SAM MEASURES UP

There might be a perfectly good reason why GM Steve Tambellini trades Sam Gagner one day, but size shouldn’t be it. Just a thought and a simple rule of thumb for armchair GMs who insist size is an issue with Gagner, or any player for that matter – find a way to keep your best players and move out the rest, regardless of how tall they are or aren’t.

All things being equal, which they seldom are, I’ll take a big, fast, skilled, smart player over a smaller player with exactly the same attributes every time, but that’s a far cry from building a team by trading your best players because you have too many small, skilled types and not enough guys who happen to be six feet tall.

I’m thinking specifically of the argument made by some that Tambellini should jettison Gagner between now and the NHL trade deadline because the Oilers will be too small down the middle with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner as the team’s top two centres. Likewise, that coach Tom Renney’s top six forwards won’t measure up with Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall, the only six-footer, in the mix.

If Nugent-Hopkins is your top centre for the next decade or so, which he is, you can’t have Gagner, who continued his ridiculous hot streak with two more goals in a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings tonight, as your second-line guy. Well, yes you can, actually. And the way Gagner is playing – he has 8-7-15 in his last five games — you should.

KEEP REAL PLAYERS

While Gagner, 22, obviously can’t keep up the pace he’s on, it’s becoming obvious to me, as somebody who has questioned his upside from time to time, he’s capable of filling the role as this team’s second-line centre behind Nugent-Hopkins. That goes for now and when the Oilers are actually good.

Yes, that leaves the Oilers somewhat undersized in the first two spots down the middle, if a tape measure figures into how you talent, but if I’m looking for some size, I’m not sacrificing Gagner to get it.

The way I see it, if Tambellini feels the need to add size, he’s got two spots in his top six forward positions where he can add it. Neither of them are at centre. With Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner at centre, Hall a lock as the top left-winger and Eberle entrenched as the first-line right winger, that leaves one spot on left wing and another on right wing going into next season when Ales Hemsky is gone.

If Tambellini feels the need to add some bulk – size that skate, shoot, make passes and think the game, not six-foot-three sluggos with wood for hands and poop for hockey sense – add it in those two spots to complement your smaller, skill guys. There is no "need" to trade Gagner in the name of size.

Find a way to keep your best players.

WHILE I’M AT IT

— How long are the Oilers veterans up front going to impersonate luggage while leaving the offensive load to Gagner, Eberle and Hall? It’s getting just a bit ridiculous, no?

While Gagner and Eberle remain hot as $3 pistols, Renney has to figure out how to coax some secondary scoring out of Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff that goes beyond throwing them over the boards for unproductive shift after unproductive shift, as was the case at The Joe. We’ve already seen this movie.

— I don’t know if Renney can explain why Horcoff got 22:04 of ice time against Detroit and Smyth played 19:37 while Eberle played just 17:24, Gagner saw just 17:19 and Hall got 18:23, but I’d love to hear his thinking behind that. If winning is part of the process, and the kids are your best players, throw them over the boards and stop deferring to the veterans.

— Would one of the Oilers equipment staff please tape Cam Barker’s stick to his gloves so there’s at least a chance it’ll spend as much time in his grasp as laying on the ice somewhere? Barker, struggling mightily for the second straight game with a minus-3 against the Red Wings, got caught flat-footed, clueless and stickless on two Detroit goals.

— If Magnus Paajarvi is going to insist on playing on the perimeter and flipping harmless shots on goal from outside – a tactic that has him with no goals on 63 shots this season – he’d be better served back in Oklahoma City. Let Paajarvi spend the rest of the season alongside Linus Omark and see if he can regain some semblance of confidence.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • shanetrain

    I really though Magnus was going to end his drought last night when he protected the puck and drove to the front of the net. Joey MacDonald made one helluva save but the consolation prize of that play was Sam scoring again.

  • CaptainLander

    According to the Bruins site they have 5 forwards over 200, 3 of them big guys. All of their centres are under 200.

    What is different about the Bruins is that they have two top six wingers that are huge in Horton at 230 and Lucic at 220. They also list seven centres in their forward group.

