Fourth line: Sam I Am

Robin Brownlee
September 29 2009 03:08PM

sam-i-am-gagner

Fans thinking Pat Quinn was just wagging his fleshy jaw when he talked about a clean slate as the Edmonton Oilers opened training camp might want to note that it looks like Sam Gagner will start the season on the fourth line against the Calgary Flames Saturday.

On a morning when Rob Schremp was claimed by the New York Islanders, Liam Reddox was put on waivers before assignment to Springfield of the AHL and Fernando Pisani and Marc Pouliot were placed on injured reserve, Gagner skated between Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini.

And, no, contrary to what one wag playing fartcatcher suggested -- "It's not a message for Sam, it's a reward for Moreau and Stortini" -- it is obvious Quinn hasn't seen yet enough from Gagner to feel he belongs higher up in his line-up.

Show me something

Gagner's been a slow starter in his first two seasons, and that hasn't escaped Quinn's eye.

"I'm just going off training camp," Quinn said. "You certainly look at history and understand what’s gone on here. He did, from my understanding, historically have a real hot spot a couple of years ago.

"It’s three years now, the start of the third year. It's time to start moving that up. I haven't seen that part in camp, yet.

"Most people believe that it's there and it’s going to come. For the purposes of preparing for opening night, that's probably where he is going to start."

Gagner, 20, had a quiet and uneventful pre-season with 1-2-3 in four games, but his place in the line-up between Moreau and Stortini at Rexall Place this morning raised a few eyebrows.

Gagner, as expected, spun things as positively as possible in the dressing room as the horde leaned in, looking for the dope.

"I feel like I've got a lot more in me," Gagner said of his performance to this point. "It's one of those things. There's a lot of new things going on, a lot of new systems.

"I tend to be a thinker and I think I'm just over-thinking things right now. I'll settle in, get a little simpler. I'm going to find my game."

After breaking in as an 18-year-old in 2007-08 and struggling mightily at times last season, it goes without saying fans, like Oilers management, are expecting a bounce-back campaign from Gagner.

To this point, though, Sam I Am hasn't shown Quinn enough to warrant top-six minutes. That could change as early as a couple of shifts into the lid-lifter with the Flames, but that's up to Gagner.

"I don't want to read into it too much," Gagner said of skating at the bottom of the pecking order.

"We have some time off, some practice days, where we can really get the dialogue going. I've got to make sure I have the right habits and good practice time."

I'm of the mind the expectations of Gagner -- talk about "upside" and the suggestion by some Gagner should've already displaced Shawn Horcoff as the No. 1 centre -- have been overblown, considering he's had seasons of 49 and 41 points. Apparently, at least as of now, Quinn agrees.

"Part of our job is to bring all these guys to a higher level, including Sam or anybody else," Quinn said.

Pisani out long-term?

With Schremp gone, Reddox on waivers and Pisani and Pouliot on IR, Quinn is suddenly at the 23-man roster limit for Saturday's opener and need not make another move for now.

While that addresses the line-up, if not the salary cap, there is a concern Pisani's bad back could keep him out long term. He had an MRI Monday and the team's medical staff is awaiting results. If Pisani has structural damage, like a herniated disk, he could be on the shelf awhile.

"You can't predict when injuries take place," said GM Steve Tambellini. "It does provide an opportunity for other people, possibly, to get a longer look or a chance to play in positions that wouldn't happen if we had to be down to 14 forwards today.

"It presents opportunity to some players who, like I said, wouldn’t have the chance to go further."

One of those players is Robert Nilsson. Nilsson skated on the fifth line with Steve MacIntyre today.

Hemsky hobbled

Ales Hemsky took a quick twirl at the beginning of today's session but left the ice within minutes to rest and get treatment on the what team is saying is a pulled groin.

Rather than risk aggravating the problem and turning it into something that nags Hemsky in the long term, the Oilers are taking a cautious approach with an eye to having him ready for the Flames.

