PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

Robin Brownlee
January 05 2012 03:10PM

A moment of clumsiness by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has opened a door of opportunity for Sam Gagner. His future with the Edmonton Oilers might well hinge on how gracefully and effectively he steps through it.

With Nugent-Hopkins out of the line-up for the balance of the month with a left shoulder injury – I suspect it's separated, but that information has not been released by the team – after catching a rut, stumbling and falling into the boards, Gagner has a gold-plated chance to continue the roll he has been on after a difficult start to the season because of an ankle sprain.

Starting tonight, when Gagner lines up at between Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky against the St. Louis Blues, he'll be front and centre, literally, while Nugent-Hopkins mends.

Bad luck for Nugent-Hopkins means opportunity for Gagner, who will be leaned on by Tom Renney. He'll get plenty of ice time and the chance to play an offensive role in the top-six mix – a situation that hasn't always presented itself, and that Gagner hasn't grasped, in his fifth NHL season.

If Gagner is going to stand and deliver, the time is now.

MORE DEBATE TO COME

Gagner, 22, has pretty much been a lightning rod for debate among armchair experts, media and fans in the three-plus seasons since he had 49 points as a rookie in 2007-08.

The former London Knight and sixth overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft has yet to replicate that point total and his past two seasons have been cut short, he played just 68 games in each, because of injuries.

A lot of people, me included, saw this season as the campaign Gagner had to establish where, and if, he fits into the plans moving forward with Nugent-Hopkins, Hall, Jordan Eberle and Hemsky, when he's healthy, inked into Renney's top-six spots.

Falling into the boards and spraining his ankle in pre-season, an injury that kept him out early, has only fuelled debate. Gagner has been playing catch-up since then – quite efficiently, of late.

Moved up and down Renney's line-up and between centre and wing, Gagner has 16 points in his last 19 games and 5-13-18 in 32 games overall. Not bad, all things considered. He's averaged 15:45 of ice time to this point with a variety of linemates.

OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS

Gagner backers see him as a bona fide second-line centre behind the prolific Nugent-Hopkins. Still young and developing, they think he can become a 55-65 point player.

Other fans aren't so sure, they aren't sure at all, in fact. They see Gagner as a spare part – projecting as a third-liner on a young and improving roster who really doesn't have the skill-set to play that far down the line-up. Top-six or bust, it is.

With Nugent-Hopkins out for 10 games if he misses January, Gagner is going to get a chance to have his say and bring some clarity to the debate as the Oilers scrap to stay within hailing distance of a playoff spot.

"I always feel better when I'm playing a little more. I think everyone does," Gagner said today. "It's just a matter of you're into it a little more.

"Your legs just feel better when you're playing more. I think the work you put in in the summer goes a long way toward playing that type of game where you're playing a lot of minutes. I'm comfortable in that position.

"I've just got to make sure that with the opportunity I'm getting, I'm continuing to create offense and help this team win some games. If I can do that, hopefully, I continue to get the opportunity."

Does Gagner feel he has something to prove? Does he feel he's been pushed aside and passed on the depth charts, and in the minds of Oilers fans, by the kids? Does he see this as a chance to make a statement? Is there a SIUTBOHC factor at work here?

"I just want to continue to push forward no matter what kind of, you know, respect you're getting or how highly touted you are," Gagner said. "You just want to continue to come to the rink every day with the same attitude and push forward.

"I feel like as the year has gone on, I've got better. I just want to continue to improve and help this team win some games."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on 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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#51 Slats
January 05 2012, 11:20PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

In the later stages of that Calg/Boston game. Still a two possession game. Flames still have 3 time outs left.... only down by 9.

That's good . . .very good take.

Was at RUS/Sweden Gold Medal game and an awesome Sweden Team dominate those Russians in almost every part of the rink . . .begs the question how did Canada lose to RUS again???!!! RUS had 4 shots after 2 periods.

The Trifecta would have been having the Oil win that St. Louis game.

Had to drive carefully through DT Calgary watching numerous fLames jumpers out of the high rises.

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#52 Slats
January 05 2012, 11:27PM
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Alex Steenberger wrote:

SAMMY GAGNER HAS TO GO. THE EDMONTON OILERS NEED TO GET BIGGER! WE HAVE GOAL SCORERS. HALL EBERLE AND RNH WILL PUT UP CRAZY NUMBERS - DON'T WORRY ABOUT THAT! WE NEED TO GET US SOME BIG BAD MASHERS! WE ARE GETTING PUSHED AROUND AND THAT'S A BIG REASON WHY WE ARE LOSING!

