Samwise isn't worried -- And he's right not to be

Jonathan Willis
November 03 2008 03:39PM

There are some interesting quotes from Sam Gagner courtesy of the Canadian Press today. Gagner has two assists thus far this season, but has refused to panic in interviews. This one is par for the course.

"I don't really look at it too much. It's a long season. Guys go through slumps at different points of the season. Mine just happens to be now. I feel I'm playing well and I'm creating chances. If that wasn't happening, I'd be a little worried, but hopefully it's a matter of time and I can play solid hockey and put some points up."

"It's capable of happening any year if you forget how hard you have to work. People make a thing of the sophomore jinx, but a lot of guys have had bad fourth years or fifth years. It's just the way it happens."

Tyler Dellow over at Mc79hockey had a really good post about the probability of different slumps/streaks over the course of a season. Basically, sometimes the puck goes in and sometimes it doesn’t, so the better way to understand if a player is producing or not is to look at underlying numbers.

One of the favorite metrics around the Oilogosphere is Corsi numbers. Corsi numbers are the total number of shots (incl. missed and blocked shots) directed at the opposition net minus the total number of shots directed at a player’s own net, while the player is on the ice. It’s a good way of measuring which end of the ice the puck is in while a player is on the ice; a player with a good Corsi number spends more time in the opposition’s zone than in his own.

The reason I mention this goes back to Sam Gagner. At even-strength last year, Gagner was –5.6/60; for every 60 minutes of icetime, the opposition managed nearly 6 more shots than Gagner and his teammates did. This year, he’s +6.1/60, behind only Shawn Horcoff.

The point here is that Gagner is actually doing a better job of keeping the puck in the positive end of the rink than he did last year. Eventually, the pucks will start going in, and the “sophomore slump” talk can go away. Final word to Dustin Penner:

“Sam's been playing fine. Obviously, the puck's not going in, but he's had his chances. I think the sophomore slump thing is a cliché because it's got a nice ring to it.”
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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Tombo
November 03 2008, 04:00PM
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Very interresting. I too believe it's only a matter of time before Sammy boy catches fire. So much so that my new third jersey that I have on order will have #89 slapped on the back.

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#2 The Towel Boy
November 03 2008, 04:03PM
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He's been playing pretty good. Looking better each game. It'll come.

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#3 freeze
November 03 2008, 04:14PM
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I look forward to him excelling on the PK. His hockey sense and speed should lead to some breakaways and shorties.

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#4 Rick
November 03 2008, 04:14PM
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I agree that it's probably a bit premature to panic on Gagner. He seems to have gotten a bit more traction in the last few games which is a good sign.

With that out of the way, I don't see how using his Corsi number is an indicator that eventually the pucks will start going in for him.

Jason Blake, for example, found that out the hard way last season in T.O.

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#5 Monday Guy
November 03 2008, 04:16PM
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I've been impressed at his PK time

Its obvious how well he sees the game

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#6 socaldave
November 03 2008, 04:23PM
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I think when he gets one, he'll get a bunch. I don't think we'll see Sammy going another 10+ games between goals again. Good post, JW!

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#7 Pensblog
November 03 2008, 04:26PM
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Don't delete the comment without telling Wanye. And at least put an e-mail address somewhere for us to contact you. Have a good evening.

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#8 Tyler
November 03 2008, 04:27PM
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The reason I mention this goes back to Sam Gagner. At even-strength last year, Gagner was –5.6/60; for every 60 minutes of icetime, the opposition managed nearly 6 more shots than Gagner and his teammates did. This year, he’s +6.1/60, behind only Shawn Horcoff.

Fucking Willis. You stole my next post.

(Hope you don't get in trouble for linking out.)

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#9 Jonathan
November 03 2008, 04:51PM
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With that out of the way, I don’t see how using his Corsi number is an indicator that eventually the pucks will start going in for him. Jason Blake, for example, found that out the hard way last season in T.O.

Well, the Corsi number needs to be taken with some salt - obviously different player types are going to produce high volumes of low quality shots, or vice versa.

Blake, to use your example had a pretty average season for him. Ignoring his 40-goal, 69-point season (which is clearly an aberration) his 52 points was directly between his 57 and 47 point seasons the prior two years. He's a good energy player, and versatile, but hardly the forward that T.O is paying him to be.

As for Gagner, I think the Corsi number shows what most of us watching have been thinking - he's creating a lot, and not getting outlayed at evens, but he just hasn't scored.

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#10 Jonathan
November 03 2008, 04:52PM
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Fucking Willis. You stole my next post. (Hope you don’t get in trouble for linking out.)

That's high praise, Tyler ;) Besides, DJ and Wanye like it when I link to people who are better at math than me. Saves on embarrassment when I add things together wrong.

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#11 b-rad
November 03 2008, 05:00PM
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I agree with you Jonathon. I do think that maybe he has to work alittle harder, because in my opinion, when players aren't getting the bounces, it's usually directly related to how hard they are working...but it will come for him.

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#12 Jonathan
November 03 2008, 05:06PM
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You stole my next post.

That's high praise, Tyler.

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#13 Jonathan
November 03 2008, 05:07PM
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And, evidently, my browser's acting up because somehow I sent the same comment twice.

More volume!

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#14 Smokin' Ray Burnt
November 03 2008, 07:19PM
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Whats going on here? I leave for a few minutes and bam!!!! Major change.

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#15 James Gunner
November 03 2008, 08:40PM
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Not to cancel out this little circle jerk going down here. The important players "make" things go down. They don't just say I've stroked their balls and that's well and good.

They make sure they've givin' you the turn around baby.

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#16 sean
November 03 2008, 10:25PM
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Gagners game and the kids have been fine. My one knock on them has been the frequency of turnovers inside the attacking blue but they are generating chances. The puck will start going in

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#17 Antony Ta
November 03 2008, 10:37PM
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I wonder how the kid line would fair if they were broken up as another MacBlender experiment? Nilsson's been given a shot at manning other lines (mind you, he earned it). Perhaps Gagner and Cogliano should take a tour of duty on the 3rd line for a game.

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