January 15 2013 05:49PM
It's early, but Sam Gagner's spot on the depth chart isn't clouded by injury, old timey coaching or worries over what he doesn't bring to the dance. Dave Gagner's boy may be poised for a big season.
A year ago, Sam Gagner missed opening night and the 6 games afterward, joining the battle in G7 against the NY Rangers on October 22nd. He played RW alongside Eric Belanger and Magnus Paajarvi, and was 2-0 at evens according to Dennis King scoring chances. Gagner spent large portions of last season outside the feature lines, and didn't score a goal his 20th game of the season. Gagner's splits suggest a very uneven season, and his pre and post All-Star performances reflect it:
- Pre All-Star game: 42, 5-16-21 -4 (.5 points-per-game)
- Post All-Star game: 33, 13-13-26 +9 (.788 points-per-game)
Gagner had excellent timing a year ago, scoring an amazing 8-points in one night against Chicago during a period where his name was mentioned in trade rumors. He is 23 years old, a veteran of 366 NHL games, improved markedly in the faceoff circle and in plus minus compared to team.
SAM GAGNER 11-12
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.96 (4th among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: 3.66 (6th among regular forwards)
- Qual Comp: 8th toughest among regular forwards
- Qual Team: 6th best teammates among regular forwards
- Corsi Rel: 6.3 (4th best among regular forwards)
- Zone Start: 54.1% (4th easiest among regular forwards)
- Zone Finish: 51.8% (4th best among regular forwards)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 149/12.1% (5th among F’s>100 shots)
- Boxcars: 75, 18-29-47
- Plus Minus: +5 on a team that was -26
This week in training camp, coach Krueger has Samwise between Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov: two elite passers and the Kalashnikov Machinegun. As consolation wingers, Hemmer and the Nail are stunning, and 89 should be able to find chemistry with these two--certainly better chem than he had last season in the Belanger-Paajarvi days.
Pat Quinn never did figure out Samwise and Tom Renney had his moments too. Ralph Krueger appears to mark the return of 'rational thinking' behind the Oilers bench, and placing Gagner between Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov is a very good sign. That trio should also get plenty of PP time on the #2PP unit (Horcoff and Hartikainen appear to be getting the push onto the #1PP with the whiz kids) and one expects a pretty good secondary unit to grow out of such a talented bunch.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Sam Gagner is still a young hockey player and should have a decade or more playing a huge role on an NHL team. For the first time in awhile, it looks like the coach is onside with Kevin Lowe and management in terms of Sam Gagner's best role: a skill center on a skill line. No more Belanger-Paajarvi, or so we hope.