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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#1 Archaeologuy
January 05 2012, 03:45PM
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greenlightning86 wrote:

Here are Gagner's FO% last 19 games.

46, 75, 50, -, 33, 100, 100, 22, 33, 75, 66, 75, 75, 66, 0, 50, 50, 0, 50

Remember that he did not play center in all those games and he is 51.5% on the year.

Sweet Sassy Mollassy!!1!

Sam Gagner is over 50% on the faceoff dot and nobody is saying anything about this? Is this some sort of Bizarro world we live in? What's next, Cats and Dogs living in harmony?

In days of Yore Bards would tell tales of turn-arounds like this. Came in to Camp faster than ever, over 50% on the dot, 16 points in last 19 games, paid not even 2.5M a season?!?

~Lets trade this bum, he's good for nothing. I dont care how young, productive, cheap, and constantly improving he is.~

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#2 melancholyculkin
January 05 2012, 03:42PM
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I'm not the only one saying this, but Hall-Gagner-Hemsky is a very, very good line. Good enough to outchance and outscore the other teams best.

If they stay together and all stay healthy, it wouldn't surprise me if they score 25 points between the three of them over the next 10 games.

Do people seriously want to trade Gagner and Hemsky? That's insane.

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#3 OilLeak
January 05 2012, 04:20PM
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Of course Gagner is producing, he's playing with capable linemates that can finish his passes. Playing on a line with Jones and Belanger was a recipe for disaster. Jones, for all the scoring he's providing this year always produces in spite/despite his linemates, and Belanger has been where offense goes to die while being defensively responsible.

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#4 Stocc
January 05 2012, 03:18PM
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I passed it up out of respect for (and fear of) you, Robin.

Circle gets the square!

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#5 Rindog
January 05 2012, 09:30PM
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keilan wrote:

Even the most biased Oiler fan recognizes that Sam is no Henrik Sedin – that’s laughable and I dislike Vancouver as much as anyone!

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?

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#6 TrentonL
January 05 2012, 04:27PM
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Petr Nedved sighting: the guy on the clearlycontacts.ca ad here on Oilers Nation.

More importantly, great to see Gagner getting a chance with skilled players. Imagine that, play a guy with skill, with guys who are not plugs and he plays really well....

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#7 Crash
January 05 2012, 04:57PM
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It shouldn't have had to come down to a Nugent-Hopkins injury for Sam to be given this chance. He should have been centering this line when RNH was still in the lineup.

Gagner is never given the kind of rope Horcoff is given to survive playing with Hemsky if they have a night where they don't produce.

If they just leave Sam alone and play him with Hall and Hemmer....don't be surprised if Hemmer's numbers pick up.

Trading Hemsky and Gagner will be a big mistake if it happens.

Book it

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#8 Rindog
January 05 2012, 05:43PM
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keilan wrote:

I was excited about Gagner 4-5 years ago but that’s worn off the past couple of seasons! The guy for whatever reasons isn’t ever going to be a top 6 forward on an Oiler team that contends. If Sam is slotted in as our number two centre this club is in big trouble.

30th place hockey teams are measured by the teams they should beat… By this standard the Oilers fail miserably.

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???

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#9 Quicksilver ballet
January 05 2012, 08:06PM
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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.

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#10 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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#11 Archaeologuy
January 05 2012, 03:38PM
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Gagner has always been a slow starter, and with the injury to start the year it was made even worse. There's a place for him on this team. I think we're seeing the best Horc can give for the next few seasons here, and it looks a lot like what we expected Belanger to bring.

Neither of the two FO winning vets has the offensive awareness to play with the kids for an extended period of time. Nuge is obviously the 1C for the next decade, barring a melt down of course. That leaves Sam uncontested for the 2C spot in my eyes.

Add to that the seemingly inevitable Hemsky trade and I'm seeing a void in the Oiler top 6 that gets worse if Gagner is flushed too. I think he gets locked up at a good but not outrageous price for at least 3 years.

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#13 T
January 05 2012, 10:35PM
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I think they should keep Gagner around. He fits in well with the kids on this team and he plays hard every shift. Unlike a few others on this team. The RNH injury will give Sam a great opportunity and I think he'll do fine. Also I wish Hall or someone would bounce a goal in off of Hemskys shin pad, arm or ASS just to get that burden off his back.