THE BOSTON BRUINS ARE A PERFECT EXAMPLE! ALSO THE 1990's BIG BAD FLYERS (LINDROS ERA)

DUSTIN PENNER SUCKED AND COULDN'T SCORE AND WAS TOO SOFT.

WHY DID WE EVER GET RID OF (IN MY OPINION) THE GREATEST ENERGY ROCK'em SOCK'em LINE OF ALL TIME. JF JACQUES - STORTINI - MACINTYRE .

TAMBO: I KNOW YOUR LISTENING BIGGER IS BETTER DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS

NOW DOES ANYONE HAVE ANY TRADE SCENARIOS FOR SAMMY GAGS???????

. . .not sure but I would like to trade your post for anyone else with common sense and a lower case key board or I mean KEYBOARD.

Is Marchand big? Ference? Bergeron? They have some size but they have a lot of skill and disciplined team game + Awesome tending - could be the best 1-2 in NHL. Correct they are the best with a 1.90 GAA.

JFJ-Storts-Smac are you kidding me? Go read the article in TSN and Burke's response about how the big behemoths will not be in this league for long. http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=384292

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#53 rindog
January 05 2012, 11:31PM
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Oilerbill wrote:

Please Sam Gagner is not 6'2" Swedish twins! That is a comparison that should never be made!

Maybe another feather in the cap of Gagner?

(in that he put up better numbers than the bigger, older Sedin)

Why can't peole realize that Gagner is doing just fine?

Not many players come into the NHL and dominate right off the bat.

If you guys are saying that Sam Gagner is the problem with the Oilers, then I thinkwe know where the probliem really lies...

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#54 TigerUnderGlass
January 06 2012, 12:39AM
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Oilerbill wrote:

Please Sam Gagner is not 6'2" Swedish twins! That is a comparison that should never be made!

That's what Tom Gilbert said. He would know.

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#55 keilan
January 06 2012, 02:08AM
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Rindog wrote:

What exactly is laughable? The fact that Gagner has indeed out produced Sedin and many others (I could list them if you'd like?) at similar points in their careers? Or that you can't see that Gagner is indeed tracking (if not already there) as a top 6 forward?

When you’re a 30th place hockey team two years running the problems run a lot deeper then Gagner! However having said that if Sam is our number two centre we’re toast – Sam can’t compete against centre’s of teams in the top 16……..

The first line going forward Nuge-Eberle-Hartikainen (type player) Second line Hall-Paajarvi-Petrell (type player)

If you look at the number 1 and 2 centre’s of the good hockey teams around the NHL Sam wouldn’t take anyone’s job away based on his play the past two years.

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#56 OilFan
January 06 2012, 07:49AM
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@Robin Brownlee

Thanks Robin

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#57 j
January 06 2012, 08:16AM
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keilan wrote:

When you’re a 30th place hockey team two years running the problems run a lot deeper then Gagner! However having said that if Sam is our number two centre we’re toast – Sam can’t compete against centre’s of teams in the top 16……..

The first line going forward Nuge-Eberle-Hartikainen (type player) Second line Hall-Paajarvi-Petrell (type player)

If you look at the number 1 and 2 centre’s of the good hockey teams around the NHL Sam wouldn’t take anyone’s job away based on his play the past two years.

The problem isn't necessarily with Gagner, it is with the team's balance. The team has been perpetually out of spin for years (with the exception of 2-3 months in 2006). Sam is a good hockey player and may become an 'above average' top 6 forward. The problem is the Oilers have other needs. I like him and would keep him above Omark (I appreciate they play different positions - just talking top 6 at the moment). But would play the lights out of Magnum PS before I bet the farm on Sammy (as above).

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#58 Woogie
January 06 2012, 08:28AM
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Gagner will prove he is a great second liner and a first liner if needed.

PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T TRADE A 22 YEAR OLD WITH SO MUCH POTENTIAL!

P.S. unless it's for an equal caliber defencemen. Then GET RID OF HIM!

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#59 Dave
January 06 2012, 10:18AM
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I would'nt trade Gags just yet, unless Dubinsky was in the conversation. Very Doughtful.

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#60 Steve
January 06 2012, 11:39AM
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I would prefer to keep Gagner unless a deal for a good young defenseman was available. For example, Gormley, Blum, of Bogosian... someone of that age range and caliber.

