ABOUT SAM

Lowetide
December 11 2013 05:04PM

 

There's a lot of talk about young Sam Gagner these days, some troubling moments in the defensive zone married to sluggish offense have many wondering about his future as an Oiler. Should there be concern?

WHO IS SAM GAGNER?

Gagner's play defensively has been off this season. Although never a strength, his errant passes and exits from the defensive slot just in time to be "also in photo" are shocking for a player of his experience. I've watched this player from the beginning, and swear he's never been this bad in his own end. Mistakes? Yes. Poor decisions? Sure. However, not like this year, a year in which we have this discussion damn near every game.

WHAT is going on? IS it impacting his offense as well?

THE WHO BY NUMBERS

One of the best ways to judge offensive talent is by 5x5 points per 60 minutes. If a player can post numbers at even strength he should be able to do it on the man advantage, and Gagner has been good 5x5:

  • 2007-08: 1.96 (7th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2008-09: 1.69 (6th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2009-10: 1.56 (6th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2010-11: 1.91 (2nd among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2011-12: 1.96 (4th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2012-13: 1.84 (4th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2013-14: 1.34 (10th among regular Oiler forwards)

Interesting. We know that Gagner has been poor away from the puck, but the 5x5/60 number also indicates he's well off the pace offensively. This is a fairly consistent hockey player, and we'd need to see this happen over an entire year, but I think we're seeing some effect of the horrible injury on the offensive side here. 

What are the typical causes of a poor season after a group of better ones?

  1. Injury and recovery
  2. Age
  3. Coaching change

We can exclude age, Sam is a young man who should be entering his prime as an NHL player. Injury is certainly a part of this, and despite the player claiming things are good again I think we can assume part of that is the player not making excuses (hockey player bravado is famous), and so I'll count the injury as a major contributing factor.

COACH AND PLAYER

The Oilers have already traded a recently signed veteran (Ladislav Smid) so it could happen again, but I'm not buying that Dallas Eakins has problems with Gagner. The comments by Eakins in regard to Gagner have been typical fare, certainly nothing that would cause a raised eyebrow. Eakins has been using Gagner more and more lately—he played over 19 minutes last night—and has him playing with two exceptional talents (Hall and Yakupov), so he's either putting him in a position to succeed or showcasing him.

I'd suggest that one thing they could do is put Gagner in a soft-minutes situation when Boyd Gordon comes back, in an effort to get Gagner going offensively at even strength.The Oilers have a ready replacement on the 2line in Mark Arcobello.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

In my experience as a fan, these things usually straighten themselves out about the time we identify them. There's no secret that Sam Gagner has been struggling, but he scored 2 assists last night and that's perhaps the beginning of a strong run that will see him climb to career norms.

This is a very talented hockey player and a big part of the team. My bet is Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins give Sam Gagner all the time in the world to get things together. 

Even if it takes the season.

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Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on Team 1260.
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#51 hockeycrazed
December 12 2013, 11:01AM
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@Neal

I think that's the best, constructive suggestion I've read so far! People like to rush into conclusion, also, like to play judge and jury all by himself! Deep down I feel that Gagner hasn't fully realised his potentials yet, and I hate to see him blossom into a super star in another uniform!

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#52 Zarny
December 12 2013, 11:32AM
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People need to relax.

Undoubtedly the injury has been a factor. A broken jaw means a liquid diet, dropping 10-15 lbs, missing training camp and essentially wiping out his off-season training. What about that screams hot start?

Gagner has 11 pts in 19 games. Over 82 games that's 47.5 pts. His career average is 50 pts over 82 games. So he's on pace for his career average while struggling. Go check out Giroux's first 20 games if you really want to see struggling. It happens.

I would also suggest his new contract is a factor. Usually it's the pressure of money and the mouth-breathers yelling. With Sam, I think it's the term.

He knows the Oilers aren't sold on him or he'd have gotten 6-8 years. With the NMC, Gagner has this year to prove himself and the clock is ticking. Added pressure coming off an injury usually doesn't go well.

The real problem with Gagner is he doesn't compliment Nuge well. They are basically the same player except Sam isn't as good. Small and skilled with deficiencies on defense and face-offs.

That might do if a couple of the top line W were built like Lucic or Horton. They aren't. The Oilers top 6 F are way too much of the same. That's not going to win the Stanley Cup.

Which is why I maintain that the Oilers should trade Gagner regardless of how he started this year. Offensively, he'll be a great 2C for a decade or more. He'd be a great fit with a C like Toews, Richards or J.Staal who can play more physical and handle the heavy load defensively.

