A lot of people out there believe the trade of Andrew Cogliano improves the chances prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will earn a roster spot with the Edmonton Oilers this coming season. No poop, Sherlock.
The obvious aside, I’m of the mind jettisoning Cogliano to Anaheim and losing one body in a cluttered corps of centres coincides with cranking up the heat on Sam Gagner, given the timing and the pace of his own career path. As it should.
The topic of Gagner, entering his fifth NHL season with the Oilers, is a polarizing issue around here, to be sure. Some readers at ON wear pajamas adorned by a Gagner name bar. Others, many of them in that first group, believe it’s only a matter of time until he becomes a 65-70 point player, a bonafide first-line pivot. "Hey, look at these numbers . . ."
At the opposite end of the spectrum, critics of the former London Knight insist he’ll never amount to much. They say Sam-I-Am was a so-so pick in a pedestrian 2007 draft class. They say he’s soft, relatively slow of foot for a little guy, pensive with the puck and, given the past two seasons, less than durable. Trade his backside, the sooner the better.
Those in the middle, a chunk of real estate I stand on, are neither overjoyed or displeased with this first 291 NHL games. So far, so good. OK. He looks like a second-line centre, a 50-55 point guy — maybe 60 when Edmonton’s power play eventually comes out of its coma.
Given where the Oilers are in this rebuild fans are being sold and where No. 89 is in his career, I’m thinking the 2011-12 season is a pretty good time for Gagner to lend some clarity, to give us an idea which camp has it right and where he fits, or doesn’t, moving forward.
WHAT’S IT GOING TO BE?
Gagner, who will be 22 when the season starts, sits eyeball-to-eyeball with Shawn Horcoff atop the depth chart at centre going into training camp. Below Gagner and Horcoff sit Eric Belanger, Anton Lander, Gilbert Brule, Chris Vandevelde and Ryan O’Marra.
After scoring 49 points in 79 games as an 18-year-old rookie, Gagner put up 41 points in 76 games, 41 points in 68 games and 42 points in 68 games last season, a campaign cut short by a lacerated hand caused by Ryan Jones skate blade on the bench.
So, how does Gagner project from this point forward? Truth to be told, whether you’re pouring over advanced stats, rolling dice or reading the tea leaves, you’re guessing. I can’t say for sure and neither can you. Only Gagner can.
What’s obvious, though, is that if he’s going to give us, not to mention Oilers management, a clue, if he’s going to establish himself as a needed piece of the puzzle moving forward — I think becoming a solid second-line guy would qualify as that — the time is right.
Might Gagner do that? Absolutely. In terms of potential, might he be passed by Nugent-Hopkins in the hearts and minds of fans, and on the depth chart, this season? That’s a possibility, too.
The trade of Cogliano aside, it’s time for Gagner to provide all three camps, and the team that signs his pay cheques, with an indication which way it’s going to go.
HE SAID WHAT?
— Oilers Lunch host Bob Stauffer, never shy about offering his opinion, apparently doesn’t have any doubt whatsoever Nugent-Hopkins will spent the upcoming season on the Oilers roster.
Bombastic Bob was throwing around some numbers, points totals, on today’s edition of the show and he has Nugent-Hopkins pegged for 60 points this season. He had Jordan Eberle at 60 and Taylor Hall at 65.
Hell, if we can get Stauffer in on the 2011-12 edition of the Lucky 13 Pool here at Oilersnation, he might blow his brains out worse than I did last season.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.