"We don't think it's severe," Quinn said.

"But, for those of us who've been around this business, groins are one of those things that can be severe. It needs treatment now. We want to make sure the pull doesn't become a tear."

Hemsky didn't knock anybody's socks off in pre-season, tallying three assists in four games. It's not known as of now at what point Hemsky injured himself.

-- Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just a Game with Jason Gregor on the Team 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 sittingatmydesk
September 29 2009, 03:14PM
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I like that Quinn is falling through with what he saying, you do good in camp-you're on the roster, play good-more playing time.... Gagner is good, but he has to show it on the ice...no more slow starts..its game on !!

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#2 Reggie
September 29 2009, 03:16PM
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Besides meeting the 23 man roster, how long do you think they wait to address the implications of the salary cap ? Is this just a waiting game for the results from Pisani's MRI ? from IR to long term IR ?

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#3 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 29 2009, 03:18PM
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Well if this injury keeps Pisani out for most the year I think he looks at retirement.

Moreau-Gagner-Stortini

One is a puck hog who doesn't pass the puck. The other needs the puck to make something happen and then there is poor Stortini standing in front getting cross-checked, while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn't get a shot away.

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#4 Travis Dakin
September 29 2009, 03:18PM
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Firts of all, Gagner looked fine with Cogliano when they played together. To me it seems completely stupid as sh*t to put an offensive player with a couple of plugs and expect him to "work out of his slump."

I'm a big fan of Quinn's moves so far but this one just seems stupid to me.

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#5 ronaldo
September 29 2009, 03:18PM
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"one wag playing fartcatcher suggested" Plan on spilling the beans or do we get to start guessing? Though I'm sure many off the guesses will involve the same person.

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#6 Travis Dakin
September 29 2009, 03:19PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. wrote:

One is a puck hog who doesn’t pass the puck. The other needs the puck to make something happen and then there is poor Stortini standing in front getting cross-checked, while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn’t get a shot away.

solid gold.

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#7 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 29 2009, 03:20PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Firts of all, Gagner looked fine with Cogliano when they played together. To me it seems completely stupid as sh*t to put an offensive player with a couple of plugs and expect him to “work out of his slump.” I’m a big fan of Quinn’s moves so far but this one just seems stupid to me.

One thing Quinn said is he wants to see guys be more effective without the puck and away from the play. Maybe he is putting him with Moreau because Moreau somewhat knows where to go and Stortini seems okay with that part of the game as well.

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#8 RossCreek
September 29 2009, 03:21PM
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Gunner wrote:

#150 Gunner September 29 2009, 3:07 pm. …and where the hell has Brownlee been?

Robin Brownlee wrote:

Sep 29 3:08 pm FOURTH LINE: SAM I AM Robin Brownlee

Note the times. *Something weird is going on here*

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#9 GSC
September 29 2009, 03:22PM
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It's obvious to me...give Gags pillow soft minutes and let him take some draws against equally as weak centres, bring him along the right way and build his confidence instead of throwing him into the fire.

Worked for Jason Spezza. Guess where he started out in Ottawa as a rookie...

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#10 Robin Brownlee
September 29 2009, 03:22PM
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Reggie wrote:

Besides meeting the 23 man roster, how long do you think they wait to address the implications of the salary cap ? Is this just a waiting game for the results from Pisani’s MRI ? from IR to long term IR ?

When Pisani is officially on long-term IR, Oilers will be up against the cap, but not over it.

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#11 Gunner
September 29 2009, 03:23PM
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Travis Dakin wrote:

Firts of all, Gagner looked fine with Cogliano when they played together. To me it seems completely stupid as sh*t to put an offensive player with a couple of plugs and expect him to “work out of his slump.”

x2.

I really don't see how it can last though. Unless his play dictates that it should.

