FATHER KNOWS BEST

Jason Gregor
January 10 2012 01:54PM

Dave Gagner played 946 NHL games scoring 318 goals and 719 points over 14 seasons. He scored 40 goals twice, 30 goals four times and 20 in three other seasons. He was even more productive in the playoffs tallying 22 goals and 48 points in 57 games. He was a solid NHLer, but the road to success wasn't easy or quick.

His first four seasons as a pro were split between the AHL, NHL and IHL. From 1985 to 1988 he played 14 games in the IHL, 110 in the AHL and 131 in the NHL. It wasn't until his 5th pro season that he became a regular NHLer, when he exploded for 35 goals and 78 points in 75 games with the Minnesota North Stars.

He'd never scored more than 19 points in any previous NHL stint, and even if you prorated his best season where he played at least 20 games his best totals would have been 27. In his first four years he struggled to just be a regular NHLer and then suddenly he was a point-a-game player for the next four seasons.

He didn't suddenly get stronger or faster, although he did work on those areas, but mostly he became more consistent and confident.

Yesterday I sat down with Dave's son Sam. The younger Gagner is playing some of the best hockey of his career with 18 points in his last 21 games. Gagner has had hot stretches like this before though, including 33 points in his final 34 games as a rookie in 2008. From January 18th to April 3rd he was solid; in fact he had 33 points in 31 games before going pointless in the final three that year.

In the final 20 games of 2009 Gagner tallied 21 points including nine goals.

From Dec 31st, 2009 to March 16th 2010 he scored 20 points in 26 games. His season ended three games later due to an injury.

Last year he never got on a great run, with his most productive stretch coming between Nov 27th and Jan 04th when he put up 14 points in 17 games.

Gagner has proven he can be a productive point producer in the NHL, but thus far he's only been able to do it for 20-30 game stretches and not an entire season. During those hot streaks he's tallied 106 points in 115 games, (0.92ppg) which is great, however, in the other 210 he's only scored 87 (0.41ppg).

Looking at those numbers it is obvious why Gagner is the most polarizing player here in the Nation. When he is on he can be a productive NHLer, and when he isn't, he doesn't do much because he's yet to establish himself as an overly physical player, doesn't kill penalties and isn't just a checker.

FATHERLY ADVICE

Gagner spoke with his father frequently over the years, but like most young men he didn't always adhere to the old man's advice. "I've always been lucky to have a dad, who went through what I'm going through, and we've always talked, but I don't think I always listened," laughed Gagner.

"I would be like, 'yes dad,' but I didn't really take his words to heart. I thought I could figure it (consistency) out myself. I'm not sure what happened, but over the summer his advice really hit home. Now I talk to him every day and I really listen. He's got excellent advice, but he also knows how to challenge and support me."

Sound familiar?

When I was 18-21 I had the luxury of chatting with my father, but usually I'd walk away thinking I knew better. It wasn't until I was a bit older that I realized I should listen more intently to what the "old" guy had to say. I'm sure most of you can relate. As young adults we all think we know more than our parents, but then one day, almost surprisingly, we realize that most of their advice and wisdom makes sense.

Sam Gagner was no different, but this season the regular talks with his father have impacted him more and his main focus was to be consistent for an extended period of time.

"I've had different clips like this over my career where I've been good for 20 or so games, but for me it's a matter of being consistent for the rest of the year. I had a tough start, coming off the injury, but there was still lots of hockey left and that's what I've been focusing on for the past six weeks and I'll do the same for the 2nd half. I wanted to find my game and be sure that I was ready every night to play, and I feel that recently that's been the case. It's been a tough go the past month, but I want to help the group find ways to win, and the best way to do that is be consistent," said Gagner.

Did you make it a goal of yours to be consistent for the final 60 games, rather than just a hot 20 games here and there?

"Definitely. You want to be looked at by your teammates and your coaching staff as a guy who you know what you're getting from every night. I felt like in the past it is something that is hard to do over an 80 game schedule, and it's something that I struggled with. If I can find that consistency it will go a long ways towards helping the team and helping me contribute to wins. I want to continue to get better every night at that (consistency) and making sure I'm good on both sides of the puck and the last little while it has been that way and hopefully I keep it that way."

Most players, whether they are rookies, sophomores or five or ten year veterans, struggle with consistency. Usually it is only the elite of the elite who figure out how to bring their best game most nights. Gagner feels that today he is much closer to realizing what it takes more than ever.

