Comparables: Sam Gagner

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs

With all of the young prospects coming up the system and the first overall pick for this summer’s draft in the bag, it’s easy to forget about the importance of the Oilers’ best young forward currently playing with the NHL team, Sam Gagner.

Part of that is the apparent lack of development; Gagner has yet to match his scoring totals as a rookie, although his overall game has improved by leaps and bounds. That lack of offensive development has some wondering what kind of player Gagner projects as. We’ve seen different names tossed out there; Jim Matheson suggest Stephen Weiss while Lowetide generally prefers Vincent Damphousse as a benchmark.

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Gagner’s track record is far better than Weiss’s was at the same age, so I suspect that Matheson’s comparable is underselling things, but I think the Damphousse comparison is realistic. Still, I also think we need more players to compare

One of the difficulties of comparing players across different years is that league scoring hasn’t been consistent; in 1981-82 NHL teams scored four goals per game on average, while immediately prior to the lockout they were just a hair over two and a half.

To make comparisons a little fairer, I went back to the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, and looked at all the forwards who a) were 6’1” or shorter b) played in the NHL in their first year of eligibility and c) didn’t have a truckload of penalty minutes. I then took those players and adjusted their offence to reflect an NHL season in which teams averaged three goals per game, and projected that offence over an82-game schedule. I did the same with Gagner, and ended up with a list of five players who had comparable scoring over their first three NHL seasons:


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Player Year One Year Two Year Three
Sam Gagner 15-40-55 18-28-46 19-33-52
Jim Fox 16-22-38 24-30-54 23-33-56
Bobby Carpenter 25-27-52 25-29-54 22-31-53
Vincent Damphousse 18-21-39 11-32-43 21-35-56
Pat Falloon 22-28-50 23-23-46 20-28-48
Tim Connolly 16-22-38 11-34-45 11-40-51

Carpenter, Connolly and Fox all have roughly comparable birthdays to Gagner. Damphousse is seven months older over the seasons in question, while Pat Falloon’s birthday makes him almost a full year older than Gagner.

Jim Fox was a tremendously talented player who managed to survive 1980’s hockey despite standing only 5’8” tall. He spent just over eight seasons with the Kings, scoring just under a point per game in each of them, before injury ended his career. He missed the entire 1988-89 season recovering from a knee injury suffered during the stretch drive the year before; he attempted to make a comeback the following year but only played 11 games before being forced to retire.

Bobby Carpenter was the first high school hockey player to jump directly into the NHL. He had a strong start to his career and in his fourth season scored 53 goals and 95 points. Unfortunately, it was a one-off; his scoring returned to its previous levels and more or less stayed there for the majority of his career. After Carpenter turned 30 he became more of a defensive specialist, but in the end he managed to play 1178 games at the NHL level, recording 728 points.

Vincent Damphousse was the sixth overall selection in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft, and after three seasons of decent results in Toronto he broke out in his fourth year, scoring 33 goals and recording 93 points for the Maple Leafs. He would either near or surpass the point-per-game mark every season for the next eight years and ended his NHL career with 1205 points in 1378 games.

Pat Falloon had some up and down seasons after a promising start to his NHL career. He struggled during his fourth season, rebounded the following year with a new team, struggled some more and was dealt again, struggled some more and then got signed by Edmonton; he was okay for the Oilers before getting shipped off to Pittsburgh, and he eventually found himself playing in Switzerland.

Tim Connolly has had an occasionally brilliant career that has been plagued by injuries; when healthy he’s an excellent offensive player and when healthy has been a number one centre since the NHL lockout. Unfortunately, he’s not healthy all that often.

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It’s a fairly nice group to be compared to, especially since Falloon’s a full year older and I’m probably stretching to include him in the group anyway. Connolly and Fox both would have had significantly better careers if they were healthy, Damphousse was a very good player for quite a long time, and Bobby Carpenter had a long and relatively successful NHL career.

  • I will never understand why every hockey fan looks at Gretzky through rose colored glasses and I didn’t say he isn’t a great player, he definitely is. But his numbers are incredibly inflated due to the era he played in and due to the aforementioned reasons in my previous post. Look at his numbers near the end of his career. He had a 97, 90, and 62 point campaigns in his final three years and he didn’t lose a step either as he was always more cerebral than talented. Those point totals were very good considering the NHL was entering the trap and clutch era during his final years in the league. Once again Gretzky is a great player who deserves to be on the top 100 players of all time. He just isn’t the greatest player in history.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      Lets get real here, of course his point totals were lower his last three years… he was in his mid to late 30’s. 99.99% (estimate) of athletes see their performance decline (rapidly) after 31ish… Gretz was no different.

