AND SO IT BEGINS…

I’m glad to see that things have returned to normal in the Nation and around Edmonton when it comes to the Oilers. After a summer where many said they’d be happy with a rebuild and were just going to enjoy the games, it only took three games for people to start questioning many players on the Oilers.

Actually it didn’t even take three games before people were suggesting that Sam Gagner will never pan out, and now, after the Oilers first loss of the season people are clamouring for the return of the Macblender….Ah good to see things are back to normal.

Let’s start with Gagner.

What are realistic expectations for the 6th overall pick in 2007? Can he be a true number one centre?

I think it is too hard to look at other players and project that Gagner should be like them. It is a fascinating angle, but one that ultimately is hard to accurately predict since he is on a different team, with different players and even a different era.

But we need to find some line/number that Gagner should attain this season, to show he is improving and is a player the Oilers should continue to groom.

Would 55 points be a fair number?

That would be a career-high for Gagner, but is it enough to be considered a number one centre? I think that term is what causes lots of debate.

Sidney Crosby, Henrik Sedin and Nick Backstrom are bonafide number one centres, but they are at the upper echelon of the scale. Gagner isn’t close to being one of them, and might never be, but does that mean he can’t be a solid asset for the Oilers?

This is Gagner’s fourth season and it is reasonable to suggest he increases his production and improves his faceoffs.

In 2008, his rookie season (I use the year the season ends, just to be clear. No one says the Oilers won their first Cup in 1983/1984, they say in 1984!) there were 30 centres with 55 or more points. 25 teams had one guy with 55+, while only five teams didn’t have a centre with 55 points.

In 2009, 32 centres had 55+ points, from 24 different teams, and last season 33 centres had 55+ points from 25 different teams. (Keep in mind this is 100% accurate because there is the odd guy listed as a C that plays W and vice-versa, but it is pretty close. Positions from NHL.com)

The Oilers haven’t had a centre with 55 points since Gagner came into the league, but if he reaches 55 that would put him in the conversation as "first-line" centre. Of course, he’d be at the lower end. If he gets to 65 points that puts him around the top-20 mark.

If you want to say the Oilers don’t have a top-ten #1 centre, no one will argue that, but I don’t think 55 points is unrealistic for Gagner, and if he reaches that and more that will put him in the top 30.

I thought Gagner and Hemsky were the two best forwards last night for the Oilers. Gagner has three points in three games, and he hasn’t been dominant in any of them, but last night was his best. I don’t think anyone can say with certainty that Gagner has no chance of being a top-30, first line centre. He doesn’t look like he’ll be top-ten, but I think 55+ points is not only realistic, it has to be a necessity for him this season.

MACBLENDER RETURNS

He doesn’t look like he’ll be top-ten, but I think 55+ points is not only realistic, it has to be a necessity for him this season. After only three games many were calling for some line juggling in Lowetide’s article.

I don’t think the current lines will stay together the entireseason , but is three games enough time to build come chemistry? Tom Renney said at the start of the season, that his biggest challenge will be to remain patient, and allow his young team to grow and mature. He could do that by juggling the lines, but I don’t think it necessary just yet.

HALL TO JUNIOR?

I don’t see any scenario that has Taylor Hall returning to junior after nine games. None, Zero, Zilch. Hall will undoubtedly struggle at various point this year, but that is part of the learning experience. While he doesn’t have a goal yet, he has missed three glorious chances and if he burys even one of those, I don’t think anyone is wondering if the Oilers would send him back to junior.

Clearly he needs to adapt parts of his game. He won’t be able to dominate, not right away anyways, like he did in junior, and he will need to approach defenders from different angles, but I suspect the kid will figure it out.

I’m excited to be able to watch a potential great player learn and adapt to the best league in the world. Hall is very competitive and has a deep inner drive to succeed. It might take him some time to understand how to get in better shooting lanes, penetrate the zone, how to beat defencemen or get shots off quicker, but I’ll be stunned if we don’t see progress rather quickly.

