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.
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