    Maybe they should treat Pajaarvi as well as they did Gagner and make sure he is given every chance to succeed, find another big winger and make some of the centres play wing so that when the playoff injury bug hits you don’t get thin down the middle which is killer.

    If they are keeping Gagner they should perhaps be looking at picking up a winger in the draft with the Hemsky pick. A couple look pretty good and have size even if the draft is weak.

  • CaptainLander

    @Brownlee – Future hypothetical question for you, say the Oil finish second last and select a Grigorenko. Bigger center, with skill. May not be an issue next year but the year after.

    Does a guy like this, coming though the draft usurp Gags from a 2nd line, can Gags be a third line, at this point does Gags get moved?

  • Travis Dakin

    Datsyuk 5-11 197, Zetterberg 5-11 195, Filpulla 5-11 174, Helm 5-11 172.

    not big but Played in two straight cup finals. Detroit is a pretty successful team with small centres.

  • Good Read Robin;

    I have a question though, why would the Oilers pass on a player like Grigorenko? (assuming the BJ’s take Yakupov) If he’s bigger, taller, faster, is expected to produce why wouldn’t the Oilers take him?

    Would it not make sense to move Gagner to the wing then? This way the Oilers don’t have to go out a try to acquire said big winger, would the Oilers be giving up an asset to get the winger (unless you go UFA route). Grigorenko is a free space on the board. Maybe I’m missing something it’s been a long day at work!

    Apologizes Robin if this questions been asked yet.

    • Fair question and one that will have to be addressed IF the Oilers get a top-two pick and get Grigorenko or Yakupov and IF it becomes clear they are all they are cracked up to be.

      That might necessitate moving Gagner to the wing or even trading him at some point, if Yakupov/Grigorenko prove to be clear upgrades and if the roster situation and potential returns for any trade make it worthwhile to do so. That time has not yet arrived — and might not.

      My only point, one that isn’t being grasped by at least one person, is that you don’t force out smaller more talented players for bigger less-talented players. Keep your best players and add size, if you really feel the need, by plugging them into open spots. This team likely has two of those in the top six after this deadline — one left winger and one right winger.

      • Do you think Hartikinen and Paajarvi are third line guys or do one of them have the goods to be a top six guy?

        I think Paajarvi has the tools. hartikinen I think will be a solid third line guy. Good for puck control, and chip in occasionally.

        If that is the case, shouldn’t we be keeping Hemsky or at least trying to get his “equivalent”?

        We will still need another winger for the top six.

        What do you think about about a Hemsky for Ryan Malone swap….

        Both having off years, but i believe Malone to be a top six guy. He improves the size and grit factor, plus he’s signed for what you would WANT to resign Hemsky for…about 5 mill x 3 years(I believe)

        With a draft pick or maybe Roloson-Khabibulin swap,could a deal be worked there

  • Mitch

    Robin I really like what I see from Gagner, he is showing that consistency. Sam is going to get a raise, I hope that it’s not huge raise, but this kid can handle the pressure, I for one have not been easy on him. Gagner getting a raise means Hemsky is a gonner.

    Renney isn’t going to get more from his veterans, with ice time totals like that and little too no production, Renney’s gonna get a pink slip. Tom’s explination on topics like Belanger on the pp are beyond idiotic, listen to him when he talks about Belanger, there Gretzky like comparisons. What did it for me was the empty net goal against the Flames, people ain’t on the same page.

    Last night Tom said on TSN that the team had nothing to lose, he was right. Where is the urgency though? If players aren’t going, sit them down.

    Until the team is ready to make some really tough descions on buyouts and step up on trades, which is probably at least 1 yr away we must continue to develop players.

    My take on #91, outside speed don’t do you any good in this league unless you pay the price and go to the middle of the ice. Magnus looks scared and must get committed to the wieghts this summer.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    Oh wise Mitch offering faults on three things that have been stated and stated again.

    Things tend to get quite asinine and redundant here.

    Only different thing is no one is spelling Gagner wrong and asking to trade him for Zack Kassian.