Oiler fans have a rare opportunity to watch the evolution of a very talented young player, emerge into a great player. The process won’t be quick, and it will be filled with growing pains, but it should be entertaining

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Great blog, sometimes it’s embarrassing being an Oiler fan.

    I’d agree 100% on Gagner, I’m looking for 55ish points this year, should be enough to show progress but still a reasonably attainable number.

    I doubt he’ll be top 10, but could deffinitly see him in the 11 – 20 slot production wise in 2-3 years.

    67-71
    67-78
    70-78

    Points over the last 3 years would get you in that range. Looks pretty resonable for a guy with 49 at 18 and a 50 point pace at 20.

  • Let's Rebuild

    Using the three game measuring stick, Clarke MacArthur was the greatest free agent signing of the summer. Time will be the great equalizer.

    Also I believe Stamkos was a healthy scratch in his rookie year (cost the coach his job) so should he have been sent down to the juniors? It took time for him to figure out where to be and time for St. Louis to find him.

  • Golden Seal beat me to it, but I was going to say does anyone remember a man with a glorious alpha-mullet proclaiming that some hot shot named Stamkos was “not ready for the NHL”? Seems to me he finished his rookie year off not too badly, and won some sort of goal scoring award last year. I’m no paleontologist but I’m going to go out on a limb and say another year in Jr wouldn’t have been the best thing for him.

    I seriously can’t get my mind around why people think sending Hall down to skate circles around 16 year olds is going to help him in any way, other than the default “another year to get bigger and stronger”. Is he going to get smaller and weaker playing in the NHL?

  • Jason Gregor

    Thanks Robin for the pep talk. You brought me back to reality.

    As for Gagner the poor kid is twenty one years old. Look at a 20 year old they’re small, light & wimpy. In 3 or 4 years he is going to be a lot more mature & then we can start to judge him. If he is still losing a majority of puck battles, then its time to call him a bust.

  • Helmethead

    It will interesting to see how Hall develops or struggles.

    OR struggles? I think Hall will get 55+ points. He’ll develop as the team grows and gives him more/less responibility. He’s a proven winner and after 3 games, even though he’s stretched his ice time, once he gets into a groove, I think he’ll produce AND in spades…

    • Jason Gregor

      He will struggle as he develops is my point. He might get 50 points, but will probably have a stretch of two goals in 20 points. That is the point of developing, it isn’t always a perfect uphill climb…

  • Death Metal Nightmare

    Gagner – moderately smart, has drive, but is deftly underwhelming in critical areas to dominate in the league. hes too off balanced by deficiencies. he could be an OK second liner, but at the same time, if he got a little bit more gritty and smart on both ends of the ice he’d be a solid two-way center in some sort of Matt Cullen mold. lets hope thats wrong.

    it would be kind of nice if this team had a player with actual balls as a vet who wants to shoot/score and get violent every so often. weening these kids along with the passive Hemsky/Penner’s, or Horcoff’s robot hands is troublesome. yeah, theyre nice “role players” for your top 6 but theyre not dudes that really drive teams and want to blast the other team in the face. strangely enough, theres hardly any players left like that anymore.

  • Helmethead

    For the sake of a simple and clear narrative though, I think you are over-simplifying the various different views on both Gagner and Hall.

    My position on Gagner, for example, has nothing to do with his boxcars.