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#14 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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#15 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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#16 justDOit
January 05 2012, 03:14PM
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I'll pick Paul Lynn for the block.

Edit: But I got the name wrong, it's Lynde, apparently.

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#18 justDOit
January 05 2012, 03:23PM
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One thing that might hamper Gagner's opportunity to grasp the ring at 1C, is that Horcoff is nursing an injured wing. Aside from Belenger, the Oilers might be in trouble as far as face-offs are concerned.

Do we know what Gagner's FO % has been in these last 19 games?

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#19 greenlightning86
January 05 2012, 03:35PM
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@justDOit

Here are Gagner's FO% last 19 games.

46, 75, 50, -, 33, 100, 100, 22, 33, 75, 66, 75, 75, 66, 0, 50, 50, 0, 50

Remember that he did not play center in all those games and he is 51.5% on the year.

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#20 glenn schwarz
January 05 2012, 03:35PM
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justDOit wrote:

One thing that might hamper Gagner's opportunity to grasp the ring at 1C, is that Horcoff is nursing an injured wing. Aside from Belenger, the Oilers might be in trouble as far as face-offs are concerned.

Do we know what Gagner's FO % has been in these last 19 games?

As we have seen face offs are overrated. Belanger wins lots I still would trade him and his 1g for anything and use Lander in his spot. Has having the puck more this year turned into more points 2 I believe from last year.

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#21 OilFan
January 05 2012, 03:36PM
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FIST is no good. Gibberish such as "SIUTBOHC factor" is very good.

Robin is jealous he didn't event FIST himself!

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#22 Spydyr
January 05 2012, 03:44PM
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If you can Get Dave Gagner, Sam's dad in the stands every game keep him......If not trade him away for some size or a d-man.

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#23 Spydyr
January 05 2012, 03:51PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Sweet Sassy Mollassy!!1!

Sam Gagner is over 50% on the faceoff dot and nobody is saying anything about this? Is this some sort of Bizarro world we live in? What's next, Cats and Dogs living in harmony?

In days of Yore Bards would tell tales of turn-arounds like this. Came in to Camp faster than ever, over 50% on the dot, 16 points in last 19 games, paid not even 2.5M a season?!?

~Lets trade this bum, he's good for nothing. I dont care how young, productive, cheap, and constantly improving he is.~

Young-yes.

Productive-productive at getting knocked of the puck and injured.

Cheap-of course you have to do something first to get the big bucks.

Constantly improving-his first year was his best year IMO.

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#25 Shredder
January 05 2012, 04:00PM
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Gagner was once touted the future of the franchise...we now have a few of those, but that does not make Gagner indespensible. I would say he's pretty darn important given our 1C is out for a month...and we need a legit 2C in a bad way...and there is no way Belanger or Horc has earned that right. On another note, everything has its price, and if we were to trade Hemsky and Gagner for Getzlaf...well that's just a good deal, but it won't happen. So let's quit talking about trading him (and I know you guys won't just because I told you to), but every team, including the Oilers, could use a guy like Sam. So far I'd say he's got the most chemistry with Hall for a guy down the middle. Eberle obviously earns that right overall, but we need a centre...

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#26 sloppy jow
January 05 2012, 04:29PM
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Re Nuge: Assuming that it is a separated shoulder ... does anyone know if that's the type of injury where it's bound to recur again and again after you're hurt the first time (e.g. Mike Grier)? Or is it a one-off type injury where guys generally heal to the point where the shoulder isn't particularly susceptible to re-injury? I know each injury is unique and there are a lot of variables, but if anyone has a general sense about this, I'd appreciate the info.

Re Gagner: I'm in the patient/backer group, but I don't think he's indispensible. I do think that we could use more size in the top 6. If we could get a good part for Gagner and upgrade in the size department, I don't have a problem with that. To be clear, I am not advocating that we trade him for a big pylon -- but if there is a piece out there with size and skill, then great. For example ... a guy like Hanzal from the Coyotes --less offensive potential, but a big and very useful player. I might be dreaming re a trade like that being made, but I'll spit-ball about it anyway. I suppose the problem with big skilled guys is that is that their teams aren't inclined to trade them for small skilled guys.