"I've obviously been through a lot in terms of ups and downs, and I've done a lot of growing mentally as a person and as a player. I feel like I'm definitely more well-equipped to handle an 80-game schedule and the consistency that comes with that now. It is tough, especially with the ups and downs of our team. It wears on you, and you want to help the team win every night, but it doesn't always happen and the results don't always come. It is a matter of staying mentally even-keeled. I think I'm getting better at that, and hopefully I can continue to grow in that area."

Outside of working on his mental game and absorbing his father's advice, Gagner worked tirelessly on improving his skating this summer. He looked faster in camp, but then he injured his ankle in the preseason. It took him close to 15 games to get back up to speed. He looks faster, and I wondered if he has noticed an improvement in his skating now that he is healthy.

"My skating definitely does feel better. With the ankle it was tough. I still tape it, but not as tightly. Earlier in the year it was like a brick down there, because I was taping it so tight to ensure I didn't injure it, but it seemed like I was tweaking it every game. Now I'm skating much better and I feel way better out there. I'm mentally stronger than I have been in my previous four years, and that allowed me not to get to down when I wasn't scoring. I battled through it and that showed me that I just need to stick to my game and the results will come. Skating has helped, but I think my mental game is helping me even more."

Fatherly advice is a wonderful thing that most of us take for granted or disregard, until we finally decide we should pay attention. It was apparent in our conversation that Gagner really looks forward to his almost-daily talks with his dad now, and he is determined to become a consistent NHLer, rather than a guy who can get hot for 20-30 games stretches. Gagner is up for the challenge of showing everyone: his teammates, coaches, media, fans and most importantly himself and his father that he can find the same consistency that kept Dave in the NHL for 14 seasons.

If he can do that the Oilers might have two potent duos moving forward.

Gagner with Taylor Hall, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with Jordan Eberle.

The puck is in his corner, let's see how he handles it.

Ddf3e2ba09069c465299f3c416e43eae
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
Avatar
#51 Fred
January 10 2012, 06:24PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Nikolai Kulemin

Martin Hanzal

Brandon Sutter

Sounds beter than Gagner ,Hemsky and Horcoff I'd even throw in Omark.

Avatar
#52 BingBong
January 10 2012, 06:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
mouthbreather wrote:

what's the B stand for the card? $1 000 000 000 000 000 000 to the winner.

Bowman?

Avatar
#53 Fred
January 10 2012, 06:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Okay never going to happen but it does look like a team that is serious about winning.

Hanzal Sutter and Kulemin.

Avatar
#54 spOILer
January 10 2012, 07:01PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Y'know, I like Gagner. I believe Omark will never be the player Sam Gagner is. If I'm keeping a smurf, Gagner's likely the best of the bunch. And I like the things he said in this interview.

But I did find the article itself a bit of a miss. There's a lot of talk about advice, but all we have to relate to is Sam talks and listens to his dad more. And that it's good, a quite obvious and fairly typical error of immortal and omniscient youth (or at least, I was). I'm just sayin I would have liked to have heard something about the advice itself for it to carry the main narrative of the article.

But whatever he's hearing from Papa-san, keep it up buddy. Nice run. Make it the usu.

Avatar
#55 Oilcan
January 10 2012, 07:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I would like to take this time to mention that Penner strained his back eating pancakes...that is all.

True Story, look it up.

Avatar
#56 gcw_rocks
January 10 2012, 09:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Woodguy:

Everyone wants Kesler because he plays a complete game, whereas Gagner is a one trick pony. Kesler also can win face-offs, if I am not mistaken.

Most hockey fans beleive, I think, that Gagner has talent. But some of us beleive he would be better served on a team that could pair him with some big two-way forwards whereas the Oilers as they are currently constructed cannot.

Given he is small-ish and weak defensively on a team with lots of smallish, weak defensive forwards it is in the Oilers best interest to change up the mix.

I don't want to see Gagner go unless its for a top 4 d-man (Luke Schenn would be nice), but if such an opportunity presented itself, all I could say to him is, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Ya gotta pay to play, and Gagner is currency.

Avatar
#57 ralph_u
January 10 2012, 10:05PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Definately like Gagner's game and feel bad but he has to go as I don't see keeping 2 centers that are similar in top 6 and obviously he is young but Nuge>Gagner. I don't think he fetches a top 4 D and don't need any more prospect D but would like McNeill from Chicago for him.

Avatar
#58 David S
January 10 2012, 10:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Douche Nietzsche wrote:

Even a blind squirel will get a nut sometime.

What goes up must come down, stay tuned.;-')

He's improved his FO stats to 47.6% this year to date. Hardly a "blind squirrel" sorta thing.

But of course. By all means let's trade Sam Gagner for a guy who might be as good as...(wait for it)...Sam Gagner.

