Summer of ’89

During the 2010 NHL entry draft, Oiler fans got together to hear the big announcement: Taylor or Tyler. Over the years, Edmonton has drafted some of the truly exceptional talents in the game’s history. Their draft day scouting reports still ring true all these years later.

  • Barry Fraser talking about Kevin Lowe: "I had him anywhere from 10 to 13 overall. He was the best player available (at 21) a steady defenseman who is good offensively with a penchant for being tough."
  • Glen Sather about Mark Messier"He has unlimited potential."
  • Fraser about Glenn Anderson"He’s very quick, probably the best player (at the Canadian Olympic camp) behind Randy Gregg."
  • According to this Terry Jones article from March 14, 1979, Edmonton placed Jari Kurri on their negotiation list. This would have been about 15 months before the Oilers drafted him.
  • Unnamed NHL scout on Grant Fuhr"He’s the best goalie to come out of the draft since John Davidson."
  • Jeff O’Neill comparing himself to Jason Bonsignore"Basically the difference between Jason and I is that he’s chicken and I’m not. No, seriously, Jason is more of a finesse player and I’m more aggressive."

The question I always ask about scouting reports on draft day is do they reflect the player’s ability? The answer is (and always has been) a resounding yes. Scouting reports are exceptional in that they describe a prospect’s strengths and weaknesses and do a good job giving the reader and idea about where they might slot on the depth chart. 

What don’t they tell us? 

Scouting reports don’t factor in attitude, drive, injuries that will happen down the line, contract squabbles, drug and alcohol problems and (God love them) women. When we read a scouting report from a service (Redline doesn’t like to be mentioned with the others but I’d throw ISS in there and Bob McKenzie is the Gold Standard) it does a very good job of creating a line in the sand. As fans, it’s our job to document the prospect’s progress after he’s drafted. Let me use Sam Gagner as an example.

Redline: Plays with drive, determination and hustle. Very smart and heady player who competes hard and hates losing. While not an elite skater, he gets there just fine. Not the biggest dog in the fight, but thrives in traffic and works well in tight space. Slick hands with a quick release snap-shot that keeps defencemen and goaltenders guessing. Can hold the puck too long at times and needs to work on seeing his mates better. Has the ability to play the pivot or wing.

I think that’s a fair scouting report, pointing out hiis obvious puck skills and his negatives (size, speed). With that as the backdrop, the clock starts ticking on Gagner’s career beginning training camp 2007 fall. He comes in and clocks the competition, makes the team and posts one of the finest offensive seasons in Oiler history. LOTS of positive arrows for Gagner after year one.

Since that day, Gagner’s boxcars have run in place (actually they’ve gone down slightly) and there are rumblings among the fanbase in regard to the young man’s future. I think that’s reasonable based on the clock we all have in our brains that begins ticking the moment a young prospect becomes a regular. We all have our internal estimates about how much elapsed time it takes for a prospect to turn into a useful player, and four years is a long time for a prospect to post the same numbers year after year.

WHAT ARE THE POSITIVES?

  1. He’s survived. Although injuries have been a factor in his career, Gagner has played in 89% of the Oilers games since 2007 fall. He started under the Mandelbaum regimesurvived that and the Bermuda triangle that has been the injury bug since Pat Quinn brought the Plague of 1348 with him in a big travelling chest when flying in from Muddy York.
  2. He’s become the best 5×5 offensive C on the roster. Gagner’s 5×5/60 number was solid and there’s evidence that he had emerged as a quality center before Christmas. When injuries fell, and he was assigned to the Swedish rookies (who worked well together but not with Gagner) the ship began to talk on water.
  3. There’s a lot of battle in this kid. Despite facing an uphill battle in the season’s second half, Gagner showed a lot of try until Ryan (Ron Popiel) Jones did a slicer-dicer on him and ended 89’s season. There was some of that in his original scouting report and it showed this season.

DOWNSIDE

  1. The faceoff circle. Gagner’s poor numbers in the dot are magnified by an overall team weakness in this area. Gagner and Cogliano have not progressed and although there are varying opinions about the importance of the discipline it’s safe to say this is not satisfactory.
  2. The powerplay. Gagner had a poor season with the man advantage, and the Oilers have some tremendous options available. Unless he shows massive improvement, I think he’s going to lose his minutes to Linus Omark and others. 
  3. Chemistry. Gagner had chem with Penner and Hemsky, but one of them is gone and the other one could be on the way. He had very little chemistry with MP and Omark, so I’m not certain where he fits in the top 6. Should the club decide to run Horcoff next season with Hall and Eberle, Gagner might be spending more time with men like Ryan Jones and Clem Kadiddlehopper. 

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Sam Gagner is a slight disappointment for us as Oiler fans based on his draft number and the clock ticking in our brains. This also coincides perfectly with the exact moment when losing organizations often trade good young players. It’s a perfect storm and an excellent test for Steve Tambellini. If he trades Gagner this summer, all those at-bats will have been done for another NHL team’s benefit. Unless the return is an established NHL player who can help this young team for many years, it would be an unwise move.

  • Yourmomthinksimhot

    Gagner was my favorite player for the first couple years he was on the team. The kid is a really good not great player, you can see he still has the potential. Although his stats seem to have plateaued so far it seems like there is more to come from his game.

    I believe playing him and Cogliano at center has proven to be a failure. Both players could and I think would benefit from playing on the wing.

    If we trade Hemsky and thats a big if, it should be for a Centerman. A second line of Paajarvi, (Insert Centermans name here) and Gagner would be an effective second line.

