AND SO IT BEGINS...

Jason Gregor
October 15 2010 03:52PM

I’m glad to see that things have returned to normal in the Nation and around Edmonton when it comes to the Oilers. After a summer where many said they’d be happy with a rebuild and were just going to enjoy the games, it only took three games for people to start questioning many players on the Oilers.

Actually it didn’t even take three games before people were suggesting that Sam Gagner will never pan out, and now, after the Oilers first loss of the season people are clamouring for the return of the Macblender….Ah good to see things are back to normal.

Let’s start with Gagner.

What are realistic expectations for the 6th overall pick in 2007? Can he be a true number one centre?

I think it is too hard to look at other players and project that Gagner should be like them. It is a fascinating angle, but one that ultimately is hard to accurately predict since he is on a different team, with different players and even a different era.

But we need to find some line/number that Gagner should attain this season, to show he is improving and is a player the Oilers should continue to groom.

Would 55 points be a fair number?

That would be a career-high for Gagner, but is it enough to be considered a number one centre? I think that term is what causes lots of debate.

Sidney Crosby, Henrik Sedin and Nick Backstrom are bonafide number one centres, but they are at the upper echelon of the scale. Gagner isn’t close to being one of them, and might never be, but does that mean he can’t be a solid asset for the Oilers?

This is Gagner's fourth season and it is reasonable to suggest he increases his production and improves his faceoffs.

In 2008, his rookie season (I use the year the season ends, just to be clear. No one says the Oilers won their first Cup in 1983/1984, they say in 1984!) there were 30 centres with 55 or more points. 25 teams had one guy with 55+, while only five teams didn't have a centre with 55 points.

In 2009, 32 centres had 55+ points, from 24 different teams, and last season 33 centres had 55+ points from 25 different teams. (Keep in mind this is 100% accurate because there is the odd guy listed as a C that plays W and vice-versa, but it is pretty close. Positions from NHL.com)

The Oilers haven't had a centre with 55 points since Gagner came into the league, but if he reaches 55 that would put him in the conversation as "first-line" centre. Of course, he'd be at the lower end. If he gets to 65 points that puts him around the top-20 mark.

If you want to say the Oilers don't have a top-ten #1 centre, no one will argue that, but I don't think 55 points is unrealistic for Gagner, and if he reaches that and more that will put him in the top 30.

I thought Gagner and Hemsky were the two best forwards last night for the Oilers. Gagner has three points in three games, and he hasn't been dominant in any of them, but last night was his best. I don't think anyone can say with certainty that Gagner has no chance of being a top-30, first line centre. He doesn't look like he'll be top-ten, but I think 55+ points is not only realistic, it has to be a necessity for him this season.

MACBLENDER RETURNS

He doesn't look like he'll be top-ten, but I think 55+ points is not only realistic, it has to be a necessity for him this season. After only three games many were calling for some line juggling in Lowetide's article.

I don't think the current lines will stay together the entireseason , but is three games enough time to build come chemistry? Tom Renney said at the start of the season, that his biggest challenge will be to remain patient, and allow his young team to grow and mature. He could do that by juggling the lines, but I don't think it necessary just yet.

HALL TO JUNIOR?

I don't see any scenario that has Taylor Hall returning to junior after nine games. None, Zero, Zilch. Hall will undoubtedly struggle at various point this year, but that is part of the learning experience. While he doesn't have a goal yet, he has missed three glorious chances and if he burys even one of those, I don't think anyone is wondering if the Oilers would send him back to junior.

Clearly he needs to adapt parts of his game. He won't be able to dominate, not right away anyways, like he did in junior, and he will need to approach defenders from different angles, but I suspect the kid will figure it out.

I'm excited to be able to watch a potential great player learn and adapt to the best league in the world. Hall is very competitive and has a deep inner drive to succeed. It might take him some time to understand how to get in better shooting lanes, penetrate the zone, how to beat defencemen or get shots off quicker, but I'll be stunned if we don't see progress rather quickly.

Oiler fans have a rare opportunity to watch the evolution of a very talented young player, emerge into a great player. The process won't be quick, and it will be filled with growing pains, but it should be entertaining

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 Reagan
October 16 2010, 10:16AM
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My goats are the idiots that are complaining already...

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#52 Hat Pughes
October 16 2010, 10:17AM
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MattL wrote:

HENRIK SEDIN

21yrs old: 29pts............ 22yrs old: 36pts.......... 23yrs old: 39pts.......... 24yrs old: 42pts.......... 25yrs old: (44 games during lockout in Sweden) 36pts

Each of the NHL seasons he was playing 76-82 games. I'm guessing Oilers fans would have traded him at some point during this run before he did the following:

-75pts -81pts -76pts -82pts -112 pts Hart Trophy, MEGA STUD.

SAM GAGNER

21yrs old: Turned 21 a couple of months ago. So far, scoring at a point per game. Already has 3 full seasons of NHL experience under his belt scoring more PPG than H. Sedin in his first 4 seasons, despite starting 3 years younger.

~TRADE HIM!!!!!~

Matt!! Huh....???? why this comparison?

Sam Gagner 5'10" 191 (yeah maybe with his skates on)

Henrik Sedin 6'2" 200 +

Theyre not even close to being the same player.

