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.

  • Ogden Brother Jr.

    Gunner wrote:

    Ogden Brother Jr. wrote:
    while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn’t get a shot away.
    You mean his wrist shot from 40 ft out went over the net. The guy has 0 offensive skills.

    Well that is one of the scenarios that can happen.

  • @ bingofuel:
    ~I KNEW IT!~
    Check it out ^^
    Click on my name… I finally decided to link a website.
    Take that! OilersNation
    😉
    So…
    …Saturday night the Oil start out 0-1 in a BLOODBATH!!
    ~I hate you all~

  • Robin Brownlee

    Gunner wrote:

    Ogden Brother Jr. wrote:
    while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn’t get a shot away.
    You mean his wrist shot from 40 ft out went over the net. The guy has 0 offensive skills.

    Guys don't score 20 goals, even once, in the NHL with "0" offensive skills. Ethan isn't going to score more than 10-15 goals at this point in his career, but let's not get carried away slagging him.

    @ RossCreek:
    What's weird is you would notice the times. If I see you lurking outside my estate, I'll set the Alarm Force guy the after you.

  • Gunner

    Ogden Brother Jr. wrote:

    while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn’t get a shot away.

    You mean his wrist shot from 40 ft out went over the net. The guy has 0 offensive skills.

  • Ogden Brother Jr.

    @ Robin Brownlee:
    By then you would think management would have a decision on the others that remain. If it means losing Pouilot or Nilsson to waivers then it might have to happen. Who knows maybe by the time Pisani comes back Stone isn't the player he was in pre-season.

  • Gunner

    Travis Dakin wrote:

    Firts of all, Gagner looked fine with Cogliano when they played together. To me it seems completely stupid as sh*t to put an offensive player with a couple of plugs and expect him to “work out of his slump.”

    x2.

    I really don't see how it can last though. Unless his play dictates that it should.

  • Robin Brownlee

    Reggie wrote:

    Besides meeting the 23 man roster, how long do you think they wait to address the implications of the salary cap ? Is this just a waiting game for the results from Pisani’s MRI ? from IR to long term IR ?

    When Pisani is officially on long-term IR, Oilers will be up against the cap, but not over it.

  • GSC

    It's obvious to me…give Gags pillow soft minutes and let him take some draws against equally as weak centres, bring him along the right way and build his confidence instead of throwing him into the fire.

    Worked for Jason Spezza. Guess where he started out in Ottawa as a rookie…

  • Gunner wrote:

    #150 Gunner September 29 2009, 3:07 pm.
    …and where the hell has Brownlee been?

    Robin Brownlee wrote:

    Sep 29 3:08 pm
    FOURTH LINE: SAM I AM Robin Brownlee

    Note the times.
    *Something weird is going on here*

  • Ogden Brother Jr.

    Travis Dakin wrote:

    Firts of all, Gagner looked fine with Cogliano when they played together. To me it seems completely stupid as sh*t to put an offensive player with a couple of plugs and expect him to “work out of his slump.”
    I’m a big fan of Quinn’s moves so far but this one just seems stupid to me.

    One thing Quinn said is he wants to see guys be more effective without the puck and away from the play. Maybe he is putting him with Moreau because Moreau somewhat knows where to go and Stortini seems okay with that part of the game as well.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. wrote:

    One is a puck hog who doesn’t pass the puck. The other needs the puck to make something happen and then there is poor Stortini standing in front getting cross-checked, while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn’t get a shot away.

    solid gold.

  • Firts of all, Gagner looked fine with Cogliano when they played together. To me it seems completely stupid as sh*t to put an offensive player with a couple of plugs and expect him to "work out of his slump."

    I'm a big fan of Quinn's moves so far but this one just seems stupid to me.

  • Ogden Brother Jr.

    Well if this injury keeps Pisani out for most the year I think he looks at retirement.

    Moreau-Gagner-Stortini

    One is a puck hog who doesn't pass the puck. The other needs the puck to make something happen and then there is poor Stortini standing in front getting cross-checked, while Moreau is skating back to his zone with the puck because he couldn't get a shot away.

  • Reggie

    Besides meeting the 23 man roster, how long do you think they wait to address the implications of the salary cap ? Is this just a waiting game for the results from Pisani's MRI ? from IR to long term IR ?

  • sittingatmydesk

    I like that Quinn is falling through with what he saying, you do good in camp-you're on the roster, play good-more playing time….
    Gagner is good, but he has to show it on the ice…no more slow starts..its game on !!