      • You can only compare elite stars relative to the time/era they played in ,and the gap or distance from which they outplayed the talent at the time – which makes Gretzky number 1 ! Stats never tell the whole tale ,and you’ll find the players they played with more often than not determine those stats or lack thereof . Now how many points might Gagner be getting if he were paired with Kurri and Gretzky , etc.? Also ,hugely dependent on what division and opposition they play , as well as many other factors !!

    • The top 100 players of all time? How generous of you.

      Incredibly inflated? So, how come nobody in his era benefitted as much?

      Three players in NHL history have had seasons of 150-or-more points. Mario Lemieux did it four times. Phil Esposito did in once. Gretzky did it eight times.

      Gretzky is the only player in NHL history to score 200 points in a season. He did it four times.

      Gretzky’s 2,857 regular season points makes him the career leader by 970 points over Mark Messier (1,887), a player from the same era.

      Just using his assists, 1,963, Gretzky is the NHL’s career scoring leader.

      Gretzky is the NHL’s all-time career goal-scoring leader with 894. Just using his goals, he’d be 96th in career scoring.

      Top 100, you say? You must be a drooling half-wit. Congratulations on figuring out how to turn on your computer and post this insightful opinion.

      • Thank god you spoke up, I’ve been getting it from everyone over predicting a 65 point guy in Gagner. Being told that I consider Horcoff having a better ceiling/offensive upside. I find it strange you think a young player won’t be a ppg guy. Reality like I’ve said before, yourself and I are in it.

        What’s your take on Hemsky ?I like the atricles Willsi writes they get everyone all pissed off. Wicked idea behind it and starts a great debate. Props Johnathan

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          Well you do consider Horcoff having a better offensive ceiling… you know since you think Gagner’s ceilling is lower then what Horc has ACTUALLY produced.

          • Sure, whats the point. You think Gagner will get 77 points in a season, I don’t. Does that suggest that I think Horcoff is a better player ? No it suggests that Horcoff had some great seasons by his standards and Gagner won’t reach those numbers.

  • Next you’ll be telling us Horcoff is legit #1 centre (again).

    Pretty points are what please you. Soooo! thirty teams in the league. top 30 scoring centers are 1st line. for scoring. we will use this grade 5 analysis for game play.

    05-06 73 points 22nd
    06-07 51 points 40th
    07-08 50 points 40th, playing 30 less games, .94 ppg rank 16th
    08-09 53 points 34th for centers

    Basicly when healthy at his best he is a top 15-20 points producing center. At his worst he is a 35-40 center.

    Know for your educated types: over these four years can you name the centers who outscored the other teams best while facing more defensive situations than offensive zone. twp of the years it was only one center in the whole league and his name started with SH. Another year it was this guy and a stiff named Mike Richards. one year he missed due to the Ryan smith trade collapse.

    1st line center:
    please thats Pierre( boys do you want to be his monster) McGuire analysis. Its still bothers me luongo asked to be his monster.

  • The Weiss comp seems a little uncharitable to me as well. He played 885.5 ES minutes at 19, scoring 15 points – 1.02 ESP/60. He added 6 points in 134.33 PP minutes, 2.67 PPP/60. The following year he played 668.95 ES minutes, scoring 1.61 ESP/60 and 111.25 PP minutes, scoring 5.93 PPP/60.

    The PP time is so small that it’s hardly worth getting excited about for sample size reasons. Gagner is tracking ahead of him at evens though. This doesn’t necessarily mean Brownlee’s wrong, only that Weiss, on the numbers, strikes me as a lousy comp.

  • Oilerbear tell us where Horcoff ranked in +/- in the league last season?

    Which segment!

    I believe his last 25 games he was .8 points/gm +3, He is not the guy we have to worry about. He has his suckfest for the first 40 to 50 games of the first year of a new contract. then becomes the best 2 way who is around the top 30 in points.

    liquor I remember you from the hF boards your one of the HF clowns who has no F…ing understanding of situational play. Take your twelve year old as back to you video games.