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#27 majin_oil
January 05 2012, 04:31PM
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As frustrated as I am at the loss of RNH, I am, nevertheless curious. If Ganger (with an "R") is given the extra ice time and on a line with Hall and Hemsky, he might be able to up that point total thus increasing his trade value(Should you be in the trade Ganger camp)come the deadline.

just a thought..

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#28 TrentonL
January 05 2012, 04:35PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Actually, if that's not Trevor Linden, it's his twin brother.

Nedved-Linden love child maybe?

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#29 closetgm
January 05 2012, 04:47PM
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I am seriously getting sick of the trade ( insert whoever is underperforming or injured here ). You people are all idiots and i am going to have to stop at the end of the arcticle and not read comments anymore. If you think trading Gagner and Hemsky right now is going to help this team in the long run then i am glad your not running the team. The return for either is minimal right now and likely wont get much better before the trade deadline. Hemsky has been coming on as of late and Gagner is playing very well right now. Quit dreaming get back to reality and lets make smart moves from a position of power. I know we are not used to that but hopefully its just around the corner. We have some decent prospects and some holes to fill but trading a 60-70 point guy who is coming off of two injury riddled seasons will get us nothing that we really need. As for Gagner give the kid a break he will be better and he knows he has to be better.

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#30 Mitch
January 05 2012, 04:47PM
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Robin Sam has done well as of late, it would be nice to see some consistency. I'm not worried about faceoff %, I want to see a high compete level and a commitment to winning the little battles down low.

Moving forward the Oilers have some tough descisions to make. I don't think we should ever expect Whitney to be the same. Horcoff IMO is only a 3rd line centre. Belanger a 4th or waived.

If I'm Stu MacGregor I pick one of the Russian centre's or Matt Dumba or Rienhart.

I make a serious offer to get 1 of the Nashville Predators Dmen.

Lander needs some time in the AHL his skating must get better.

I'm interested to see what does Pitlick look like in the NHL.

Darcy Hordichuck's days will soon be numbered.

Taylor Hall looks about to go to another level, this summer of training is very important for Hall, I would expect him to get to Stamkos's elite level.

Ryan Smyth must except a 3rd line roll.

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#31 keilan
January 05 2012, 04:54PM
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I was excited about Gagner 4-5 years ago but that’s worn off the past couple of seasons! The guy for whatever reasons isn’t ever going to be a top 6 forward on an Oiler team that contends. If Sam is slotted in as our number two centre this club is in big trouble.

30th place hockey teams are measured by the teams they should beat… By this standard the Oilers fail miserably.

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#32 keilan
January 05 2012, 04:58PM
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Mitch wrote:

Robin Sam has done well as of late, it would be nice to see some consistency. I'm not worried about faceoff %, I want to see a high compete level and a commitment to winning the little battles down low.

Moving forward the Oilers have some tough descisions to make. I don't think we should ever expect Whitney to be the same. Horcoff IMO is only a 3rd line centre. Belanger a 4th or waived.

If I'm Stu MacGregor I pick one of the Russian centre's or Matt Dumba or Rienhart.

I make a serious offer to get 1 of the Nashville Predators Dmen.

Lander needs some time in the AHL his skating must get better.

I'm interested to see what does Pitlick look like in the NHL.

Darcy Hordichuck's days will soon be numbered.

Taylor Hall looks about to go to another level, this summer of training is very important for Hall, I would expect him to get to Stamkos's elite level.

Ryan Smyth must except a 3rd line roll.

Decent post – 2 thumbs up

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#33 Rama Lama
January 05 2012, 05:12PM
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Sam is a very sound player that puts the team ahead of himself. His first year he had very good hands with deft moves that would freeze players and goalies and create opportunities.

Recently his games reminds me of a plugger .........I'm not sure where his skill went, but I suspect he will rebound and be able to play top six minutes. His speed will hold him back from being an consistent producer........is it just me or does it seem like he is playing in slow motion at times?

Good team guy but we need some size/skill combo at centre. If I see Belenger playing the PP tonight I'm going to pull out all my hair! I would prefer to see Sutton get a chance on the PP........he has patience with the puck and defends well with his size and impressive reach.

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#34 FastOil
January 05 2012, 05:15PM
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Other than the 3 any Oiler is tradeable for the right return IMO. Gagner needs certain types of players to be productive, which isn't unusual. However, if an effort isn't made to get him those players (shooting wingers with size) it might be better to deal him to fill a hole elsewhere.