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#53 camdog
December 12 2013, 02:02PM
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@David S

"Are people willing to trade Gagner based on observations that probably see him playing no more than 50% of his potential? That's moron talk."

I and many of the others who want Gags traded wanted him traded this off season. I guess you could argue that in in his first 7 years he's only been playing at 50% of his potential, that said how many more years would you say that we should wait to see him move up to 75% of his potential?

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#54 hockeycrazed
December 12 2013, 03:51PM
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@camdog

The problem is pal, if you are willing to stick with Dubnyk, even though he's proving that he doesn't belong ( he's also has 7 years to prove himself) why not give gagner the benefit of the doubt then?

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#55 westcoastoil
December 11 2013, 05:42PM
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I can appreciate that the injury would affect his willingness to engage physically, but I don't understand how it translates into being mentally unaware with extremely basic D principles in your own zone. Eg., look around/behind you when covering the slot.

He hasn't been alone - Petry has been a terrible puck watcher during his more recent struggles. But there's been an inordinate amount of coasting. It's one thing if you're busting your hump to get back but can't catch up. Watching butterflies on the ice and tossing muffins up the middle is something else entirely. These are bad habits that Atom coaches are on players about.

I'd be curious to hear from Struds or Sudsy if these mental mistakes are a function of not being up to the speed of the game yet.

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#56 BLAKPOO
December 11 2013, 06:10PM
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I'm a Gagner fan. I've seen him struggle with his identity on this team, drop weight, add weight, and do what he can to make himself a better player.

We've all seen that he's capable of putting up points, and finishing plays close to the net. There's no doubt he's a talented player, but is he the player this team needs right now?

"Pre-smashface" Gagner is a damn good player and team mate. But, he's redundant on this team. We don't need a smallish centre who's so-so at draws and iffy in his own end. We need a big body that can win draws, keep up with the play, cause havoc in front of the net, and know who to play when in the defensive zone.

I'd love to see Gagner achieve, but I just don't think this is the place for him to do it.

If MacT sits on his hands until the NMC kicks in, he's probably going to regret it.

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#57 Dave
December 11 2013, 08:10PM
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I am curious. When the media talks with Gagner does he say the team has to play better or does he say that I know I have to play better ?

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#58 S cottV
December 11 2013, 09:58PM
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@God

Yeah - give Arco a good look in 2C, play Gagner on the wing, when Gordon is back and see how it looks. Arco is not the longer term answer in 2C either but may deliver better overall 2 way results than Gagner now, while investigating trade options up to the trade deadline. Maybe with some luck over the next year or so, MacT can fill the 2C hole and other priority holes Maybe we end up with RNH 1C- a strong 2C, Arco in 3C on a line that can score and Gordon 4C on a 4th line that can really play and contribute...

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#59 Kirsch
December 11 2013, 10:10PM
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Crunch the numbers any which way Gagner isn't good. Watching him out there is unnerving to say the least. The Oiler's "management" obviously feels having this group is ok, after all people fill the building I watch them on NHL.com religiously (from the good olde USA) and yet we get the same or worse results year in year out.

Change and hope is what we need.

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#60 Rdubb
December 12 2013, 02:46AM
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Pardon me, but what exactly is this "5x5/60 number"? Does it mea

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#61 S cottV
December 12 2013, 08:50AM
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SuntanOil wrote:

Gordon did not sign here to be a fourth line player, nor should he be. While I am okay with trying Sam at the wing, Boyd Gordon remains a very good 3rd line NHL center. You are seeing something in Arco that is not there if you think he can be a better 3C than Gordon.

What I said was - put Arco in 2C and Gagner on the wing, when Gordon is back and see what it looks like.

If Arco looks better than expected, while he is not the long term answer in 2C (because Oilers clearly need a top end guy in that spot eventually) maybe - he could anchor a third line that might score more than what Gordon is able to generate.

That might bump Gordon to the 4th - in the next year or two. A championship team needs a strong 4th line - that can play some minutes without getting scored on and chip in with timely offense.

Where do you think Gordon would fit in right now - with present Stanley Cup contenders - Chicago, Anaheim, LA, SJ, Boston, Pittsburgh?

4th line.

As for Arco - I think he may be a legit temp replacement for a struggling Gagner in 2C and a possible 3rd line centreman one day, but he still has a lot to prove before that ever happens.

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#62 Bushed
December 12 2013, 09:04AM
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Jacques Lemaire was one of the best two-way players of his era, so no surprise when he coached his teams to be defense-first, and positionally-aware.

