Ever since he broke into the league as an 18-year old, Sam Gagner’s been a regular in the Oilers’ shootout rotation. Initially, it made sense, as Gagner’s signature 3000 dekes move fooled goaltenders. By the end of his rookie season, however, Gagner had scored just five times on 17 attempts – a 29.4% success rate, just below average for an NHL shooter.
Since then, Gagner has gone three for 18 in shootout attempts, which is roughly half the NHL average (which normally sits just above the 32% mark). But it hasn’t seemed to matter – first MacTavish, then Quinn and now Tom Renney have continually put Sam Gagner’s name on the board as one of their first three shooters.
I’m asking for it to stop. He’s had 35 shots, he’s scored eight goals, and we can all be fairly sure that he’s a below-average shootout option.
Who should the Oilers use instead? I’m glad that I’m pretending you’ve asked, because it fits nicely with the handy chart of career shootout effectiveness coming up next (minimum five attempts):
Shawn Horcoff, when healthy, should be the top shootout option for Tom Renney. He isn’t fancy, but he’s been highly effective when used and that’s the most important thing. Ales Hemsky’s an average shootout option and a respectable choice, while a goal on Gilbert Brule’s next shootout attempt would make him a league-average shooter.
It’s the players who have gotten less use that are more interesting. Taylor Hall’s gone two-for-two to date, while fellow rookie Jordan Eberle has gone one for three. Magnus Paajarvi failed on his lone attempt, while somehow Andrew Cogliano has only taken two shots in a little over three seasons. On defence, Ryan Whitney has scored once on three attempts, while Kurtis Foster has been blanked twice and Tom Gilbert three times.
Based on all that, my personal shootout rotation would be something along the lines of this:
- Shawn Horcoff
- Taylor Hall
- Jordan Eberle
- Ales Hemsky
- Magnus Paajarvi
- Andrew Cogliano
- Gilbert Brule
- Ryan Whitney
Naturally, I’d pay some attention to who was having a good night, but those are the eight I would lean on, at least until we get a better idea of how good some of the rookies are.
But even if there’s disagreement on the rotation, it is time to take Sam Gagner (and for that matter, Dustin Penner) out of it. They’re good players, but their skills lie elsewhere.