  • Helmethead

    Hemsky-Gagner-Hall – Let Hall drive the D-Men back and crash if necessary. Gagner is good on the boards but tends to lose the puck but with strong puck support by Hall, they can win the battles down low and dish to Hemsky on the half wall or in the corners. Hemsky is the obvious set up man but needs a possesion forward like Hall to dig the corners and get puck control…(Hemsky 90pts, Gagner 73pts, Hall 56pts)

    Eberle-Horcoff-Paarjarvi – Eberle has the hands and Horcoff the grit. The odd faceoff win by Horcoff could spring Paarjarvi in on the right wing with Horcoff crashing and Eberle lingering around the net. Look for Paarjarvi to get some slot shots/goals with Horc in the corner and Eberle sneaking in off the wall…(Eberle 65pts, Horcs 83pts, Paarjarvi 66pts)

    Penner-Cogliano-Stortini- Penners size should help Cogliano gain the blue line which translates into “dirty” goals. Have Penner go wide and dump to the center with Cogs and Storts going hard to the net. Whack and Hack for goals here…(Penner 66 pts, Cogs 55 pts, Storts 40pts)

    Jones-Fraser-Brule(McIntyre)- Fraser should win HIS faceoffs and dish to Brule on the wings. Brule’s speed should create chances and if Jones is aware going hard to the net, this could be a GREAT LINE! Throw in big Mc and there’s potential for 6-15 goals each…(Jones 33pts, Fraser 40 pts, Brule/McIntyre 36/27 pts)

    just the way I SEE it…thoughts?

  • Jmask5

    I know its early but so far our 3 best forwards have been Penner, Horc and Hemmer. Coincidence? No. These are the most NHL proven guys we have up front. I think we should separate them among the 3 lines.

  • Ender

    Why are people going off the deep end? The comments never cease to amaze me here. This is a team that is rebuilding. The Oilers will struggle because this team has a roster full of guys with little to no NHL experience and no playoff experience. Thank fully the vets in the lineup have stanley cup rings or have played in the finals. They have the experience of what it takes to go all the way. They will teach these kids/youngsters what it takes to be successful in the NHL. No one can learn this in 3 games so relax.

    If that isn’t selling it for you, take a look at what position the Penguins finished in Crosby’s first year. They played a roster full of rookies, let them experience many different situations and allowed them to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. The team finished near the bottom again but the players learned from their experience. Low and behold, most of those guys are now successful NHL players.

    The only concerns the fans should have is if games are exciting and the kids are improving. Don’t judge improvements game by game, but in blocks of 10. If the team wins, fine. If the team loses, we get another good draft pick, great! We still need that stud d-man to be a true contender. I just hope none of you guys get injured jumping off the bandwagon in the meantime.

  • Bucknuck

    Gagner is my goat. I hope he makes me look like a moron for picking him as my goat… but he won’t. He gets pushed off the puck too much, and he doesn’t make me jump out of the seat like Hemsky does. Therefore he sucks… or something.

    I hate having goats as I want to cheer for everyone on the team.

    I have to say oilers hockey is way more fun to watch this year with Hemsky back and Horcoff playing well and the three kids all learning. I LOVE being an Oiler fan right now, and that is after losing to the Wild.

  • Great read, even though it feels like I’ve read most of it before. Gagner has been good so far, his line have been our best overall, especially in the last game. Gagner have an issue is on the spot but that’s nothing new. He’ll do just fine. I see no reason why we would break that line up as of yet.

    The only change I’d like is to put Brule as a centre in that 3rd line. But that’s about it. Sure I’d like to try someone else on a wing (Omark, Giroux, claim Brunnstrom off waivers or similar, perhaps even try Jones on that line) but I don’t see that happen and I don’t wanna give up on Cogs just yet. Ain’t easy to shuffle them around either if you don’t feel like ending up losing someone on waivers.

  • Golden Seals

    Taylor Hall won’t return to junior. Steven Stamkos didn’t look like much for a good portion of his rookie season. But when it clicked for him, does anyone remember the struggles he went through.

    • Jason Gregor

      John Tavares was great out of the gate last year, with 15 goals in 31 games, then he only scored two goals in his next 34 games.

      Matt Duchene scored 3 in his first 26 games, then scored 20 in the next 40.

      It will interesting to see how Hall develops or struggles.

