One of the best things about Sam Gagner’s 8 point all-world explosion has been the reaction. The fans are streaking in the streets, the former Oilers are calling 89 to congratulate him and the young man who did it all remains humble, perhaps even a little bewildered. What an awesome 24 hours.
Paul Coffey and Wayne Gretzky were interviewed today on Sportsnet and sang the praises of Dave Gagner’s boy. Coffey even used colorful language to describe what Gagner’s been through and sounded very happy Gagner had a big night. Coffey suggested this could be a springboard to a higher plateau. Is that reasonable?
WHAT ARE HIS MAJOR SKILLS?
Gagner’s skills are somewhat cerebral: he is a sublime passer (that rope to Taylor Hall was brilliant and he made several others last night of similar quality), thinks the game well without the puck and sees the ice at a very high level. Proof of that came last night when he played in the middle between Hall and Eberle. THAT was an elite line, if only for one night.
Can brain boy turn this one game into a stepping stone? Well, he’s still in the range when good young players become very good ones. Two players I have compared to Gagner in the past–Vincent Damphousse and Doug Gilmour–took big steps forward at around this time and it is most certainly not too late for Gagner to show another gear of productivity at the NHL level.
DOES HE FIT IN?
We’ve all heard about Gagner’s shortcomings–too small, too slow, too poor in the faceoff circle, too something. Sam Gagner’s skills–amazing passing ability combined with exceptional creativity added to an increasing dedication to the defensive side of the puck–cannot be overlooked. Add to that all kinds of try and 89’s now almost 5-year burial deep in the second division.He’s a survivor of the worst kind of muck at age 22. That’s a helluva deal, and he did not break.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Last night was a terrific reminder about what skill can do. Putting Sam Gagner in a position to succeed would go a long way to unlocking more offense. The Oilers need to add more Sam’s, not trade them away.