Fourth line: Sam I Am

sam-i-am-gagner

Fans thinking Pat Quinn was just wagging his fleshy jaw when he talked about a clean slate as the Edmonton Oilers opened training camp might want to note that it looks like Sam Gagner will start the season on the fourth line against the Calgary Flames Saturday.

On a morning when Rob Schremp was claimed by the New York Islanders, Liam Reddox was put on waivers before assignment to Springfield of the AHL and Fernando Pisani and Marc Pouliot were placed on injured reserve, Gagner skated between Ethan Moreau and Zack Stortini.

And, no, contrary to what one wag playing fartcatcher suggested — “It’s not a message for Sam, it’s a reward for Moreau and Stortini” — it is obvious Quinn hasn’t seen yet enough from Gagner to feel he belongs higher up in his line-up.

Show me something

Gagner’s been a slow starter in his first two seasons, and that hasn’t escaped Quinn’s eye.

“I’m just going off training camp,” Quinn said. “You certainly look at history and understand what’s gone on here. He did, from my understanding, historically have a real hot spot a couple of years ago.

“It’s three years now, the start of the third year. It’s time to start moving that up. I haven’t seen that part in camp, yet.

“Most people believe that it’s there and it’s going to come. For the purposes of preparing for opening night, that’s probably where he is going to start.”

Gagner, 20, had a quiet and uneventful pre-season with 1-2-3 in four games, but his place in the line-up between Moreau and Stortini at Rexall Place this morning raised a few eyebrows.

Gagner, as expected, spun things as positively as possible in the dressing room as the horde leaned in, looking for the dope.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot more in me,” Gagner said of his performance to this point. “It’s one of those things. There’s a lot of new things going on, a lot of new systems.

“I tend to be a thinker and I think I’m just over-thinking things right now. I’ll settle in, get a little simpler. I’m going to find my game.”

After breaking in as an 18-year-old in 2007-08 and struggling mightily at times last season, it goes without saying fans, like Oilers management, are expecting a bounce-back campaign from Gagner.

To this point, though, Sam I Am hasn’t shown Quinn enough to warrant top-six minutes. That could change as early as a couple of shifts into the lid-lifter with the Flames, but that’s up to Gagner.

“I don’t want to read into it too much,” Gagner said of skating at the bottom of the pecking order.

“We have some time off, some practice days, where we can really get the dialogue going. I’ve got to make sure I have the right habits and good practice time.”

I’m of the mind the expectations of Gagner — talk about “upside” and the suggestion by some Gagner should’ve already displaced Shawn Horcoff as the No. 1 centre — have been overblown, considering he’s had seasons of 49 and 41 points. Apparently, at least as of now, Quinn agrees.

“Part of our job is to bring all these guys to a higher level, including Sam or anybody else,” Quinn said.

Pisani out long-term?

With Schremp gone, Reddox on waivers and Pisani and Pouliot on IR, Quinn is suddenly at the 23-man roster limit for Saturday’s opener and need not make another move for now.

While that addresses the line-up, if not the salary cap, there is a concern Pisani’s bad back could keep him out long term. He had an MRI Monday and the team’s medical staff is awaiting results. If Pisani has structural damage, like a herniated disk, he could be on the shelf awhile.

“You can’t predict when injuries take place,” said GM Steve Tambellini. “It does provide an opportunity for other people, possibly, to get a longer look or a chance to play in positions that wouldn’t happen if we had to be down to 14 forwards today.

“It presents opportunity to some players who, like I said, wouldn’t have the chance to go further.”

One of those players is Robert Nilsson. Nilsson skated on the fifth line with Steve MacIntyre today.

Hemsky hobbled

Ales Hemsky took a quick twirl at the beginning of today’s session but left the ice within minutes to rest and get treatment on the what team is saying is a pulled groin.

Rather than risk aggravating the problem and turning it into something that nags Hemsky in the long term, the Oilers are taking a cautious approach with an eye to having him ready for the Flames.

“We don’t think it’s severe,” Quinn said.

“But, for those of us who’ve been around this business, groins are one of those things that can be severe. It needs treatment now. We want to make sure the pull doesn’t become a tear.”

