RE 11-12: Sam Gagner

Sam Gagner has checked a few items off his ‘to do’ list on the way to being a productive and effective C for the Edmonton Oilers. He is the most effective offensive option now, his CorsiRel has been heading in a very good direction for years and his zone start/finish is a very nice number.

If he could deliver those kinds of results against the tough competition? The Oilers would have a young center who could do the things required to help his team win. That is a very valuable item.

It’s also a dangerous time for the organization. Starting now, Gagner should start covering the draft bet, has enough value to outperform this contract and be worth his next one. That means he will be a candidate for other teams to acquire. Buy low, sell high–that’s the point he’s at now. It’s up to the Oilers to stay the course and reap the benefits from all those struggles.

NHL prediction for 11-12:  70, 15-35-50 (.714)

  1. Great. He finally hits 50 points. I don’t think it’s a huge deal, he was on track for a 50-point season last year before the injury.
  2. Speaking of the injury, how is it going? Gagner has been interviewed a few times over the last couple of months and he says it is coming along fine. Gagner: “It’s good, I have been able to shoot pucks and do a lot of stickhandling without any pain.”
  3. So he’s healthy? I assume so, it’ll be something to keep track of and then confirm when he comes to training camp in the fall. I haven’t seen any warning signs and Gagner himself doesn’t seem concerned, so it appears at this time to be a non-issue.
  4. The Oilers will have to trade him eventually. Why?
  5. He and RNH are both playmaking centers. Why can’t an NHL team have two playmaking centers? Hemsky and Gagner played on the same line last season and the Oilers still had too many good wingers without solid center help. Also, both have a nice range of skills, and we really have no idea about RNH and his immediate future.
  6. Nope. Can’t work. Never has. The 2005-06 Oilers boasted two centermen with 51 (Horcoff) and 46 (Stoll) assists. It can be done, although I do agree that you’d want them to have a nice range of skills. Thankfully, both Gagner and RNH have some nice things.
  7. Gagner doesn’t have a wide range of skills. I’d argue that, there’s a good chance he’ll be a solid 2-way center at the peak of his career. Gagner has shown the ability to play well without the puck.
  8. You should be forced to pack a shovel everywhere you go. Until I hear Tom Renney say he’s making progress and can play that 2-way role, I’ll assume you’re doing your usual “make crap up to frame the issue” routine.. This is courtesy Louise (who is an exceptional contributor to this blog and others) via a conversation Renney had with Bob Stauffer. Renney: “Well hey, what’s been lost in the equation with Sam, and the expectations that he certainly has for himself, but also everyone else does too; he’s really worked on his defensive game. He’s worked on his two-way game. I can’t suggest for a second, Bob, the number of clips that we showed last year of Sam being sorta that third guy high in the offensive zone… reloading hard and getting back above the puck as the first forechecker… taking his responsibility right back deep into our own end. Those are huge commitments from players and certainly a player like Sam, where instinctively at least, the offense comes real easy to him. The defense is something he has continued to have to work on, and he should continue to. I think he’s becoming a more complete player. I think given the nature of our line-up now, and the depth and the competence of people… to do things on both sides of the puck. I think it’ll actually allow Sam to really sort of spread his wings, reach a little further offensively and be that type of guy that we hoped he would be, certainly contributing to our offense.”
  9. Fine. He’s making progress. REAL progress. And it isn’t just “saw him good” verbal from the coach; Gagner’s CorsiRel has been solid or better for three years now, his zone start/end is improving and his 5×5/60 minutes offense was the best by an Oiler last season. He’s showing signs of being a guy who is close to being help to help win hockey games.
  10. What’s left to do ? Playing the tough opposition and posting good CorsiRel and scoring numbers. After that, maybe they can load on a tough zone start just to make things fun.
  11. He’ll never make it. Go back and read the Renney quote and then look at his age. I’m not saying he’s going to make the HHOF but I am saying he’s on track and has shown some growth. We might be looking at a fine NHL player for years to come.
  12. Who should he play with? I’d try to find a marriage that worked with Gagner-Hemsky. I’d try Smyth but think it might be too soon to force Gagner into the tough minutes role. So, Horcoff-Smyth might have to do the heavy lifting (that’s what I’m projecting) and Gagner spends time playing with Hall/Hemsky or Hall/Eberle. I’d like to see Hall/Eberle to start.
  13. Cogliano could have done better. Gagner has passed a lot of competition since he came to camp fall 2007 and I think he passed Horcoff offensively awhile ago. Now, he has a chance to pass Horcoff (and Belanger) as an overall player. Andrew Cogliano was never the hurdle for Gagner. Not ever.
  14. Pat Quinn started Cogliano ahead of Gagner on his first night as Oiler coach in the NHL. You know, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Pat Quinn and no one can say he didn’t have a fine coaching career. Hell, that Flyer run was amazing and he had some horses in Toronto, too. I wish he’d won his Stanley, I really do. But the Oilers had to get rid of him for decisions just like that one (putting Gagner on the 4line).
  15. Why only 70 games? Gagner has had some injuries over the last couple of seasons, his three year average is close to 70.
  16. What is his strongest asset? Big brain. He’s a really smart hockey player. You know, the first TC I wasn’t convinced but Louise kept saying he was a smart cookie and he’d learn. I felt he had skill but would get run over (pretty much like most feel about RNH right now) nightly. Anyway, he’s adjusted and struggled and adjusted some more, all the while taking stock and figuring things out. He’s a sublime talent.
  17. Example? Last year, maybe early December the Oilers are on the road in Montreal. Down 3-2, Oilers are on the PK. Subban tries to do too much (and a teammate gets tripped–no call) and it is jailbreak the other way. Hemsky and Gagner are on a two-on-one with Spacek the only man back. As the play develops, Spacek flops on his stomach so that the pass is no longer available. Gagner waits, changes the angle to get a better look at the right side shelf, waits, waits, and then drills it right where it needed to go. He was probably going about 1 mile an hour after Spacek dropped, but he knew he had all day, changed angles (and Price remained stationary) and made the shot. Beauty.

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