While Sam has a high level of hockey smarts, which can be seen by watching him play in person and iso-ing on him, he doesnt have the strength or its not in his game to battle. Sedin's bread and butter is the cycle game and Gagner doesnt have that in his tool box and Im not sure he ever will.

General Comment about THall and the rest of the kids...this year will be one of peaks and valleys and there is no doubt of that. The view Ill be taking is how each of them respond to when they make mistakes and how they will respond. Case in point Clutterbuck drilled Taylor (albeit late) along the wall and well see if he ever makes that mistake again. C13 has publically scolded Taylor for shift lengths ... and well see how he responds to that. If he becomes a better pro and the subtleties of his game get better and his junior mistakes disappear Id be a happy "Nationer". One thing for sure is he is getting scoring opportunities which he is creating or opportunistically gets ... hes not burying them and when the opportunities dry up Ill start getting concerned.

Hey Wanye --- pass me that glass of Koolaid

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#53 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
October 16 2010, 10:28AM
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A hat trick tonight by Taylor Hall would go a long way to ending this idle chatter.

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#54 MattL
October 16 2010, 10:40AM
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Hat Pughes wrote:

Matt!! Huh....???? why this comparison?

Sam Gagner 5'10" 191 (yeah maybe with his skates on)

Henrik Sedin 6'2" 200 +

Theyre not even close to being the same player.

While Sam has a high level of hockey smarts, which can be seen by watching him play in person and iso-ing on him, he doesnt have the strength or its not in his game to battle. Sedin's bread and butter is the cycle game and Gagner doesnt have that in his tool box and Im not sure he ever will.

General Comment about THall and the rest of the kids...this year will be one of peaks and valleys and there is no doubt of that. The view Ill be taking is how each of them respond to when they make mistakes and how they will respond. Case in point Clutterbuck drilled Taylor (albeit late) along the wall and well see if he ever makes that mistake again. C13 has publically scolded Taylor for shift lengths ... and well see how he responds to that. If he becomes a better pro and the subtleties of his game get better and his junior mistakes disappear Id be a happy "Nationer". One thing for sure is he is getting scoring opportunities which he is creating or opportunistically gets ... hes not burying them and when the opportunities dry up Ill start getting concerned.

Hey Wanye --- pass me that glass of Koolaid

Why the comparison? Because they're both centres and both top 10 draft picks. If anything Gagner being shorter proves my point even further. He's scored at a better clip than Sedin did when he started. Just wanted to remind people that sometimes the players that go on to lead the league in scoring don't always score 70 points in their first few years like some people are expecting from Gagner. Doesn't mean he'll never get there.

I don't really understand your point about them not being the same hockey player. Of course they're not, no two players are exactly the same, in fact:

IT'S UNIMAGINABLE THAT THERE WOULD BE A HOCKEY PLAYER OUT THERE THAT WOULD BE AN EXACT GENETIC COPY OF HENRIK SEDIN...

Except for Daniel I suppose.

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#55 Minister D-
October 16 2010, 10:46AM
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@chartleys

~If you're not careful, they'll cut your mic~

Seriously though, it might help if you visit ON *before* media matters on your daily web-browsing so that you're not all worked up by the time you get here.

I'm not sure why you're at such "a loss" to comprehend the points that Brownlee and others are making, which strike me, at least in this instance, as fair and balanced (uh, bad word choice...). IMO, these points can be condensed into one word: "chill." And yeah, chartleys, you need to chill. It's a long season.

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#56 OilFan
October 16 2010, 10:50AM
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fabian brunstrom on waivers any chance the Oilers grab him ?

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#57 oilbaron
October 16 2010, 12:11PM
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this blows my mind! everyone is a GM nowadays i suppose.

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#58 fuck off
October 17 2010, 12:00PM
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@ Everyone responding to MattL's post

A Greater point could not be made about Henrik Sedin vs Sam Gagner. What everyone needs to grasp is that MattL wasn't trying to compare the two as players of any kind of similitude. Instead it was displaying the kind of patience required with farming up a future Hart Trophy winner. After the 4 years of the Sedin's both producing well below what people in Vancouver expected from the top 2 & 3 picks there were many questions and arguments for their trades and that's MattL's point. Oilers Nation needs to just grab a beer and have a seat for the season because the theme is PATIENCE! So just enjoy the entertaining but frustrating ride for at least another, if not, a couple more years.

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#59 dawgbone
October 18 2010, 08:04AM
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MattL wrote:

The improvement you'd get from Hall in juniors isn't close the improvement you'll get from having him in the bigs this year.

He was the playoff MVP two years running, what else is he going to learn playing against even YOUNGER oponents?

The problem with junior is that the relative opposition gets WORSE each year, not BETTER as you get older.

The "let him finish junior" argument dies when a player has already proven to be better than the 19 and 20 year olds in the league.

Do you want him to learn how to better score goals against 17 year olds (which is a completely useless skill to have as a professional hockey player)? Or do you want him to learn how to play against the best of the best (which pays significantly better in the long run)?

Matt, do you have anything to even remotely suggest that this is at all true?

I'm fine that people think learning at the NHL level is better, that's an opinion.

You are stating it as an out and out fact, one that doesn't have any supporting evidence behind it.

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