Hemsky didn’t knock anybody’s socks off in pre-season, tallying three assists in four games. It’s not known as of now at what point Hemsky injured himself.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just a Game with Jason Gregor on the Team 1260.

  • Rigger

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    Rigger wrote:
    God I hope so, and it wouldn’t hurt to put that overpaid pass whiffer on the 4th for a couple games.
    Brule?

    Horc actually, I didn't see him earning that top line spot in camp either but whatever.

  • Rigger

    BarryS wrote:

    The only caution is it takes time to change habits, and three weeks is not long enough. Still, it appears, unlike last year, only two positions of the players here last year were, (are) secure, the first line pair, and even they might not be. If Horc and Hemmer get sat down for a period or two at need, then it will send an even stronger message to the team than Sam starting on the fourth line. Somehow, I think Quinn would not be shy of sending that message for unlike MacT his job isn’t on the line from the start of the year.

    Agreed, I didn't see anything special at all from Horcoff and Hemmer showed up for ONE game. Big deal!

  • Rob

    Well one thing is for certain…Sammy boy has been taking notes from the Oiler vets like Horcoff and Moreau. He shows he has mastered Excuse-making 101. Ever noticed how he has the same 4 lines in response to any question he is asked by the media? Platitudes and hackneyed bull****. Stap yourself in Sammy and get to friggin work!

  • BarryS

    Rob wrote:

    Well one thing is for certain…Sammy boy has been taking notes from the Oiler vets like Horcoff and Moreau. He shows he has mastered Excuse-making 101. Ever noticed how he has the same 4 lines in response to any question he is asked by the media? Platitudes and hackneyed bull****. Stap yourself in Sammy and get to friggin work!

    Actually it was better before tape recorders, portable video, etc. The reports would often make up the questions and the responses and the fans thought every player was a great guy, a scholar, and a gentleman. The game was so much more fun before there were as many jerks and slackers on sports teams as anywhere else. As for same four responses, I notice most reporters only have about four basic questions, not counting a certain old ad exec/sports reporter\game caller who makes statements not even requiring a yes or no, so all that is needed is four basic responces.

  • Rigger

    Rob wrote:

    Well one thing is for certain…Sammy boy has been taking notes from the Oiler vets like Horcoff and Moreau. He shows he has mastered Excuse-making 101. Ever noticed how he has the same 4 lines in response to any question he is asked by the media? Platitudes and hackneyed bull****. Stap yourself in Sammy and get to friggin work!

    How is that different from anyone else on the team? Everyone does that, it's called media training. Do you expect him to rip on the coaching staff? He admitted he had to work on things, what else is there to say really?

  • Robin Brownlee

    BarryS wrote:

    Actually it was better before tape recorders, portable video, etc. The reports would often make up the questions and the responses

    Is that right? Is that so? When and where was this common practice? I missed that part in J-school.

  • David S

    Sam's still growing into his adult body. On top of which he's being asked to think the game differently from anything he's been taught so far at the pro level. What magnifies the difficulty for him is that he thinks the game, unlike alot of mooks out there. He's not only being asked to play his game differently, but he's being asked to think it differently too. Very tough for any cerebral athlete.

    I wouldn't doubt for a moment that he's working through some awkward times. I also wouldn't doubt Quinn knows that too. Maybe Quin is trying to break Sam's habits faster by putting him in a new situation. Or maybe he's just playing Sam in an unfamiliar role to wake up the rest of the guys.

    At the end of the day, I doubt he'll be working with the Hanson brothers for more than a few games.

  • BarryS

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    I have an interest in writers and writing, including sports writers and some of the biographies from famous sports writers of the 40's and 50's made interesting reading. Of course their memours could have been just interesting tall tales.

  • Wanye Gretz

    Jonathan Willis wrote:

    #99 Jonathan Willis September 29 2009, 7:05 pm.
    @ Robin Brownlee:
    Thanks, Robin.
    And I strongly suspect this team isn’t good enough.

    Jonathan.
    Theodore.
    Willis.

    I am going to remember this treachery until long into the season.

  • Rick

    The Oilers are so facked this season its not even funny. The only team we are going to be battling with is Colorado for the basement of the Western Conference.

  • Robin Brownlee

    BarryS wrote:

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    I have an interest in writers and writing, including sports writers and some of the biographies from famous sports writers of the 40’s and 50’s made interesting reading. Of course their memours could have been just interesting tall tales.

