stuff, he’d be bouncing all over the scoring lines.

  26. Asiaoil says:

    Like others have mentioned – he’s probably been playing nicked most of the year. Seems the most likely explanation for the mysterious drop in offense while other parts of his game are improving noticeably. We’ll find out at the end of the year – but for now – we’ll just have to sit here and wait for Lowbellini’s alarm clock to go off next week and have someone act like a GM for a few days of the season.

  27. quain says:

    I LOVE the business analogies, btw. In Gagner’s case, his sales are down, his margins are down but he scored well on his customer service survey and the Health and Safety Inspector scored him 100% on his safety audit. Whoop-dee-do.

    I guess we’re equating improved defense with passing the safety inspection, but I have no idea how the analogy isn’t that his sales are down, but his margins are up.

    Last year, Gagner was losing money hand over fist when he was out on the ice… this year, Gagner is turning a profit when you put him out there 5v5.

    There’s still a question of whether he’s giving you a big enough of a return for your investment dollars, but I’ll be damned if you’re going to convince me that being +4 at EV is worse than being -14.

  28. hunter1909 says:

    “Not once during Moreau’s tenure have the Oilers been safely in the playoffs or out of contention at the three-quarter pole. The same goes for Steve Staios.” TSN article from February 2009

    These two losers need to be moved out of town as a fucking p.

  29. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    Asiaoil said…
    Like others have mentioned – he’s probably been playing nicked most of the year. Seems the most likely explanation for the mysterious drop in offense while other parts of his game are improving noticeably.

    Nah.

    The most likely explanation is that he has been scouted and other teams have noticed he’s slow and easy to to knock on his ass.

  30. godot10 says:

    Does Buchberger deserve any credit for the fact that Reddox and Peckham look like a 4th liner and almost ready to be a third pairing defenseman?

    I was always nervous when Gagner was on the ice last year. Hardly at all this year. More than anything else, Gagner now needs players to play with.

    I’d actually like to see him with Reddox and Stortini..i.e with grinders, a couple of guys to play dump-and-chase with. Ryan Smyth and Pisani would do also.

  31. Fake Craig McTavish says:

    hunter1909 said…
    “Not once during Moreau’s tenure have the Oilers been safely in the playoffs or out of contention at the three-quarter pole. The same goes for Steve Staios.” TSN article from February 2009

    These two losers need to be moved out of town as a fucking p.

    You omitted this part Hunter:

    “We’re still in it with a lot of other teams,” Horcoff said. “There’s lots of games left and lots of points to be had. We still feel we’ve got an opportunity to win some games and put a good stretch together.
    “The parity in our conference is bigger than I’ve probably seen before. The good thing is we’ve been in this situation before, so we feel pretty confident.”
    The Oilers missed the playoffs in four of Horcoff’s previous seven seasons.”

  32. Dennis says:

    This year’s really being wasted, spent or invested in 13 and 89.

    Just look at their roles and you’ll see what I mean.

    I’ve no doubt 89′s gonna be a good one but it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen this year. Going forward, we’ll only be as good as he turns out to be plus 13′s development or what we get in return for 13.

    10 can only do so much so it’s up to 89 to push us over the top.

  33. Kristopher Milligan says:

    Hate to hijack, but i just realized that shane willis was signed by the falcons jan 16, and has put up 8 pts (1-7-8) in 12 games.
    He had that one good season in carolina (20 goals) but then kind of tanked.
    Was there a thread i missed, or was this under the radar?
    Also, Daum seems to be turning things around in springfield, they won 6-3 the other night. Positive signs?

    Kris

  34. Coach pb9617 says:

    I’ve no doubt 89′s gonna be a good one but it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen this year. Going forward, we’ll only be as good as he turns out to be plus 13′s development or what we get in return for 13.

    13 is developing into a fine nothing. Left or Right wing please.