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#12 bingofuel
September 29 2009, 03:24PM
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@ RossCreek: ~I was actually waiting from someone to ask where Robin was before I posted anything of his. I've been sitting on this post for DAYS.~

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#13 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 29 2009, 03:25PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: By then you would think management would have a decision on the others that remain. If it means losing Pouilot or Nilsson to waivers then it might have to happen. Who knows maybe by the time Pisani comes back Stone isn't the player he was in pre-season.

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#14 Gunner
September 29 2009, 03:25PM
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Ogden Brother Jr. wrote:

while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn’t get a shot away.

You mean his wrist shot from 40 ft out went over the net. The guy has 0 offensive skills.

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#15 ronaldo
September 29 2009, 03:28PM
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@ RossCreek: We'll let Deep Oil get to the bottom of this one.

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#16 Robin Brownlee
September 29 2009, 03:29PM
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Gunner wrote:

Ogden Brother Jr. wrote: while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn’t get a shot away. You mean his wrist shot from 40 ft out went over the net. The guy has 0 offensive skills.

Guys don't score 20 goals, even once, in the NHL with "0" offensive skills. Ethan isn't going to score more than 10-15 goals at this point in his career, but let's not get carried away slagging him.

@ RossCreek: What's weird is you would notice the times. If I see you lurking outside my estate, I'll set the Alarm Force guy the after you.

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#17 RossCreek
September 29 2009, 03:30PM
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@ bingofuel: ~I KNEW IT!~ Check it out ^^ Click on my name... I finally decided to link a website. Take that! OilersNation ;-) So... ...Saturday night the Oil start out 0-1 in a BLOODBATH!! ~I hate you all~

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#18 Ogden Brother Jr.
September 29 2009, 03:30PM
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Gunner wrote:

Ogden Brother Jr. wrote: while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn’t get a shot away. You mean his wrist shot from 40 ft out went over the net. The guy has 0 offensive skills.

Well that is one of the scenarios that can happen.

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#19 Gunner
September 29 2009, 03:33PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: So maybe it was a slight over exaggeration.

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#20 Gunner
September 29 2009, 03:34PM
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@ Ogden Brother Jr.: More often than not.

If Sam doesn't want to play there, he needs to play like he doesn't belong there. Simple as that.

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#21 ronaldo
September 29 2009, 03:35PM
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Gunner wrote:

If Sam doesn’t want to play there, he needs to play like he doesn’t belong there. Simple as that.

Exactly.

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#22 Heatly
September 29 2009, 03:37PM
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Gagner will be on the 3 line by next 5 games. I'm hoping not becuase then the Oilers will be doing well and we sign him next year for cheap.

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#23 Dennis
September 29 2009, 03:37PM
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89 as a 4th line pivot was a story for today but let's wait to see what the EVTOI totals are before we give any creedance to practice lines.

This reminds me of the '06 season when there was all this talk about Peca being a 4th line pivot - and most of the talk was from Peca himself:) - but when you took at a look at the gamesheets, he was far from a 4th liner.

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#24 Gunner
September 29 2009, 03:41PM
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Just a heads up for everyone - Chicago vs. ZSC Zurich is on NHL network @ 6 tonite. At 8 is a Western Conference Preview. FYI.

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#25 Ogden Brother
September 29 2009, 03:42PM
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Props to Chris for calling some combo of Gagner/Cogs/Hemsky to feel the wrath of Quinn's accountability while almost everyone else figured it would be Horcoff/Moreau/Staios etc etc taken the verbal/line-up beatings.

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#26 Jonathan Willis
September 29 2009, 03:44PM
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Fun question: does anyone remember the starting lineup from last year?

Let's take a quick look back:

Nilsson - Cogliano - Gagner Cole - Horcoff - Hemsky Moreau - Pisani - Penner Pouliot - Brodziak - Stortini

Gagner won't stay on the fourth line for long, and given his early-season struggles the last few years it's not the worst thing in the world for him to get a wakeup call.