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#61 Romulus' Apotheosis
January 06 2012, 11:45AM
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rindog wrote:

Maybe another feather in the cap of Gagner?

(in that he put up better numbers than the bigger, older Sedin)

Why can't peole realize that Gagner is doing just fine?

Not many players come into the NHL and dominate right off the bat.

If you guys are saying that Sam Gagner is the problem with the Oilers, then I thinkwe know where the probliem really lies...

agreed. It's lazy goat syndrome.

The goat functions to give people a chance to vent, esp. during games... but when sober and trying to analyze the teams problems the goat mostly gets in the way of people thinking things through.

Instead of saying we have systemic problems at D that need to tackled and that Stu is starting to address, or that we have a long term ? at G, or that we have size and competitiveness issues at forward... etc, etc. we tend to hear...

"Get rid of Hemsky, whenever he plays we lose"

"Trade Gags, he's too small and doesn't score"

This is basically wishful thinking... if I can concentrate all the problems of the team in one place than I can convince myself if only that issue was resolved it would be sweetness and light all over.

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#62 Quicksilver ballet
January 06 2012, 11:59AM
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@Romulus' Apotheosis

Not many want to run these guys out of town with little or no return. We're all hoping they'll fetch valuable players needed in different positions. Trade where the Oilers have moderate depth to address positions of weakness. We're all in agreement we can't lose this/these trades.

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#63 Oilerbill
January 06 2012, 01:28PM
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rindog wrote:

Maybe another feather in the cap of Gagner?

(in that he put up better numbers than the bigger, older Sedin)

Why can't peole realize that Gagner is doing just fine?

Not many players come into the NHL and dominate right off the bat.

If you guys are saying that Sam Gagner is the problem with the Oilers, then I thinkwe know where the probliem really lies...

For the record. I am not a huge Gagner supporter. I compare him to Mike Comrie without the edge. He has improved his foot speed this year considerably. He no longer puts his linemates off side every other rush because he stops skating before the blue line. I want him to be our second line center. I think that is the place where he will benefit this team the most. I also beleive he needs some big strong wingers to play with him. They will give him the room he needs to make plays. Cause lets face it, he can make plays at a very high level. That's what makes him a good centerman. But if Sam is going to play as a 3rd line center or on the wing then we are better off to try and manage the asset and get as much for him as we can.

Before I get nailed for not wanting him on the wing. We have enough small players on the top 6. We can get away with him at center if he has big wingers. But if he is on the wing with say a big center and big r winger he is not in the position on the ice to make the big plays as he would be at center. His options are limited and lets face it Sam does not have it in his game or genetics to be the banger and net crashing winger that, Hall, Smyth and Jones are.

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#64 Oilerbill
January 06 2012, 02:15PM
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Rindog wrote:

Sam Gagner has played 323 games in the NHL and has 191 points.

Henrik Sedin played 318 games in his first 4 seasons and had 146 points.

I guess he didn't turn to be a top 6 forward???

Mike Comrie played 311 games and scored 217 points. Better than both Sam and Henrik.

Comrie 5'10"

Gagner 5'10"

Sedin 6'02"

I think the comparison is closer with Comrie.

Still Mike Comrie never developed in to a first line center. It has nothing do to with the way he tracked in his first few years. It was IMO because of the limitations of his game. Both physical and talent wise. He tried to play with the edge that he needed to compete as a top center and his physical body could not stand up. 10 years later and he is all but retired. I hope Gagner fairs better than Comrie but the comparison is still fair.

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#65 Quicksilver ballet
January 06 2012, 02:19PM
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@Oilerbill

I get a twinkle in my eye when i see him on the left side. He probably is one of the few forwards who can one time the puck. Seen that his first game playing the off wing. He had 2 goals and an assist that evening. Earlier this week he one timed one from the left side on the blueline and it still had enough mustard on it to make its way to the back of the net.

I'd say he's more effective on the left side compared to him in the middle. I'd still trade him though if it helped the Oilers move up and get that possible second lottery pick this coming summer.

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#66 Oilerbill
January 06 2012, 02:32PM
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Quicksilver ballet wrote:

I get a twinkle in my eye when i see him on the left side. He probably is one of the few forwards who can one time the puck. Seen that his first game playing the off wing. He had 2 goals and an assist that evening. Earlier this week he one timed one from the left side on the blueline and it still had enough mustard on it to make its way to the back of the net.

I'd say he's more effective on the left side compared to him in the middle. I'd still trade him though if it helped the Oilers move up and get that possible second lottery pick this coming summer.

