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.

  • Bryzarro World

    I am more convinced than ever that by dressing Barker, and playing Horcoff more than Gagner, the Oilers are deliberately tanking. There is no other explanation that makes sense.

  • I agree Doug, there’s just too much at stake…behind the scenes of course.

    I’m not saying I like it. But management, as far as I can tell, is all-in. Again, we don’t have to like it, but if we end up next year with a tradeable star forward, this maneuvering will be seen in a different light.

  • MJM

    “– 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.”

    He drove hard to the net on at least two occasions tonight, one of which set up a goal.

    Tonight was one of the few games all season I’ve noticed 91, and not for the “lack of 91” and I like to think not because he actually got some top 6/PP time either.

  • MJM

    While I agree with you generally on Pajaarvi’s play, I thought that he had some shifts tonight where he was physical on a couple of the D men. Also, his drive to the net on Gagner’s goal was nice to see (and a long time coming). Gotta start somewhere…

  • Bryzarro World

    It’s not how tall you measure but how big you play. Gagner has been playing bigger lately in that he has been going to the net hard for rebounds and deflections. However, our top 6 as a group still play small, at boths ends of the rink, which would also answer your question as to why Horcoff and Smyth keep getting so much ice time over the kids. They have to add a physical element to their game if they want more of the tough minutes.