      • HENRIK SEDIN

        21yrs old: 29pts…………
        22yrs old: 36pts……….
        23yrs old: 39pts……….
        24yrs old: 42pts……….
        25yrs old: (44 games during lockout in Sweden) 36pts

        Each of the NHL seasons he was playing 76-82 games. I’m guessing Oilers fans would have traded him at some point during this run before he did the following:

        -75pts
        -81pts
        -76pts
        -82pts
        -112 pts Hart Trophy, MEGA STUD.

        SAM GAGNER

        21yrs old: Turned 21 a couple of months ago. So far, scoring at a point per game. Already has 3 full seasons of NHL experience under his belt scoring more PPG than H. Sedin in his first 4 seasons, despite starting 3 years younger.

        ~TRADE HIM!!!!!~

        • OilFan

          Matt!! Huh….???? why this comparison?

          Sam Gagner 5’10” 191 (yeah maybe with his skates on)

          Henrik Sedin 6’2″ 200 +

          Theyre not even close to being the same player.

          While Sam has a high level of hockey smarts, which can be seen by watching him play in person and iso-ing on him, he doesnt have the strength or its not in his game to battle. Sedin’s bread and butter is the cycle game and Gagner doesnt have that in his tool box and Im not sure he ever will.

          General Comment about THall and the rest of the kids…this year will be one of peaks and valleys and there is no doubt of that. The view Ill be taking is how each of them respond to when they make mistakes and how they will respond. Case in point Clutterbuck drilled Taylor (albeit late) along the wall and well see if he ever makes that mistake again. C13 has publically scolded Taylor for shift lengths … and well see how he responds to that. If he becomes a better pro and the subtleties of his game get better and his junior mistakes disappear Id be a happy “Nationer”. One thing for sure is he is getting scoring opportunities which he is creating or opportunistically gets … hes not burying them and when the opportunities dry up Ill start getting concerned.

          Hey Wanye — pass me that glass of Koolaid

          • Why the comparison? Because they’re both centres and both top 10 draft picks. If anything Gagner being shorter proves my point even further. He’s scored at a better clip than Sedin did when he started. Just wanted to remind people that sometimes the players that go on to lead the league in scoring don’t always score 70 points in their first few years like some people are expecting from Gagner. Doesn’t mean he’ll never get there.

            I don’t really understand your point about them not being the same hockey player. Of course they’re not, no two players are exactly the same, in fact:

            IT’S UNIMAGINABLE THAT THERE WOULD BE A HOCKEY PLAYER OUT THERE THAT WOULD BE AN EXACT GENETIC COPY OF HENRIK SEDIN…

            Except for Daniel I suppose.

  • Ender

    baggedmilk wrote:

    Also, Tyler Seguin has a goal so it’s obvious the Oilers drafted the wrong guy.

    See?!! See?!! I’m not the only one! baggedmilk sees it too! We drafted the wrong . . . guy . . .

    [listens to mom whispering in ear]

    No, mom, he wasn’t being a smart-ass . . . was he?

    [blushes and runs off into the canola field of the damned]

  • Jason Gregor

    Those who believe Hall should have been returned to the OHL before the season started will be in a full froth if Hall doesn’t get much done in his first nine games — send him back!

    Fans who wanted Hall here but expected him to produce at a Patrick Kane rookie pace off the hop will be wondering out loud if he’s a bust — should have taken Seguin!

    Those who expect it’ll take Hall months, not days, to make the transition to the NHL, are wondering what all the fuss is about after just three games.

    • baai

      Those who at least believe there is possibly merit in considering another year in the OHL for Hall, rather than piddling around on a middling squad, are honestly just laughing at the blinding ignorance.

      The smug finger in the rib just kills me here. Thank you oh wise one. The fuss isn’t three games in, the fuss is they have 9 games to test drive him around the block and make a decision. Is he going to get better regardless of where he plays?

      YES

      Is it worth starting the lease on the truck, knowing that it’s going to be a few years before you need the thing?

      ENTIRELY UP FOR DEBATE

      I realize there is no point to actually try to debate anything with Bill O’ Brownlee so I won’t bother.