Hall isn't going to be on the second line and Pajaarvi isn't a shooter, Smyth doesn't count because he's on the way out. The dynamics would also be different if RNH was a big centre. To me if you are going to run 2 small non physical centres they both need to be very dangerous offensively, and as of now I'm not sure Gagner is that, which allows teams to key on RNH and Gagner's wingers.

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#35 TrentonL
January 05 2012, 05:54PM
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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???

Well played!

Also the Sedin's played for better teams and started at 20 as opposed to 18 like Gagner.

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#36 keilan
January 05 2012, 06:00PM
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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???

Even the most biased Oiler fan recognizes that Sam is no Henrik Sedin – that’s laughable and I dislike Vancouver as much as anyone!

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#37 justDOit
January 05 2012, 06:02PM
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@glenn schwarz

What you can't measure, is how many goals against the Oilers would have suffered if Belenger doesn't win some of those defensive draws. I don't believe that starting the play with the puck as being 'overrated'.

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#38 Quicksilver ballet
January 05 2012, 06:07PM
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Enough of all this Gagne talk....

If you're correct in it being a seperation Robin. Is there danger it could become a repetitive injury like a dislocation could?

I know plenty about dislocations but not at all familiar with seperations. Is one more serious/damaging than the other?

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#39 oilerman53
January 05 2012, 07:02PM
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glenn schwarz wrote:

As we have seen face offs are overrated. Belanger wins lots I still would trade him and his 1g for anything and use Lander in his spot. Has having the puck more this year turned into more points 2 I believe from last year.

The sooner people realize that Belanger was signed for that reason the better off we'll be. He signed here and wanted to play here, how many UFA's in the past five years have given us the cold shoulder? After Eberle, Hemsky, Nuge, Hall, Gagner, Jones, Paajarvi, Smyth and hell even Horcoff. Belanger can win faceoffs and not produce and at 3 years 1.75 per thats just fine by me.

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#41 michael
January 05 2012, 07:11PM
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R.Smyth has excepted every role given to him. What "must" is there when the coach continually puts you out against the other teams best line. Last I looked there is not a definitive 2cd, 3rd or 4 th line. This team has had way to many injuries and players who have played poorly to say such and such plays on the 2cd line and player Y plays on the 4th line. Smyths role is what ever the coach decides. Pegging him as 3rd line player seems a little too presumptive at this point in the season. And in the rebuild for the matter.

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#42 Quicksilver ballet
January 05 2012, 07:48PM
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@Robin Brownlee

Thank you sir.

Is it a matter of about a week before that number/grade becomes available or is that media types only knowledge?

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#44 Sean17
January 05 2012, 08:56PM
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Sh!t-acular hockey....

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#45 David S
January 05 2012, 09:20PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

If it's worse that an Grade 2 separation (severity is Graded 1-6) it would probably need surgery to repair damaged ligaments of the AC joint.

A dislocation, beyond a relatively minor sublexation, is generally a more troublesome injury in that it can tear up more soft tissue if it's severe enough that it needs to be popped back into place by medical staff (as opposed to slipping back in by itself). At least that's been what I've experienced, having had both, and what I've observed.

As for the possibility of recurring problems, I can't say with certainty, but I suspect a dislocated shoulder is more prone to it.

Depends on how much ligament damage was involved. I dislocated my shoulder three times. The first one, no big deal. Had it re-located by a paramedic on-location. The second one, you could tell things were getting loose. I popped it in myself immediately afterwards by violently shaking my arm.

After the third time my shoulder was (literally) falling out by while I was sleeping. Then came the surgery. Once that happens, the recovery takes far longer than most think. It can be stiff and sore during use for up to a year after the repair is "healthy". If I had the choice I would have preferred a broken bone.

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#46 OilFan
January 05 2012, 09:40PM
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I've been a huge critic of Gagner and have to say his play hasn't been way better the last 20 games. He is one player the Oilers should try to re-sign.

Also how is it possible for some one to be using my posting name on the nation ?

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#47 HOFFFF
January 05 2012, 09:43PM
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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.

Thats hilarious!

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#49 David S
January 05 2012, 09:55PM
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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?

^ THIS.

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#50 Oilerbill
January 05 2012, 10:31PM
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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???

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

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