With Ales Hemsky and Taylor Hall on the sidelines, someone will need to fill the offensive void, and considering we are in March, Sam Gagner is the most likely candidate. In this first three seasons, Gagner proved he was much better in the 2nd half of the season than he was in the first.
In Gagner’s first three seasons he was much more productive in the latter part of the season, scoring 77 points in the 2nd half compared to 54 in the first, and I’m not sure there is any defining reason why.
I have broken the season into the first 41 games the team played, not Gagner.
GP G A PTS
FIRST HALF— 39 3 13 16 0.41 PPG
SECOND HALF— 40 10 23 33 0.82 PPG
GP G A PTS
FIRST HALF— 38 4 12 16 0.41 PPG
SECOND HALF— 38 12 13 25 0.66 PPG
GP G A PTS
FIRST HALF— 40 8 14 22 0.55 PPG
SECOND HALF— 28 7 12 19 0.68 PPG
GP G A PTS
FIRST HALF— 41 10 16 26 0.63 PPG
SECOND HALF— 25 5 11 16 0.64 PPG
2011 was Gagner’s best first half ever, and so far he is maintaing a consistent scoring pace throughout the season.
In his rookie season his numbers spiked because he got more comfortable with the NHL, and with all the injuries he got more ice time. But what about the other years?
2008: First half he averaged 14:46/game and in the 2nd half he was up to 17:09/game.
2009: First half he averaged 16:28/game and 17:04/game in the second half, which is about a half a shift more per game.
2010: He played more in the first half 16:33/game compared to 15:08/game in the 2nd half, but was he was more productive with less TOI.
2011: He had 18:22/game in the first 41 games, but he’s down to 16:40 in the last 25 games with no dip in his production.
Gagner’s first season seems like an anomoly, because in the the three subsequent seasons his point production doesn’t balance out with increased icetime, in fact, in the final two years, he has been more productive in the 2nd half with less ice time. Gagner did get more PP time in the 2nd half of his rookie season, but the other years his PP time has been pretty much the same.
As Gagner wraps up his fourth NHL season, I don’t see how anyone can say with certainty what his point total average or ceiling will be in the future. Some guys develop slower, while others are productive earlier in their career and manage to maintain it for 10-15 years. I’m not surprised that Gagner is more productive with less ice time. He isn’t a big guy and since his skating his average; if he is fatigued, his skating dips even more, and he is less effective.
If Gagner finishes strong in the final 16 games, don’t get fooled into thinking he will automatically continue that next season, because history shows he is more effective in the final half of every season.
Okay, it isn’t an exactly the 23rd Psalm, but tonight the Oilers start what has to be the toughest four game road trip they’ve ever been on. They face four of the top five teams in the NHL starting in Philly, then to Washington, into Detroit and wrapping up in Pittsburgh. What makes it even more difficult is they lost their three best forwards in the last week, yet somehow they are 3-0.
The will face an angry and struggling Flyers team this evening. The Flyers have lost four straight and got embarrassed on national TV on Sunday, getting spanked 7-0 by the Rangers. You can expect the Flyers to be fired up, so the Oilers will need to be ready from the opening faceoff or they will be bombarded by the Flyers.
TIME TO REFLECT AND RELAX
The Oilers are in the midst of their best streak of the season, winning seven of ten, but some in Oilersnation are a tad concerned that all this good play will ruin their shot at the 1st or 2nd pick at the draft. After suffering through five months of horrendous hockey, it makes no sense to go on a winning streak now and thwart their chances at the top pick. Thankfully, for those who want Stu "The Magnificent Bastard" MacGregor to get to the first pick, the Oilers will return to their losing ways this week, and by Sunday you’ll be happy to know that with only 12 games to go the Oilers will be back in 30th.
Miracles have happened before: The run to the 2006 Cup, my buddy Hutch getting married, Phoenix having a sellout, the Bills making the playoffs, Brule playing 20 consecutive games, going a day without hearing a Charlie Sheen reference or Tom Gilbert playing physical. Sure, it has happened, and sure the Oilers could win two of their next four, but those types of miracles are rare. Enjoy getting back to ELPH.
THE HUMAN RAKE
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Philly will come out flying and the Oilers will be down early. They will battle back to make it respectable, but they’ll drop a 5-3 decision.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Human Rake, Chris Pronger, will take two high sticking or cross-checking penalties and the Nation will be flooded with I hate Pronger comments. The tall, lanky gap-toothed D-man can still ignite the ire of Oiler fans and tonight it will be on full display.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Prior to the game Jeff Reese, the Flyers goaltending coach, will chat with his former Stanley Cup winning teammate, Nikolai Khabibulin. Reese will hand him the scouting report on the Washington Capital shooters, who Khabibulin will face tomorrow night. While sitting on the bench Khabibulin will be watching the game and studying the tendancies of Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom.
The camera will zoom in on him in the 3rd and he will have his eyes closed, head tilted back while visualizing stoning Ovechkin….We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if his extra preparation pays off…