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#27 KenL
September 29 2009, 03:45PM
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I like this move. I felt Gagner had too much protection from McT when he stunk up the first half of last season. While Nilsson and Penner got to watch the games from the press box at various times last season, I was floored Gagner didn't get similar treatment.

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#28 Robin Brownlee
September 29 2009, 03:45PM
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@ Dennis: It's not giving credence to practice lines, it's listening when Quinn says this is where Gagner will start. Nobody expects him to remain there. We don't need EVTOI totals to know that.

And most of the MSM talk about Peca in 2005-06 was about how he might be a second-line centre who could score 20 goals, not that he was a fourth-liner.

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#29 RossCreek
September 29 2009, 03:50PM
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NORTHWEST preview for those that have yet to see... from ON's UGLY sister ;-) www.canucksarmy.com/

Apparently points from the Oilers defence is a weakness to look for.

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#30 The Towel Boy
September 29 2009, 03:52PM
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Perhaps this whole "4th line" thing more of a way of generating a "balanced attack" where you have scoring talent on all four lines, rather than it is a dig on Gagner's playing style. Quinn wants to roll four lines...so why not spread the offense around.

Plus, perhaps playing with a grinder like El Capitano and a mucker like Stortini will open up lots of ice for Sam to do his thing.

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#31 Ogden Brother III
September 29 2009, 03:53PM
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@ RossCreek:

I thought that was pretty obvious. Who had Souray for goat?

*crickets*

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#32 David S
September 29 2009, 03:54PM
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Or perhaps we'll hear Rod saying something like this on Saturday night...

Gagner with the breakout pass to...Gagner, who chips it into the corner...where Gagner digs it out, centers it to...Gagner, who makes a wicked deke on Luongo....Scoooooooooore!!!! Gagner, from Gagner and Gagner! Not sure if he can keep this pace up though, he's looking a bit ragged out there."

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#33 thenosebleedsection
September 29 2009, 03:56PM
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I dont get the big deal. So Sam has to start on the 4th line with some grinders. Who knows, maybe having those two will give him the room he needs to ripple the twine. Its obvious Quinn thinks he doesnt deserve top 6 minutes. With the Way he has started out the past two seasons he should be lucky he is still with the big club. I say lets see what he does on the 4th line. I wouldnt be to surprised if he is playing with Cogs by the end of the night.

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#34 Dan the Man
September 29 2009, 03:57PM
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If Sam has a poor start once again, it won't hurt the team. If he has a good start it's simple to switch him and Brule around. Also for next year maybe Sam comes to camp ready to go rather than waiting until February.

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#35 Dan the Man
September 29 2009, 03:59PM
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David S wrote:

Gagner, who makes a wicked deke on Luongo….Scoooooooooore!!!! Gagner, from Gagner and Gagner!

The most surprising thing about that scenario would not be Gagner passing to himself but the fact that Luongo was playing for the Flames.

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#36 David S
September 29 2009, 04:01PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

Also for next year maybe Sam comes to camp ready to go rather than waiting until February.

You know he was playing games before lots of the guys were twirling around Millenium Place, right?

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#37 ronaldo
September 29 2009, 04:01PM
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@ Ogden Brother III: Yikes, there are three of you now. I hope Archaeologuy is out looking for backup or he's in for some gangland beatings this season.

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#38 Chaz
September 29 2009, 04:02PM
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Gunner wrote:

You mean his wrist shot from 40 ft out went over the net. The guy has 0 offensive skills.

How can you say that? You've obviously forgotten about his trademark "Death Charge" he uses so effectively on breakaways. You know, the one where he looks like a Super Chexx player and just tries to skate the puck through the goalie and right into the net?!?

I'm actually not being sarcastic by the way. I love that move!!

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#39 David S
September 29 2009, 04:02PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

The most surprising thing about that scenario would not be Gagner passing to himself but the fact that Luongo was playing for the Flames.

Perfectly good post ruined. Man I'm an idiot!