  35. Chris says:

    Well Lowetide looking at the three things you mentioned those being 1) best available linemates 2) soft parade 3) lots of playing time

    Last year’s values assigned by Behind the Net were Quality of competition for Gagner -0.01, and the numbers seem to say Horcoff and Stoll were doing the heavy lifting. While his Quality of teammates was 0.14.

    This year his Quality of competition is 0.00 which I personally consider to be a minimal change. While Behind the Net puts his Quality of teammates at 0.00. Considering he spent most of last year with Nilson and Cogliano and they started the year as a line before their laying an egg justified shaking that line up whether the change in quality of team mates can be seperated from the poor play of those three players together is questionable.

    Behind the Net also says that ice team last year was 12.4 minutes a game versus 13.19 this year. So he’s getting more minutes at the soft parade Lowetide. I supose we can blame Nilson/Cole/Cogliano/random guy for Gagner’s poor offensive production but I tend to think offensively he’s having a lousy season.

    The fact the line he has been on despite a mish mash of line mates and none of them could get him going suggests to me that Gagner is a large part of the problem as opposed to a victem of his line mates.

  36. B.C.B. says:

    Gagner box car numbers are bad, but his numbers compared to other centers for the Oilers are not that bad: A while ago (http://bringingbacktheglory.
    blogspot.com/search/label/Centers), I compared the five centers on the Oilers- Horc, Gags, Cogs, Brodziak, and Poo- with the categories: Pts, faceoff %, QualComp, GAON/60, GFON/60, AP/60, and LP/60. Their ‘raw’ numbered was turned into a ranking amongst themselves.

    Gagner ranked second in a straight comparison (to Horcoff, with Cogs in last). Then I did a weighted analysis, with GAON/60 and GFON/60 as 4 times as much as Aggressive and Lazy penalties per sixty, Pts and Face off % 3 time, and QualComp 2 times as much . . . Gagner finished in second again.

    I bring this up because I set out to prove Cogs was the second best center, and by two meteric analysis Gagner was better (as the 5th of Jan).

  37. knighttown says:

    I guess we’re equating improved defense with passing the safety inspection, but I have no idea how the analogy isn’t that his sales are down, but his margins are up.

    I can get behind that analogy Quain, if we’re talking about GFOn-GAOff which you are. But margin % is pretty damn close to a boxcar since it, when combined with sales, leads directly to Gross Profit Dollars, the mother of all top line numbers.

    Corsi is the safety inspection;)

  38. oilerdiehard says:

    It is almost like Gagner has only so much storage capacity in his noggin. He added some smarts on the defensive side of the puck but got dumber in the O zone. Maybe he was forced to delete some offensive instincts to free up space?

    Whatever the case. The offensive anticipation and hockey sense he showed last season with the puck is missing or at least comes in much more fleeting glimpses.

  39. Stuart van says:

    After a breakout sophomore campaign of 61 points, Ryan Smyth only tallied 64 points in his next 136 games as a 21 and 22 year old. Jordan Staal slumped to 28 points in his sophomore campaign, but is back up to .5 points per game as a 20 year old. Joffrey Lupul slumped to 28 points as an Oiler, then rebounded to score at a .82 PPG pace with the flyers.

    Gagner’s having a bad offensive year as a 19 year old, but at least he is showing a more rounded game. Hopefully he rebounds next season and is a point per game player a couple of years from now.

  40. oilerdiehard says:

    Stuart van said…

    After a breakout sophomore campaign of 61 points, Ryan Smyth only tallied 64 points in his next 136 games as a 21 and 22 year old. Jordan Staal slumped to 28 points in his sophomore campaign, but is back up to .5 points per game as a 20 year old. Joffrey Lupul slumped to 28 points as an Oiler, then rebounded to score at a .82 PPG pace with the flyers.

    I have seen this so many times on the boards. Both MacT and Lowe mistakenly (or maybe they were deflecting heat off him?) said Lupul was in his sophomore season with the Oilers.

    He was in his 3rd NHL season and 4th season as a pro with Oil. Lupul played 75 games for Anaheim way back in the 03/04 season before the lockout.

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