WHAT ABOUT SAM?

Robin Brownlee
March 15 2013 06:01PM

I like Sam Gagner as a person and as a hockey player. I like his talent. I respect his competitive streak. I admire Gagner because his give-a-crap meter seems permanently pegged on high.

Now, in what's looking like a break-out year, I think the Edmonton Oilers would be nuts to trade Gagner unless they can get exactly what they want and need for him, but seeing as GM Steve Tambellini has yet to ask my opinion on the matter, might the Oilers consider moving No. 89 by the NHL's April 3 trade deadline?

Regardless of what I think, if Tambellini is doing his job – insert laugh track here – he'd be shirking his duties as Kevin Lowe's front-man if he didn't at least look around and see what the return might be and if he could move an asset like Gagner (or Ales Hemsky) along for parts this roster is missing.

While I'm not of the mind the Oilers should move Gagner along just because his value now is as high as it will ever be – the argument made by many fans, bloggers and hybrids of the two, alike – it's reasonable to think Gagner might fetch what the Oilers need, assuming Tambellini has identified what that is.

MOVE HIM?

If I was GM, I'd be reluctant to trade Gagner for several reasons. Yes, his value now, in his sixth season, is high, but if the former London Knight, who leads the Oilers in scoring with 10-15-25 in 26 games, is just rounding into the player he might be for the next decade or so, an organization has to consider the time and money it has already invested in him.

Second-line centres capable of scoring 55-65 points in a full season, which is the range Gagner has been pegged at for some time (a mark he looks more than capable of based on his production this season), aren't hanging around on every street corner waiting for NHL jobs.

And, as anybody paying attention has seen, Gagner is a competitive little cuss who isn't big on taking crap from anybody no matter how big they are. He's willing to get his nose dirty (and bent) to stand up for himself and teammates. Gagner competes. He gives you what he's got. He's a gamer. He hates to lose. A team can never have too much of that.

That said, a team can never have too many quality defensemen or too much depth in goal or too many robust forwards capable of bringing a physical element and playing top-six minutes. The Oilers could use bolstering in all three areas. Might moving Gagner provide Tambellini the opportunity to address those needs? Of course he might.

KEEP HIM?

If Gagner stays at or near the pace he's on now and finishes this shortened season with, say, 40 points, he's going to command substantially more than the $3.2 million he's getting now on a one-year deal as an RFA next summer. If I was Tambellini, I'd be looking at inking Gagner to a deal for three or four years in the range of $4.25 to $4.5 million a season.

I'd also be working the phones to see if there's a rowdy top-six forward with hands and wheels or a proven, young top-four defenseman or goaltender with pedigree available. And I'd be asking if Gagner might fetch me some of that.

If there is – the right player in the right position at the right money -- I'd pursue it. If there's not, I'd happily sit down with Gagner and his agent at the end of the season, if not before, and put my name to the kind of contract that makes it clear Gagner is part of the plan moving forward. In that scenario, I'd look at moving somebody else, likely Hemsky, to get what I need.

I wait with great anticipation to see what Tambellini does.

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 Wax Man Riley
March 15 2013, 11:17PM
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striatic wrote:

Gagner has been tried at wing before, with very limited success.

Ok, ok, ok .. with zero success.

His career high came with him playing most of the year on right wing.

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#52 2004Z06
March 15 2013, 11:24PM
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Yes James and the coaching staff has been brilliant in their decision making this year. Everyone wants to jump on Whitney again. If Gagner or Eberle for that matter had even given Fransen a dirty look as he walked and yes I mean WALKED through the neutral zone, Datsyuk would never have recieved the pass to begin with. Watch them both next game, they don't hussle back to help their defenders. I can excuse Eberle because he is the winger, but that is the centerman's JOB!. Even more important with our current defensive corps.

If you need a good example of back checking, watch Hall and RNH. They back check like crazy!

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#53 rpk99
March 15 2013, 11:45PM
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Ebs has been weak in 4 on 4 and shorthanded this year....and Gags is horrible defensively end of story. Detroit's commentary was that he was our "best player this year" just because he has the most points, I almost puked in my mouth... If someone would give us decent value for him, I would trade him in a heartbeat. Or move his ass to the wing. He has been in the league long enough if he can't win faceoffs he needs to get out of there.

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#54 Mr. Sense common
March 16 2013, 12:01AM
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People need to be careful not to focus on the back of the jersey so much as the front of it. Management is not here to make friends or feel sorry for anyone.

There is no need to focus on gagner's stats or say "wow poor kid has honour and is our son growing up in front of our eyes" this is is straight biz.