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#40 Ogden Brother III
September 29 2009, 04:03PM
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David S wrote:

Or perhaps we’ll hear Rod saying something like this on Saturday night… Gagner with the breakout pass to…Gagner, who chips it into the corner…where Gagner digs it out, centers it to…Gagner, who makes a wicked deke on Luongo….Scoooooooooore!!!! Gagner, from Gagner and Gagner! Not sure if he can keep this pace up though, he’s looking a bit ragged out there.”

That reminds me of a special I saw a little while back on football play-by-play announcers on olde tyme radio. They'd call the name of the wrong player catching a pass, realize their mistake, and have him lateral the ball to the actual player who would carry it in for the touchdown.

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#41 Ogden Brother III
September 29 2009, 04:05PM
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ronaldo wrote:

@ Ogden Brother III: Yikes, there are three of you now. I hope Archaeologuy is out looking for backup or he’s in for some gangland beatings this season.

I didn't like the fact that there were so many people using 'Jimmy' as their posting name. I feel I'm better-served by this handle. I guess I could have gone with Archaeologuy Jr, but what's done is done.

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#42 Dan the Man
September 29 2009, 04:06PM
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David S wrote:

You know he was playing games before lots of the guys were twirling around Millenium Place, right?

Yes I did know that but obviously something is lacking from his preparation. Do you disagree?

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#43 Ogden Brother
September 29 2009, 04:09PM
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Ogden Brother III wrote:

ronaldo wrote: @ Ogden Brother III: Yikes, there are three of you now. I hope Archaeologuy is out looking for backup or he’s in for some gangland beatings this season. I didn’t like the fact that there were so many people using ‘Jimmy’ as their posting name. I feel I’m better-served by this handle. I guess I could have gone with Archaeologuy Jr, but what’s done is done.

The brotherhood welcomes you with open arms.

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#44 scorecoff hemmercules
September 29 2009, 04:11PM
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@ Ogden Brother III:

Can't you clones come up with your own names???? 2 Ogdens was confusing enough.

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#45 thenosebleedsection
September 29 2009, 04:11PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

David S wrote: You know he was playing games before lots of the guys were twirling around Millenium Place, right? Yes I did know that but obviously something is lacking from his preparation. Do you disagree?

I dont think his preperation is wrong. By playing earlier that most that is a good thing. I have to agree with what he said to the media today about the situation. He basically said he needs to stop over thinking the plays. By playing with two guys who have bricks for hands he should be able to simplify his own game.

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#46 Ogden Brother III
September 29 2009, 04:14PM
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scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

@ Ogden Brother III: Can’t you clones come up with your own names???? 2 Ogdens was confusing enough.

Scorecoff Hemmercules Sr it is, then.

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#47 David S
September 29 2009, 04:14PM
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Dan the Man wrote:

Yes I did know that but obviously something is lacking from his preparation. Do you disagree?

His quotes from the Journal today put it in perspective. Unlike many of the guys he's re-learning the only pro system he's ever known. A thinking hockey player's worst enemy is when he overthinks.

Still, I thought he looked pretty decent in the last game with Nilsson and Cogliano. Those three were easily the best line on both sides of the ice.

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#48 Dan the Man
September 29 2009, 04:14PM
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@ thenosebleedsection: Mental preparation is still preparation, if you're not ready mentally, you're still not ready. He needs to be ready in October not February.

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#49 Jay
September 29 2009, 04:14PM
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It looks like Quinn has noted my pick of Gagne as a goat and has relegated him to 4th line duty in order to reduce the impact of his goatiness. goaty goat goat goat goat goaty

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#50 scorecoff hemmercules
September 29 2009, 04:16PM
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Ogden Brother III wrote:

scorecoff hemmercules wrote: @ Ogden Brother III: Can’t you clones come up with your own names???? 2 Ogdens was confusing enough. Scorecoff Hemmercules Sr it is, then.

weak

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