    To be fair, I'm aware of cirsumstances when guys who cover boxing turn "Uhh-maaaa-aaaaa I never uhhhhhh-aaaaaaa-uuuuuummmmmmmmmmm shhhhaw that uuuummmmm Iyaiyaiya right hand uhhhhhh-maaaaaaaaaaaaa-shchgslyne-uaaaaa-ummm biftajeeeuyt coming" into "I never saw that right hand coming."
    But that's translation, not making stuff up.

  • scorecoff hemmercules

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    @ scorecoff hemmercules:
    Nashville and the Oilers may have exchanged calls, but that’s far from meaning something is on the table. Poile is difficult to deal with.
    What is the source of St. Louis whispers? Blogger? Fan board? haven’t seen an MSM source on the Blues.

    My bad on the St. Louis whispers. I was sure I read it somewhere (not Eklund!) but I can't find it now. Maybe is was Columbus??? In any case, it doesn't look like our roster will change much aside from some injured guys coming back soon.

  • scorecoff hemmercules

    @ Robin Brownlee:

    JW mentioned the Blues might be interested in grabbing Reddox off waivers, not a trade rumor I guess.

    Any word on Hemmer's injury??? I'll be sick if he misses alot of games this year.

  • Rigger

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    @ Rigger:
    Yes, but off the record Sam called Quinn “senile” and referred to Renney and Fleming as the Dementia Brothers . . . I keed, I keed.

    LMAO! Well I have to admit, I've had those thoughts my own self at certain points.

  • Ender the Dragon

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    To be fair, I’m aware of cirsumstances when guys who cover boxing turn “Uhh-maaaa-aaaaa I never uhhhhhh-aaaaaaa-uuuuuummmmmmmmmmm shhhhaw that uuuummmmm Iyaiyaiya right hand uhhhhhh-maaaaaaaaaaaaa-shchgslyne-uaaaaa-ummm biftajeeeuyt coming” into “I never saw that right hand coming.”
    But that’s translation, not making stuff up.

    That's pretty funny stuff, Robin. Be careful; we don't want you to accidentally smile and hurt yourself. 🙂

  • Dominoiler

    I havent read through the comments, there are always so many at ON, but what people may be over-looking is that last year it was believed that moreau could never be sent down to the 'fourth' line because of optics of thecaptainethanmoreau…

    But here we go… clean slate, thank you quinn…

  • Rob

    MrOiler wrote:

    Come on Brownlee, “fartchatcher”? There’s a line between aggressive and disrespectful. You crossed it.

    No he didn't. Fartcatcher is a perfect alternative to sniveling, apple polishing suckhole. There you have it 'Olly.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Hope this isn't the Bud Light Lime talking….

    Oilers finish 8th in the west

    6 players will score 20 or more goals this year
    (Hemsky,Souray, Horcoff, Comrie, Penner and Jacques)
    Khabibhulin will have a solid 2nd half the season.

    We'll go up against the Sharks in the first round and Dany Heatley will thrust that knife through our hearts.

  • Robin Brownlee

    MrOiler wrote:

    Come on Brownlee, “fartchatcher”? There’s a line between aggressive and disrespectful. You crossed it.

    What are you, the cloakroom monitor? Look up the origins of the word and you'll see it's perfectly appropriate in this case. There's a line between expecting reasonable discourse and being a prim panty-waste and you crossed it.

  • Gags is on the 4th line becauce that's where he belongs. He is soft cream pluff perameter player, height is stated at 5-11 but that is with his stakes still on. Way overrated by managemant to save face ( he is another Rob Schemp except that Rob never got a tenth of the oportunity/breaks/ favortissum he has ) It shows how conceded he is by his comments after Quinn rightfully placed him on the 4th line and then comes out with the jule that he is more of a thinker that the other players so that why he is behind. and thinks he is a player that thinks, that must of really went down well with the other players ( especally since they have seen him been treated special to get every chance so management don't look like dummies once again in there drafting choice. Bottom line he way overrated, and is a defensive liability the Oilers can not afford and may be sent done to the farm if Quinn gets his way. A Bust, trade him for some grit, Please whilr he still has a few people fooled.