I'm not sure that even Lemaire could "fix" what ails Sam Gagner's game.

If Eakins & Co. are serious about sending a message about defensive responsibility, Gagner should be at the top of the list for a trade.

I cringe every time I see Sam pointing and "explaining" positional play to Yak or anyone else--are you kidding me?

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#63 Neal
December 12 2013, 10:34AM
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You guys are really under-estimating the impact his injury has. I speak from experience that rehab will normally take months longer than he took.

Having said that, it shouldn't affect his brain. And Sam has never demonstrated being a complete player. He was rushed into the league at minimum a year too soon (6 Rings strikes again) and I've said for 6 years now that hurt his development. But we are where we are.

I was one of the guys who said not to trade him because of his age; that you'd eventually lose the trade as experience caught up to talent. I have to say now that it hasn't happened. Time for him to go - but if that's not an option then put him on the wing - it's the only NHL position that he's had some success in. Maybe our best 2nd line center - Arcobello - can get him going as his winger...

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#64 Zamboni Driver
December 12 2013, 11:07AM
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"Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish are going to give Gagner all the time in the world..."

Say....like....what? Seven MORE years to figure out how to play even a little defense and win 50% of his faceoffs?

Sometimes, you know, it's okay to say "the guy really isn't that good", EVEN if he wears an Oilers jersey.

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#65 Joe Mamma
December 12 2013, 11:22AM
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They're $hittie wrote:

no I am saying that, people say to trade gagner to get the team bigger, I would suggest we do that by trading arco, eberle or hemsky.

Calling him small or a smurf is an uneducated statement because he is the average height of an nhl forward and actually heavier.

A comment like he needs to play bigger is a more accurate statement but you can say that about nuge, eberle, yak, and hemsky also.

I don't care what they have him listed at, I have met Gagner, and he is a scrunt. Short and puny. Hall is definitely bigger than gagner, and so is yak.

He IS a smurf, and it is your opinion that is uneducated. You think because you read something on the interwebz it makes you informed?

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#66 Zamboni Driver
December 12 2013, 11:26AM
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Joe Mamma wrote:

I don't care what they have him listed at, I have met Gagner, and he is a scrunt. Short and puny. Hall is definitely bigger than gagner, and so is yak.

He IS a smurf, and it is your opinion that is uneducated. You think because you read something on the interwebz it makes you informed?

My god. You have it Overpaid Wild. THE SOLUTION!

Trade MARK ARCOBELLO to get that big winger/centre everyone is talking about.

YES!

A guy who has played part of one season in the NHL and is a third line centre on the third worst team in the league! Also is 5'7".

I say since the Bruins are in town we swap him for Lucic. He's pretty tall.

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#67 bwar
December 12 2013, 03:49PM
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When Boyd Gordon comes back I would really like to see Gagner play a few games on the wing. Every game he seems to have 1 or two shifts as a winger and from my eyes it always seems that the Oilers carry the play much more than when he is performing his regular duties. Gagner can be an integral part of this team moving forward but I don't think that piece is a center.

As for trading him, I think you could get much better return for an Eberle, Yakupov or Hall than you could for Gagner. And I feel that if Gagner was moved to wing he could perform comparably to either of those three (Maybe not as high as Hall).

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#68 RexLibris
December 11 2013, 08:08PM
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Lowetide wrote:

If I told you, I'd have to kill you!

http://www.gifbin.com/random

Surprised I haven't seen this one in a blog.

http://gifb.in/juBV

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#69 Quicksilver ballet
December 11 2013, 09:18PM
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RexLibris wrote:

Surprised I haven't seen this one in a blog.

http://gifb.in/juBV

Here's a classic..

http://i257.photobucket.com/albums/hh208/brian_sportframe/men.gif

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#70 SuntanOil
December 11 2013, 10:11PM
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@S cottV

Gordon did not sign here to be a fourth line player, nor should he be. While I am okay with trying Sam at the wing, Boyd Gordon remains a very good 3rd line NHL center. You are seeing something in Arco that is not there if you think he can be a better 3C than Gordon.

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#71 Dangilitis
December 12 2013, 12:06AM
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SuntanOil wrote:

There is no doubt that Sam is a frustrating player at times, in particular when he continues to make the same mistakes in his own zone time time after time.