      I can’t seem to remember but there was someone on here just a little while ago talking about trying to let this issue die…Paraphrasing, it was something like “I’m just not going to write anything about it or acknowledge his arguement as it gives him more print…”

      For the life of me, I can’t exactly recall that smug fellows name. Maybe you and he should sit down, have a chat and figure out what exactly the party line is.

      Facepalms for everyone!!!

      • Listen up, “chartleys.”

        Nod in agreement with whoever you want (although directing the term “smug” my way, given the think tank you frequent makes me laugh out loud).
        It follows, then, you feel compelled to come here (do you ever visit this site to actually take part in the discussion or is it more a case dropping off a dissertation on who is wrong and why?) to brown-nose and apple-polish in an effort to impress your learned friends.

        The point, which you missed or choosed to ignore, is is pretty straightforward: it’s too early to draw any conclusions on Hall, but many fans are doing exactly that.

        — Some in the group of fans who believe Hall and the Oilers would be best served by him playing another year in the OHL will point to his so-so start as validating their point. I’m saying three games (or nine) is too early to draw that conclusion.

        — Another group of fans, those who expected Hall to burst out of the gates the way Patrick Kane did three years ago, are perplexed why that hasn’t happened. Was Hall over-hyped? Is he a bust? Too early to say.

        The other group (probably the largest), one that thinks it best Hall plays here and didn’t expect him to tear it up right away, is sitting back and waiting.
        We, like the other groups, won’t know for many seasons how the kids is going to turn out, but I’m not going to draw any conclusions from three, nine or even 30 games.

        Party line? You’d know about that.

      • The improvement you’d get from Hall in juniors isn’t close the improvement you’ll get from having him in the bigs this year.

        He was the playoff MVP two years running, what else is he going to learn playing against even YOUNGER oponents?

        The problem with junior is that the relative opposition gets WORSE each year, not BETTER as you get older.

        The “let him finish junior” argument dies when a player has already proven to be better than the 19 and 20 year olds in the league.

        Do you want him to learn how to better score goals against 17 year olds (which is a completely useless skill to have as a professional hockey player)? Or do you want him to learn how to play against the best of the best (which pays significantly better in the long run)?

        • fuck off

          Matt, do you have anything to even remotely suggest that this is at all true?

          I’m fine that people think learning at the NHL level is better, that’s an opinion.

          You are stating it as an out and out fact, one that doesn’t have any supporting evidence behind it.

        • Question:

          Are 18 year old kids even close to fully grown mentally or physically?

          So there is absolutely no possible way another WJ, another year in the OHL (maybe at center), 20 games in the AHL and likely AHL playoffs (after 9 games in the NHL) could be of any benefit to this kid? No possible way? It is actually going to harm his development and likely ruin the kid? The only thing to be done is to start the clock and let him figure it out with the club? Despite the fact that a 20 year old Eberle (who did go back to junior) and a 19 year old MPS look a lot more composed out there?

          Yes, look at Stamkos you say? By the same token, don’t look at Bobby Ryan you also say?

          I guess I never looked at it that way…I’m totally sorry I didn’t realize when debating a point it has to end completely in black and white and you only state things in a factual matter that support your arguement AND NEVER EVER CONCEDE that the other sides arguement has any merit.

          I honestly was not 100% on sending him back, but the more I see from the anti camp, the more I think it’s most likely the best idea. The only thing I wonder about is what this arguement would look like if Tamblowe had stuck to last April’s message of “we’re not rushing anyone” and not gotten carried away dispensing kool-aid.

  • I wrote about this also on JSBM.

    What you fail to notice, Gregor, is that you’re wrong. The Oilers must win now, the parade route has been planned, and the Oilers MUST be successful.

    Also, Tyler Seguin has a goal so it’s obvious the Oilers drafted the wrong guy. What are you thinking? Give them time to adapt to the world’s best hockey league? Pfft. You’re crazy, Gregor, you’re crazy!