I think that twinkle in your eye is blinding your vision. Sam shoots right. Which makes the left wing position his off wing. Aside from that those one timers hes getting are mostly on the power play. Playing center also allows him to get to that left side in the slot for those one timers. If he's playing right wing those passes are coming across his body and taking him out of scoring position.

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#67 Quicksilver ballet
January 06 2012, 05:12PM
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Oilerbill wrote:

I think that twinkle in your eye is blinding your vision. Sam shoots right. Which makes the left wing position his off wing. Aside from that those one timers hes getting are mostly on the power play. Playing center also allows him to get to that left side in the slot for those one timers. If he's playing right wing those passes are coming across his body and taking him out of scoring position.

Dyslexics Untie!

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#68 TigerUnderGlass
January 06 2012, 05:24PM
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Oilerbill wrote:

Mike Comrie played 311 games and scored 217 points. Better than both Sam and Henrik.

Comrie 5'10"

Gagner 5'10"

Sedin 6'02"

I think the comparison is closer with Comrie.

Still Mike Comrie never developed in to a first line center. It has nothing do to with the way he tracked in his first few years. It was IMO because of the limitations of his game. Both physical and talent wise. He tried to play with the edge that he needed to compete as a top center and his physical body could not stand up. 10 years later and he is all but retired. I hope Gagner fairs better than Comrie but the comparison is still fair.

I love how height is the be all, end all of hockey players in this comment.

I just figured something out. This must be why Sutton was playing in the last minute down one the other night.

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#69 Whatever
January 06 2012, 05:46PM
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Props!!

I am sure 4 inches of height makes do difference at all. In fact size doesn't play any factor in pro sports.

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#70 Whatever
January 06 2012, 05:49PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

Height was used. The comparison was in the bottom paragraph. Try reading the whole post.

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#71 TigerUnderGlass
January 06 2012, 06:08PM
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Whatever wrote:

Height was used. The comparison was in the bottom paragraph. Try reading the whole post.

I did read the whole post.

It amounts to tall=good short=bad.

When the only thing you compare between players is height it isn't much of a comparison. Especially when you just pick out the players you like best to make your point.

I am sure 4 inches of height makes do difference at all. In fact size doesn't play any factor in pro sports.

It's great how you call me out for not "reading the whole post" and then completely misrepresent my comment with this response. Beautiful.

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#72 Whatever
January 06 2012, 06:29PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I love how height is the be all, end all of hockey players in this comment.

I just figured something out. This must be why Sutton was playing in the last minute down one the other night.

From what I read the comparison was about the style of play that Comrie needed to compete due to talent and size in comparison to Gags.

I must be wrong. It was all about comparing height. Which is so not relevant in hockey.

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#73 Reagan
January 06 2012, 11:24PM
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Sam=trade bait?

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#74 PaperDesigner
January 07 2012, 12:44AM
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I think Sam's upside, which I believe he will get to, is a first line complimentary player. The guy who scores ten to fifteen points less than his more prolific line-mates, but complements the game of other players on his line well. The fact that he's produced results playing multiple forward positions is a good sign--it means that if they want to move Hall to centre someday and run a one-two punch down the middle of Nugent-Hopkins and Hall, or drop Eberle down a line to mop up some weaker competition, he could slide into the number one line. Maybe he scores seventy points playing alongside Nugent-Hopkins and Hall, who each pot eighty five? I could see that happening.

But what I don't know is in what universe that Sam Gagner is not already a proven second line player. Has anyone actually LOOKED at how many points second line quality players actually score? It's in the range of 40-50 points. You know how much Gagner scores? About 40-50 points. He's been a little better than that this year, though, after getting a bit healthier.

And here's one point to consider; for those frustrated with Gagner's lack of progress, it's worth noting that he has been playing in a league that has had its offense dropping every year since the lockout, if I recall correctly. Under those circumstances, stalled production could be considered incremental progress.

I think Gagner has at least a bit more production at him. Worst case scenario, he ends up being a pretty good second line winger.

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#75 TigerUnderGlass
January 07 2012, 12:54AM
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Whatever wrote:

From what I read the comparison was about the style of play that Comrie needed to compete due to talent and size in comparison to Gags.

I must be wrong. It was all about comparing height. Which is so not relevant in hockey.

First, I'm curious - at what point did I say that height was irrelevant? Show me that and I will try to take your inane sarcasm seriously.