    I hope Gagner is a big part of our furture moving forward.

  • Puritania

    I was on Whyte ave when we lost game 7. One shopping cart with paper in it was lit on fire. That was it. Nothing else. There was no riot. The only people hurt were a few people who got smoked by the police. The cops made an example out of a few people right away and nothing happened.

    Vancouver: 2 trips to finals, 2 losses, 2 riots. I just got an email from a work colleague in Vancouver who told me she now understands why I dislike Vancouver fans. I told her about how bad they are at Oil games, that they were the worst visiting fans. She couldn’t believe it then, now she knows. I feel bad for the true fans. I dislike the Flames more then any team, but that damn Red Mile was fun and no real issues. Edmonton and Calgary did it right, Vancouver should be ashamed. They even threw bottles at the huge TV screens the Canucks set up outside so people could watch the game. Really.

    Stay classy Vancouver.

  • justDOit

    Gags still has some potential, but his time is running out. He was thrown into the NHL too early, so he deserves another year to show us what he has (or doesn’t have).

    When I look around the league at guys who aren’t the biggest players, but still play with impact, they all have strength and/or speed in common.

    Brierre has worked out with a power lifter for years, and is supposedly one of the stronger guys in the NHL, pound for pound. Gionta is in that group as well.

    Guys like St. Louis, Giroux and Marchand have speed to burn.

    Gags has neither, and unless he has started a better strength/conditioning program already, I don’t think he’ll be around this league very long.

  • John Chambers

    My guess is that we see Gagner move to the wing once the team builds some depth at Centre. Could be as early as this season depending on who we draft and sign, and whether Lander or VV stick.

    Gagner wouldn’t suffer this kind of scrutiny if he was a 50-pt player on a line with Ryan Jones and Shawn Horcoff.

    • Chris.

      50 pts from the wing on the third line would be great if it came with tough physical play.

      If Gagner is playing the third line, I fear we are in trouble. Honestly if that is the case the Oilers should be looking at moving him.

      With the Oilers possibly moving Hemsky, I feel that moving Gagner to the vacated RW position would be best option.

  • Chris.

    In Stauffer’s interview of David Conte yesterday, Stauffer was selling his “picking a D in top 3 makes no logical sense” theory.

    Conte said: Defense is a hard position to play in NHL now but most top overall picks are usually picked by bad teams and D men have no mentors to show them how to play the game. Scott Stevens had Rod Lagway to mentor him, Neidemeyer had Stevens to mentor him….. all perspective.

    Conte also said they err on side of bring a kid up “better a day late, rather than a day early”

    Gagner fits under both comments: no one to really mentor him with Horcoff missing 50+ games over the last 4 years and, more pronounced: Gagner was brought to the NHL far too early and has had to develop his skills at the highest level. 2 seasons in the AHL and we might be faced with a far superior total package by Gagner

    Forgot…… its EIG’s fault

  • Chris.

    The Canucks, the Lions and Vancouverites need to get past their sense of entitlement and maybe they could start winning and not act like jack asses too much of the time.

    Our beloved Oilers needed in the past to learn that lesson, and they did, but it only took one loss to the Islanders (whom they thought they were ready to beat) to get the plot.

    As one poster mentioned, BC is a beautiful place, but living here means you get a bigger dose than is normal or palatable of drug addled, drug damaged, semi-criminal tinfoil hat wearing self-important amoral conspiriatorialists.

    As for little Sam, I think people often mistake being one dimensional with inexperience.

    Inexperience means you make mistakes with positioning, puck management, reacting appropriately, etc.

    It doesn’t mean you lose your battles, can’t create offense, can only play with certain people, aren’t dangerous, play on the perimeter, can’t win a face off, can’t keep up on the backcheck. Or don’t show any year over year improvement.

    He was rushed into the league, but has 4 years of coddled experience under his belt. Cogliano has performed similarly, grown more, and played with the dregs.

    The Canucks collapse is a perfect example of how a team needs to be very careful who they choose to lead them.

    As long as hockey is a contact sport, having enough appropriately sized, aggressive and quick enough players will remain a key to playoff success.

    There will always be a FEW exceptions, like Marchand this year, but will he show up every year in the playoffs or have one career year and then zippo – Pavelski, Briere, Gomez, Drury. We need players that will be effective every year in some fashion. If small (and slow) guys don’t score what do they bring? Far too often not much. Shout out to Hank and Dank.

    Hall is perfect, Eberle maybe because of his history, but after that I wonder – small guys who aren’t fast, bigger guys who aren’t particularly good scorers or tough, and other than the two mentioned no one is naturally aggressive or dominant enough.

    • Lowetide

      Interesting question. I would not make the trade, mostly because the Oilers have invested so much in Gagner and making the trade moves the clock back yet again.

      Having said that, I can see why the Oilers might make that deal. ST and company are building around Taylor Hall, and getting both RNH and Couturier in the same draft might solve the C problem for a long time to come.

      Plus Gagner is maybe a year away from a big payday (depending on his season).

      But I wouldn’t do it. Moves back the cluster. Again.

  • fuck off

    With several players Mike Gillis will want to re-sign or add to his roster, he must be anxious to dump Keith Ballard’s $4 mill per year. Now, I’m not exactly thrilled about the idea of helping out the Canucks, but then again, if the price is cheap, and Ballard can return to top 4 pairing form, then this would be a good investment for the Oil.

  • Lowetide

    Move Gags to long island with the 19th pick for there 5th and a prospect.
    Tavares and Ganger would light it up, there history together would undoubtedly produce points and the oilers could hopefully snag Couturier or a top defenseman