In the decade that began in 1997-98, no Oiler rookie approached the heights reached by Sudden Sam Gagner. Samwise. The young magician posted a big number as a teenager, and has been chasing it ever since. Is Gagner ever going to get better?
By any measure (except for the ones David Staples uses) Sam Gagner is getting better, making progess. Let’s begin with the easy stuff, the boxcars:
- Age 18 79, 13-36-49 (.620 points per game)
- Age 19 76, 16-25-41 (.539 points per game)
- Age 20 68, 15-26-41 (.603 points per game)
- Age 21 68, 15-27-42 (.618 points per game)
You call that progress? Yes, yes I do. Gagner has never played on a good hockey team at the NHL level. Team wins by season were 41, 35, 27 and 25. Team GF totals per season were 235, 234, 214 and 193. So, using the brain God gave us Gagner was in on 20.8% of the offense as a rookie and 21.8% of the offense this past season.
Sam Gagner might appear to be running in place, but he is now the best offensive option at center for the Edmonton Oilers. His 5×5 points-per-60 numbers are heading in a good direction too:
- 07-08 5×5 per 60m: 1.96
- 08-09 5×5 per 60m: 1.69
- 09-10 5×5 per 60m: 1.56
- 10-11 5×5 per 60m: 1.91
My Dad always had a saying that worked during arguments with my Mom. It went something like "if you have to work this hard to prove you’re right then you’re probably wrong." Not a strong argument, but it drove my Mom crazy and that was the end game (Mom and Dad were happily married btw, couples niggle away at each other. Some of us enjoy it!).
Gabriel Desjardins supplies us with a steady stream of information from year to year at behind the net. If he charged a dollar for every visit he’d own my house. I promise this won’t hurt a bit, we’re going to look at two measurements here that are easily explained:
Let’s first define Corsi:a stat for all the shots directed for and against while a player is on the ice at even strength. Includes shots, missed shots and blocked shots.
Now Corsi Rel: A players corsi rating versus the rest of his team. Calculated by subtracting the team’s collective corsi rating while he’s off the ice from his on-ice corsi rating. Can be used to calculate the relative corsi rating of his opponents for quality of competition purposes.
Both definitions and a very nice guide here.
- 07-08: 0.6 (7th among Oiler F’s)
- 08-09: 6.0 (6th among Oiler F’s)
- 09-10: 10.9 (second among Oiler F’s)
- 10-11: 7.0 (tied for 4th among Oilers F’s)
As you can see, Gagner has consistently been among the top 6 F’s by this discipline, including last season when he played with the two rookies after Christmas. These CorsiRel numbers are very good, from beginning to end.
This measures a lot of things, not the least of which is how much does the coach trust you? During the MacT years with that young 07-09 team Shawn Horcoff didn’t see many offensive zone faceoffs (as an example). Pat Quinn and Tom Renney have been less likely to play the percentages but there’s still a lot to be learned from the stat. Progress would be a larger positive gap between end and start.
- 07-08: 52.8/53.9 (+1.1)
- 08-09: 55.4/49.7 (-5.7)
- 09-10: 48.8/49.8 (+1.0)
- 10-11: 50.9/53.4 (+2.5)
Overall a very positive number, with one season off the rails (Horcoff was off by 4 points this past season, as an example). The good thing about this is that the 10-11 number was posted when he was playing with two rookies (Omark and Paajarvi) and shoud bode well for the future.
There are some negatives in the Sam Gagner resume. His PP number was poor this past season, but so was Hemsky’s and that guy is a ridiculous PP talent. I’m more inclined to blame the coaching/setup for the failure of the PP (same with PK by the way). His faceoff percentages are poor, and if he’s going to have a career at center improvement needs to be made in the discipline.
However, with summer at its peak (it actually happened Sunday. Did you miss it?) I think it’s time to put it out there: Sam Gagner is the best offensive option at center for the 11-12 Edmonton Oilers. All of Gagner, RNH, Horcoff and Belanger should post solid crooked numbers, but Gagner’s age, resume and skill set suggest that it’s a good bet he’ll grade out as the best available centerman in offensive situations this coming season.
Should Nugent-Hopkins surpass him, it would represent an outstanding debut. Should 89 lose offensive playing time (at EVs and PP) to Horcoff and Belanger, we should consider it a major blow to Gagner’s status as a top flight young player ready to emerge as a difference maker.