Other than tammy and KLowe, everyone in North America knows we need height, grit and sandpaper. Now, we ain't moving Nuge, can't move Hirt and the rest of the centres aren't even worth mentioning. So? Common Sense and Business 101 teaches normal humans to move artificially appreciating assets to get what you need. No Aristotlean analysis needed by Tammy. Move Gagner. we need Steve Ott and Wayne Simmonds.

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#55 David S
March 16 2013, 01:09AM
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rpk99 wrote:

Ebs has been weak in 4 on 4 and shorthanded this year....and Gags is horrible defensively end of story. Detroit's commentary was that he was our "best player this year" just because he has the most points, I almost puked in my mouth... If someone would give us decent value for him, I would trade him in a heartbeat. Or move his ass to the wing. He has been in the league long enough if he can't win faceoffs he needs to get out of there.

Man. This place is turning into HF boards, where guys post comments on homework booze breaks during game nights.

"Horrible defensively" Gagner was 9/14, 64% tonight on FO's while also playing an elevated DEFENSIVE role on the PK. On top of which he scored a greasy goal (team-leading BTW) in tight where alot of bigger "grit" guys on our team won't go. You may also have missed how he's being acknowledged almost every game lately by both Krueger and TV color crews as having a much improved defensive game.

Sam certainly isn't perfect, but your description is just slightly off base. Might as well Red Bull up and get back to that math assignment.

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#56 106 and 106
March 16 2013, 02:35AM
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@David S

Math assignment, hahaha. Sounds like we're all a little grumpy about the game.

If Sam goes, we'll need a Centre to fill that role (and no, not Smyth or VV again).

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#57 KatzKidsJewFro
March 16 2013, 03:02AM
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So I guess the OEL contract should make signing Smid a bit easier.

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#58 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 16 2013, 05:30AM
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You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

3 significant issues the Oilers need to deal with over the next 18 months. Gags,Hemsky and Smid. Send'em all to Poile to deal with for Weber. I'd even throw in the first in 2014 if i had too. Nearly 14 mill per in cap hits out, 7.8 in. Best player in the deal is headed this direction, who cares what's going the other way. This deal helps both teams.

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#59 Spurzey
March 16 2013, 06:06AM
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Not sure why we would want Weber and his large contract. I guess once Horc is off the books we would then have someone to rag on about being overpaid. Who replaces the offence we lose from Gags and Hemmer?

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#60 Bryan in SK
March 16 2013, 07:04AM
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In today's trade world, we'd be lucky to get full value back. I think Sam is exactly the return we need for Sam. Keep him an Oiler, and let's move on.

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#61 spOILer
March 16 2013, 07:40AM
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Weber can't be traded during this season. Preds must wait one year from the offer sheet match.

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#62 DrunkGuyTy
March 16 2013, 08:47AM
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I think that when Sam's career is over, I could see it being Mark Recchi-like. A bit better offensively, not quite as good defensively. But he adds value through grit, determination and leadership.

If we had a chance to improve our #1C role to someone with some meat, Sam could be a perfect #2C. I love RNH but what if 5 years from now, we see more performances like this year than last? I get the shoulder thing and I'm not saying I'd like to see Nuge gone at all but I don't think it's a door that should be slammed shut and locked.

As for Weber - I've never heard of any team being too good too add one of the top 3 d-man in the world if given the opportunity and there is a deal to be had.

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#64 Citizen David
March 16 2013, 09:30AM
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Last season Sam was plus 5, this season so far he's only minus -3. In his last 5 games he's even which includes a 3-0 loss and a 6-0 loss. David Staples wrote today that in his last 14 games he's created 4 scoring chances per game and been the cause of only 1.6 scoring chances against per game. He's the same size as Crosby, Datsyuk, and Mike Richards. He has the fire in him, and now his offense is ramping up. He's not even in his prime yet. But he's closer to it than Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov. Each year his face-off percentage has improved. At the end of Feb. he was sitting at 50% recently he has struggled but last game was 64%. Gagner should be with this team all the way through.

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#65 RexLibris
March 16 2013, 09:31AM
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Gagner may become a target for an RFA offer sheet. The number would probably be in the range of the O'Reilly offer.

Would anyone take a 1st and a 3rd for Gagner? I wouldn't.

Gagner's play is putting the Oilers between a rock and a hard place. I don't think they want to pay him more than $4 million a year, but they may not have a choice in case the predatory offer sheets begin to come in.

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#66 michael
March 16 2013, 09:43AM
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You keep Sam as your 2cd line center. The size you need is on LW and the Oilers need to address that by next fall.RNH and Ebs are being shown the door most nights because of the lack of a player on the LW who can compliment their style of play.Other than hen Hall is playing there the offense just has gone dry.Problem is that you need balance throughout the lineup and HHH looks to be our 2cd est option right now after GYP. I am not overly concened about the lack of 5 0n 5 production that were seeing from RNH and Ebs just due to the fact that they are matched against most teams number 1 defenders most nights. And the lack of a complimentary LW.

