October 13 2010 05:08PM
Patience is required in order to let things develop in their own time, especially when it comes to youth. One minute kids are failing again and again, the next minute they've mastered the discipline and moved to a new level. When it comes to predicting hockey players and their futures, patience is a vital part of the plan.
I've noticed a disturbing trend among the msm early this season. Although patient with the three kids, comments like "it is time for Sam Gagner to step up and I didn't see it tonight" and "this is Gagner's chance and despite the two points he hasn't impressed" have been sliding into our living rooms and vehicles via television and radio.
Deep breath. We need to remember that everyone drafted 2006+ is (or should be) considered a developing player or prospect. Jeff Petry (drafted in 2006) is just starting his pro hockey career, Sam Gagner (drafted in 2007) is 21 years, 2 months old. There are miles to go before the race is run.
If we go back to the beginning, we can re-set the expectations: Gare Joyce, in his wonderful book Future Greats and Heartbreaks:
- On the morning of the draft, there's all kinds of cross-talk and scuttle-butt about Columbus's plans for the 7th overall pick. One thing is certain: The Blue Jackets would feel much better about their pick if it were sixth, and all the more so at No. 4 or No. 3. The way the Blue Jackets and a lot of other teams see it, there's an elite group of six draft-elgibiles: Patrick Kane, James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Turris, Sam Gagner, Jakub Voracek and Karl Alzner. After this group, there's a significant fall-off. Last year, the Bue Jackets ranked seven players "top 10's." This year, just six made the grade.
A "top ten" was defined early in the book as a possible draft pick who could be a difference maker, someone who could develop into a first line NHL player, maybe an All-Star, definitely someone who can contribute to a winning team.I think we need to place Gagner in that context, a top flight young player who can contribute to a winning team. He certainly helped on October 22, 2009 and he can help this season too. However, we need to be patient with him. Prospects don't develop in parallel lines with past HOFers, they take their own path based on all kinds of factors (including quality of team).
I think this comes from the idea that in being patient with the three kids up front it will fall to others to lead the way. I agree. Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky, those men are completely capable of having a consistent impact on the team (positively) pretty much every night. I believe Sam Gagner will get there. But expecting him to develop into that 1line C overnight (as if turning on a switch) is unreasonable.
If "Sam Gagner isn't developing as I hoped" then perhaps you need to examine whether or not your hopes are reasonable. How much of the offense is vanRiemsdyk carrying in Philly? Voracek in Columbus? The Edmonton Oilers have chosen to fast track yet another generation of kids. That's not Sam Gagner's fault. I think he'll continue to develop and should pass the 50-point mark this season. If you're looking for 70 points from him, I'd suggest that is beyond reason. According to nhl.com, exactly 15 centermen had 70 or more points last season, while 43 had 50 or more points.
I think Sam Gagner should end up in that group of men over 50 points this season, but 70 seems a stretch. With that in mind, I think pointing to Gagner after 2 games as an underachiever borders on the ridiculous.