I don't think it matters for a couple of years at least. From everything I've read here and elsewhere it sounds like Sam has a verbal no-movement clause with MacTavish, and that it would be in writing if it was allowed by the CBA. Therefore, I think we can whine all we want about Sam's shortcomings as a player, but unless you have solutions to those shortcomings that don't involve trading him, then it would appear to me you're wasting your breath.

So, since it appears we are stuck with Sam Gagner for at least two more years (whether you like it or not), what can he improve on along the way to silence his critics?

Obviously he can't change his size, and from the sounds of it he works hard to improve his strength and balance in the off season. Realistically, if your problem with Sam Gagner is simply that he is not big enough, then you are blind to certain truths and positives he does bring.

What can he fix though? The defensive lapses, zone positioning, and face off percentages can all be improved through coaching, and from all reports he seems to be a very coachable and intelligent player. . ... ... ... SO why haven't they improved?

In his first year Samwise took huge strides as a player, but seems to have stopped learning the game since then. The only change that was made that year that still has been a constant to this day is that one Kelly Buchberger became an assistant coach.

So every time I see Sam repeat a coverage mistake for the umpteenth time I no longer get mad at Sam, I end up mad at Buchberger. How bad of a coach do you have to be to not be able to correct this behavior in SIX years of working with him?

Yes. I blame Kelly Buchberger. He has shown nothing as a coach since he came back here, and I have no idea how he keeps flying under the radar as a major problem with this organization. Thus my biggest worry is that Gagner will be traded away for nothing (much to the delight of many on here) and that it will take a real teaching coach all of about month to correct Sam's defensive lapses. If and when it happens, MacTavish will take a lot of heat from these same people for "losing" the trade so badly.

So, yes, I do want to give Sam a little more time, but more importantly I want for the Oilers to find an assistant coach who can actually teach the kid how not to make the same mistakes he has been making. If they find him a real coach, a coach who has a track record of teaching kids the right way to play the game and he still makes the same mistakes, then yes - trade him. Since the Oil aren't making the playoffs this year, you might as well bring in that coach this season - now would be good - and let's see if we can't fix the kid before we give up on him.

FKFBNF!!

That's an interesting take, indeed. No coach should be free from scrutiny, but I am pretty sure every Oilers head coach could have straightened him out as well.

The funny thing is the year he produced 8 points in a game, he was starting to improve defensively prior. Then he had the game, and I think thereafter he felt he could compete with Hall and Ebs, etc. and forget about the defence. That's not what this team needs, though.

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#72 camdog
December 12 2013, 09:40AM
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Rdubb wrote:

Pardon me, but what is this " 5x5/60 number "? What exactly does it mean? Is it another one of these "corsi" stats that really nobody in the western hemisphere understands? I'd greatly appreciate it if someone could please answer for me and explain it in layman's terms as I am not a math major or anything of the sort... Thank you

PECK

It's a misleading stat, sort of chicken and egg argument. On this team Arcobello has an excellent 5x5/60 number when playing with elite wingers, however his 5x5/ 60 falls dramatically when he isn't playing on the top 2 lines, as his quality of wingers depreciates significantly. For the number to be significant it would need to be calibrated based on the quality of ones linemates.

An example of how this stat is misleading is when we drafted Mark- Antoinie Pouliot. In junior he played with Crosby. He probably had an excellent 5x5/60 but that wasn't because he was good, it was because Crosby was good.

That's my interpretation however if I am wrong I would welcome being corrected.

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#73 camdog
December 12 2013, 09:45AM
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@camdog

Now here's an interesting stat on Petry. I like looking at the splits. The splits say that Petry is a good d-man on the road and horrible at home. Just look at the plus minus. This would be a nice one for Lowetide to dig into. Weird how a teams top pairing d-man could have such a good plus minus on the road and such a horrible plus minus at home. Looks like he's lost confidence at home...

http://espn.go.com/nhl/player/splits/_/id/5407/jeff-petry

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#74 camdog
December 12 2013, 11:15AM
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@hockeycrazed

I don't think 7 years is rushing to a decision...

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#75 oilfan in yyc
December 12 2013, 12:35PM
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Rdubb wrote:

Pardon me, but what is this " 5x5/60 number "? What exactly does it mean? Is it another one of these "corsi" stats that really nobody in the western hemisphere understands? I'd greatly appreciate it if someone could please answer for me and explain it in layman's terms as I am not a math major or anything of the sort... Thank you

PECK

PECK, not sure if anyone replied. It isn't a corsi type stat, it's actually quite simple. It's points per 60 minutes of playing time at full strength. Getting two assists at full strength in one game where you played 20 minutes would give you a number of 6.0

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