Gagner should see a raise in the 4.25 catergory. Sam wants to be here.he has paid his dues and and see's the future with this team. Sam still has areas where we would like to see him improve.But most players do. It takes to time to be a complete player on both ends of the ice. We se Yak learning that the hard way this season. MP is learning and look at the dividends that is starting to reap on both sides of the puck. Horcoff did'nt become Horcoff overnight.MacT played him rd and 4 th line minutes when he arrived and taught him the value of being a 2 way center. Horcoff has made a nice career in the NHL because he learned over time to value both ends of the game equally.

Sam will continue to grow.As the players on his line learn more and adjust to the NHl game Sam's point production will continue to improve. The pundits don't like his size. I am not a big believer in that size is the key to being successful at anything in life. We threw away Ryan Whitney years ago because he was to small. all he has done is win a Stanley Cup and played a 1000 games. We need to look at the player. Brownlee's right.Sam's give a crap meter is always on.More than you can say for some players that have come and gone out of this organization.Thats important to me.

Sam has earned respect for his game from me.I am happy with him as our 2cd line center. Its our 4 line center position that needs to be addressed by fall of next year. Belanger needs a new home elsewhere. Not the solution here. Tambo has other needs to fill than trading away an asset like Gagner.

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#67 James
March 16 2013, 09:52AM
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@David S

Thank you. There is no way he'd be in our top 4 PK guys if he was abismal on defense. Krueger himself praised Sam's positioning on the PK and stated that he earned that spot because he was a much better option than a lot of other people. I really don't get where he's so awful defensively. He's only at a -3 right now and last year he lead the team in plus minus. That pretty much means your on for less goals against than anyone else on your team. Not too shabby for a kid his age. Eberle is -9 and Nuge -6 and people aren't complainaing there. Hall is -2 which is virtually the same as Gagner yet, Hall is praised for his prowess.

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#68 James
March 16 2013, 09:57AM
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@Citizen David

Shhhh, that's too logical mister! Don't you know we need centermen that are 6'2" and 210lbs? Sam Gagner is too small to be successful in this league....oh wait....

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#69 michael
March 16 2013, 10:01AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

A bit better offensively than Mark Recchi? Sober up.

The comparison is so mote its not even in the same conversation. Recchi's linemates in Pittsburgh.Lemieux. Jagr. Stevens. HOF guys. When he was in Philly he had John Leclair and Eric Lindros.In Montreal he played with saku Koivu and Vincent Damphousse. He played with elite talent most of his career due to the fact that "he" was elite talent. Sam is not even in the same conversation as Recchi.

@DrunkGUYTy please when your comparing a guy like Sam to a player like Mark Recchi be a little more conscious of the comparison your trying to make. Brownlee saw Recchi live when he used to be a beat writer. He has some idea of the quality of the player your trying to compare Sam to.I am of an age too that when your comparing Sam to someone of that era you better know what the frak your babbling about.

As a modern day player Sam is what he is.Wait 10 years and then you might be able to make an informed comparison on who Sam resembled in terms of play. Till then have another pop and perhaps look at some highlight footage of Recchi's career.

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#70 Neal
March 16 2013, 10:13AM
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People tend to forget that Sam is only 23. He was rushed into the the NHL from junior in 2007, prematurely, and in my opinion this mis-handling of the asset stretched out his learning curve. Any by the way, THIS is when the Oilers "rebuild" started! Anyway, Sam is just coming into his prime. I get the "sell high" thing, but there's also the "grass is greener" thing. Players with that much fight in them aren't that easy to come by. If there's something out there that makes us better, then fine, make the trade - but I will say there's several more priorities (like 83)to deal away first.

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#72 Eulers
March 16 2013, 10:46AM
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Yes, because we have SO much strength at center!!

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#73 nunyour
March 16 2013, 11:04AM
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Gagner just keeps getting better every year ,what more can you ask? If you want to trade someone at their peak look no farther than Hemsky.

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#74 Old Retired Guy
March 16 2013, 12:07PM
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Good artcile, other old guy.

Good becasue is raises the RELEVANT question. Which is not SHOULD we trade Sam Gagner as if its a yes or no answer.

The question is, and ALWAYS should be, who would you trade him for???

My point is, even if your a guy like David S. above (who by the way, supported Gagner from the beggining (when guys like me did not), and consistently does a great job presenting the case for keeping Sam Gagner) you have know/acknowledge that you'd trade Gagner for Giroux, or Taveres, etc. Meaning, IF YOU GOT THE RIGHT DEAL, you'd move him...