Now why don't we take a closer look at the post we cannot seem to agree on.

It was IMO because of the limitations of his game. Both physical and talent wise.

So...Physical limitations and lack of talent. Since there was no discussion of which talents Comrie was lacking I can only assume they aren't as important as his physical limitations to this poster. Lets look at those.

Comrie 5'10"

This is the entire list of physical limitations given to us by the poster. Nothing else. There is no other assumption I can make other than whoever wrote the comment believes height to be the most important factor.

According to Oilerbill Comrie failed because he was 5"10 and therefore Gagner will fail because he is 5'10.

Of course there is no mention of other 5'10 players who have done very well for themselves, but they wouldn't help his narrative.

His post even ludicrously suggests that the Sedins succeeded because they are tall.

Being tall can help, but it is relatively low on the list of attributes that make someone a good hockey player.

The best part about the whole thing is that Gagner is actually listed at 5'11 and 195lbs. If he was just 1 inch taller nobody would even be commenting on his size. It's hilarious.

Comrie was another inch shorter and never came within 10 pounds of that, plus Comrie was a 3rd round pick. Gagner 6th overall.

Nothing about the comparable makes any sense, besides, the only item he gave us to compare was height, and he didn't even get that part right.

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#76 Whatever
January 07 2012, 01:36AM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

First, I'm curious - at what point did I say that height was irrelevant? Show me that and I will try to take your inane sarcasm seriously.

Now why don't we take a closer look at the post we cannot seem to agree on.

It was IMO because of the limitations of his game. Both physical and talent wise.

So...Physical limitations and lack of talent. Since there was no discussion of which talents Comrie was lacking I can only assume they aren't as important as his physical limitations to this poster. Lets look at those.

Comrie 5'10"

This is the entire list of physical limitations given to us by the poster. Nothing else. There is no other assumption I can make other than whoever wrote the comment believes height to be the most important factor.

According to Oilerbill Comrie failed because he was 5"10 and therefore Gagner will fail because he is 5'10.

Of course there is no mention of other 5'10 players who have done very well for themselves, but they wouldn't help his narrative.

His post even ludicrously suggests that the Sedins succeeded because they are tall.

Being tall can help, but it is relatively low on the list of attributes that make someone a good hockey player.

The best part about the whole thing is that Gagner is actually listed at 5'11 and 195lbs. If he was just 1 inch taller nobody would even be commenting on his size. It's hilarious.

Comrie was another inch shorter and never came within 10 pounds of that, plus Comrie was a 3rd round pick. Gagner 6th overall.

Nothing about the comparable makes any sense, besides, the only item he gave us to compare was height, and he didn't even get that part right.

Of the top 30 Centers in league scoring today, two of them are under 6'. That must be a strange coincidence. Of the top 60 there are about 6 under 6'. So that means it would be reasonable to say that about 90% of the centers in the NHL are over 6 feet. So when it's said that comparing two players that are in equal physical stature is more reasonable than comparing two people that have at least a 3" difference in height. You think that is unreasonable? Why because of draft position?

Personally I also think it is not a fair comparable to use the sedins. Because of physical stature yes but also because they had a chance to develop together. They are a special case. I can not think of any other example where two players never mind identical twins have had the opportunity to play together for their entire lives right up to the highest level. They developed together. Do you think it's just a coincidence that they both have comparable numbers and developed at the same rate?

Now if gags had a twin brother that he played with his entire life and was on his line still today..... Then I would conceid that the comparison is much more reasonable.

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#77 Whatever
January 07 2012, 01:47AM
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@TigerUnderGlass

Fyi hockeydb has Gagner listed at 5'10".

Also please refer to the parts of the post where he ludicrously suggests that the sedins succeeded because they are tall. I missed that.

Also I don't believe I read the part where oilerbill said Comrie failed because he was 5'10. Infact he said his body didn't hold up because of the type of game he played. Or something like that.

Really this tires me. You can continue to assume, suggest or otherwise try to twist other people's words as much as you like.

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#78 TigerUnderGlass
January 07 2012, 10:30AM
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I did point it out...in significant detail.

He listed 3 players and their height and gave us no other points of comparison to work with. I don't have to twist anything.

*IF* his point is that Comrie failed because of his style of play then there is absolutely no basis for comparison because Gagner plays very differently. The only comparison he made between them was height.

"FYI" The NHL lists him as 5'11.

So does Hockey-reference.

I'm not sure why you consider hockeydb to be a better source than the league.

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