I will admit to a hockey fan’s lifetime of playing favorites when it comes to choosing players to cheer for over the years. As a kid, I was a Bruins fan, so that meant the extra guys (Wayne Carleton, Ace Bailey, Gary Doak, Bill Speer) were guys I knew all about because lost causes, also rans and distant bells had their careers in the balance every shift.
Since I can remember, I’d cheer for the underdog on my favorite team.
As an Oiler fan, Chris Hajt, Michel Riesen, Marc Pouliot and many others became guys I’d cheer for to the point of jackass stubborn. Tony Hand, cheered like hell for that guy. I’ve chosen my “underdog” for the season.
I have no idea how Sam Gagner got there (ineffective bottom 6 forward) but there he is, and the young man isn’t posting a lot of crooked numbers. What’s more, he looks slower, smaller and less effective than the new hires.
A gentleman who does business with me said the other day “Gagner on RW is a slow Eberle with way less skill.” Ouch. Pretty harsh. So is there any hope for Gagner?
Hell yes. Sam Gagner has a poor 5×5/60 number so far this season, especially compared to his own past:
By The Numbers
•07-08 5×5 per 60m: 1.96
•08-09 5×5 per 60m: 1.69
•09-10 5×5 per 60m: 1.56
•10-11 5×5 per 60m: 1.91
•11-12 5×5 per 60m: 0.50
Gagner’s 1.91/60 came in 16.5 hours work, this season Gagner has played barely 2 hours at even strength. As the season wears on, he’ll improve that number and the 5×5 total will fall in line with previous seasons. Gagner was slowed by injury during pre-season and has missed a half dozen games so far this season. His being left behind in the pre-season meant the other skill players got a head start, chemistry ensued and at the end of the day he (plus Paajarvi and Omark) was on the outside looking in.
This week, Oilers coach Tom Renney has a few days to shuffle the lines and decide how he wants to proceed with the business of improving the offense. Sam Gagner has a track record of helping offensively, and the Oilers aren’t exactly a Murderer’s row as things stand currently.
I think Sam Gagner’s next game may see him centering two solid offensive options on either wing. I’m cheering like hell for him, as he’s an underdog.