That's some solid next level thinking there.

Avatar
#59 David S
January 10 2012, 10:27PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jason Gregor wrote:

You are right...Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is completely ineffective because he can't win a draw...He is 37% in the dot. Also Belanger is 56% in the dot and he has one goal, so please show me the correlation between producing points and winning draws.

Also H.Sedin is 49%, Stamkos is 46%, Malkin 45%, Elias 42%...many productive centres are great in the dot.

Faceoff % has become the most overhyped stat in Edmonton. Sure it can help at key times, but it does not mean offensive centres need to be great in the dot.

Also very FEW 2nd line centres OWN their line...IT is rare.

Many good duos have one guy who is more dominant. Hall would clearly be that guy if Gagner stays paired with him. Who said they expect Gagner to be great?

If he becomes a 60 point guy that would make him a pretty solid 2nd centre. Are you saying it is a lock the can't do that?

If so, you might have missed the key part of the article that states he has shown the ability to be that guy, but also the ability to go cold. No one really knows which way he'll go.

Say you don't believe he can do it. Fine. But suggesting anyone that disagrees isn't smart, actually makes you look ignorant.

Oh man Gregor. Don't even get into the fact that Gagner is outpacing the Sedins when they were his age. The haters will get the Gagner shakes.

Avatar
#61 bdiddy18
January 11 2012, 08:41AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

The inconsistency to this point is actually in the Oilers favor come contract time. He can't demand more than what he is currently making until he starts putting up consistent numbers. I'd rather have Gagner at a bargain then trying to flip him for a prospect or another project.

More importantly when wearing my Gagner jersey to Oilers home games 2-0. With decisive wins against Colorado and Nashville.

So lets go three for three ! tonight!

Avatar
#62 Dave
January 11 2012, 10:16AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Why pay Sam Gagner over 2 mil when you can sign his clone Sam Wellwood for under a mil as a UFA.

Gagner represents everything that is wrong with the Oilers, the man can't battle, I'd love to see Torts coach Gagner he would be disgusted.

Avatar
#63 Quicksilver ballet
January 11 2012, 11:14AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Do Pediatricians only play mini golf?

Avatar
#64 Douche Nietzsche
January 11 2012, 08:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Dave wrote:

Why pay Sam Gagner over 2 mil when you can sign his clone Sam Wellwood for under a mil as a UFA.

Gagner represents everything that is wrong with the Oilers, the man can't battle, I'd love to see Torts coach Gagner he would be disgusted.

What are you talking about?.!..GAGNER IS AWESOME!

Just give him "few more years" and you'll see.

Don't be a hater. You're not allow to express your opinion like the rest, if it is not the opinion of the rest. You're only allowed to criticise players mainstreamers have agreed upon.

Oh and as far your Torts comment goes; Torts would probably hold him down and sh!t on his forehead.

Avatar
#65 Wanyes bastard child
January 11 2012, 08:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jason Gregor wrote:

Where did I argue for him...Once again you assume things. Your hatred for a player is so blinded that you start assuming what I think.

I laid out actual facts to show why he has been a hot and cold player. He has shown he can be both.

When he scored 33 in 34 games he wasn't playing with Hall or Hemsky, so please explain who's coattails he was riding then.

And now you bring up Kane and compare him to a #1 overall pick, yet earlier you said people were stupid with their expectations. I'd argue comparing him to Kane is stupid.

Hemsky is carrying Gagner...Interesting... Hemsky has 9 points in the last 21 games, and he hasn't played every game with Gagner, yet he is carrying Gagner. Excellent Rationale.

Also Hall has only dressed in 13 of those 21 games that Gagner has been hot in, and Gagner has only played five games with him.

Once again, feel free to not like a player, but don't try to make up inaccurate arguments against him. You don't like him. We get. I never said he'd be great, I wrote that he has shown signs he can be productive, but he's never been consistent.

The fact you can't comprehend that is your fault, not mine.

I see you still have no reply for this Douche, why is that?

Avatar
#66 Douche Nietzsche
January 11 2012, 09:22PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Wanyes bastard child

To be honest with you, I didn't want to bother.

I can't cure peoples delusion so its best to let them be. There appears to be a market for it.

Avatar
#67 Wanyes bastard child
January 11 2012, 09:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Douche Nietzsche wrote:

To be honest with you, I didn't want to bother.

I can't cure peoples delusion so its best to let them be. There appears to be a market for it.

So the truth and actual facts are a delusion to you?

Avatar
#68 Douche Nietzsche
January 11 2012, 09:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Wanyes bastard child

Sure, if that will help you get to bed, go with it.

Comments are closed for this article.