So, the question is, what is the right value in return for Sam Gagner? ANY player is expendible if the price is right, that doesn't mean we're arbitrarily in favor of moving him.

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#75 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
March 16 2013, 01:04PM
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Awe, Popeye Sam...

He's so cute, i just wanta HUG'em!

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#76 Hair bag
March 16 2013, 04:40PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

As Brownlee mentions I like Sam too.

Here is the issue though.

While Sam has shown to be a good regular season 2nd line center his game is incomplete, he struggles at face-offs, he has trouble breaking the cycle in his zone, cheats for offense, and loses puck battles.

These things are paramount in the playoffs; in fact these things are what kill a team in the regular season.

The Oilers need a complete 2nd line elite center that can own both ends of the rink, with RNH inability to win a draw in the offensive zone but a more complete defensive player Gagner becomes expendable IMO.

Trade deadline.

I would expect Hemsky to move possible for a 3rd line player and a 1st. Hemsky and Gagner both have value, even more so at the trade deadline.

I would keep Gagner until the summer that’s when I would trade him and the required pieces to the Predators for Weber.

Moving forward the Oilers most pressing need is 3 centers one of which has to be elite. A number one defensemen and size in the bottom six.

The Oilers only have their upcoming draft pick, plus Hemsky and Gagner as viable assets.

Expect both to be moved.

Give your head a shake! 1) the Preds aren't trading Weber anytime in the near future if ever 2) your analysis of Gagner other than his face off ability isn't even close... Hemsky and prospects are the only pieces that should be moved now from the top six.

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#77 DrunkGuyTy
March 16 2013, 04:53PM
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The whole Sam vs Recchi was meant to be little more hypothetical than interpreted. As in 'it wouldn't surprise me if we let someone like that go'.

Okey dokey.

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#78 Mike
March 17 2013, 02:27AM
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Jeremy wrote:

I'll admit Gagner is a good #2 center but you need to combine that with a gritty 2 way center. Since RNH is not that player , one of these centers need to be moved if Oilers want to be a stanley cup contender.

I know, right? That's why the Pens will never win a cup with Crosby and Malkin as their top two centres.

Or the Hawks with Toews and Versteeg.

Or the Wings with Z and Hudler.

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#79 Walter Sobchak
March 17 2013, 02:32AM
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Hair bag wrote:

Give your head a shake! 1) the Preds aren't trading Weber anytime in the near future if ever 2) your analysis of Gagner other than his face off ability isn't even close... Hemsky and prospects are the only pieces that should be moved now from the top six.

Ok, will see in the weeks following the start UFA if Weber is still a Predator.

My guess is the Predators will try to unload him before they have to pay an additional 14 million in bonus money.

who went to the wrong player again last night in O.T? Who was that center on again when the other team's center scored....Oh, but he scored a goal so no issue there..right!

Like I said, if Gagner is on this team come training camp next season, I'll eat some humble pie, until then, I think he will be traded for a # 1 D-man this summer, Weber or someone else.

Unless you have a better way to correct this roster? Lets here it!

I laid mine out for all to criticize and comment on, let's here your idea's!

Hemsky and Gagner are the only two payers worth anything on the Oiler's that are worth something tangible to an opposing GM.

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#80 madjam
March 17 2013, 09:26AM
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Gagner getting better each year , which probably means we will dump him for less than we will get back in return . Such seems to be our nature in recent decade .

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#81 Wrecky
March 17 2013, 09:32AM
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I have to say I've seen alot of good things in Gagner's play from the latter part of last season and this year. He seems more tenacious, skating and asserting himself more than ever. He still seems lost in front of his own net and suddenly turns into an ineffective checker at marking his man when the Oil don't have the puck in their own end.

Even with that seeming weakness in his game teams will snap him up if he goes to free-agency and the Oil will find him hard to replace. I don't like the say Tambellini drags his ass signing key players.

I'm hard-pressed to like any thing about Tamb/Lowe/pro-scouts these days. They seem to be in a contest to see who is the worse management person in the entire league. They're collective ineptness is more concerning to me than anything else right now.

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#82 madjam
March 17 2013, 09:51AM
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Next years reallignment will make it even more difficult to make playoffs . We are not even close to teams like L.A., SanJose and Vancouver for starters . Who quite honestly on current path might we be at least partly be competitive with ? Calgary, Anaheim,Phoenix ?

Massive roster change maybe should be in order and current mamagement shows no sign of doing anything beyond holding to current roster , which is not a playoff team to begin with and very unlikely to be considering size , grit and defence .

Defence in Ahl is also at bottom of league . When do we finally address our defensive liabilities !

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#83 Fight Club
March 17 2013, 02:48PM
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"I wait with great anticipation to see what Tambellini does."

Nothing. He will do nothing and it will be called "The Rebuild".

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