WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

I’ve never been to Cabo, but if a trip to Cabo recharges you and ignites your performance like it has Sam Gagner’s I think I’ll be booking a trip next year. Since the all-star break, when Gagner hung out on the beach for a few short days, Gagner has 19 points in 10 games. He’s in a battle with Ilya Kovalchuk to win NHL player of the month for February, both have 18 points in nine games, athough Gagner has nine goals to Kovalchuk’s five.

Gagner might get 25 points in February, if he continues his scorching streak over the next four games. He has been incredible over the past month, but when you look closer, Gagner has been pretty solid for more than just ten games.

Gagner started the season on the IR and missed the first six games. On November 21st he had two measly assists in his first 13 games. He wasn’t producing, and he was still trying to recover from a high ankle sprain.

On November 22nd Gagner’s season took a drastic turn.

At 15:22 of the 2nd period, frustrated with not producing, Gagner dropped the gloves with Matt Halischuk and you might be surprised what happened after the fight.

Gagner added an assist on the Oilers 5th goal later that evening, in a 6-2 route over the Predators, but that fight played a small part in turning Gagner’s season around. "I’m not sure why, but after I get in a fight I play grittier and get involved in the game more. I think it’s because after I take a few punches and I don’t get hurt, I realize that I can be more involved. I’m not saying I should fight all the time (laughs) but it seems to get me going a bit," Gagner told me a few days after that tilt.

The mind is a powerful tool. It can convince us we are stronger than we are, and often it convinces us we are weaker than we are. Whether that knuckle-chucking was the catalyst for Gagner’s incredible turnaround is a debateable, but there is no doubting that he’s been on a tremendous run ever since.

That night he assisted on Shawn Horcoff’s goal and from November 22nd until tonight, Gagner has played 39 games and racked up 14 goals and 38 points. For three months Gagner has essentially been a point-a-game player. He’s never been this productive for this long of a period. In the final 34 games of the 2008 campaign he tallied 33 points in 34 games, but up until the past three months he’d never been able to maintain this type of offensive production.

Back on January 9th I sat down with Gagner and he talked openly about needing to find consistency. In that article he was very honest about wanting to become a consistent producer. 

I’ve had different clips like this over my career where I’ve been good for 20 or so games, but for me it’s a matter of being consistent for the rest of the year. I had a tough start, coming off the injury, but there was still lots of hockey left and that’s what I’ve been focusing on for the past six weeks and I’ll do the same for the 2nd half. I wanted to find my game and be sure that I was ready every night to play, and I feel that recently that’s been the case. It’s been a tough go the past month, but I want to help the group find ways to win, and the best way to do that is be consistent."

 

Definitely. You want to be looked at by your teammates and your coaching staff as a guy who you know what you’re getting from every night. I felt like in the past it is something that is hard to do over an 80 game schedule, and it’s something that I struggled with. If I can find that consistency it will go a long ways towards helping the team and helping me contribute to wins. I want to continue to get better every night at that (consistency) and making sure I’m good on both sides of the puck and the last little while it has been that way and hopefully I keep it that way."

 

It is easy to say we want to accomplish things in life, but it is much harder to go out and do it. Since that night in Nashville Gagner has been very consistent. Only twice has he gone more than two games without a point , a three-game and a six-game drought. However, in 24 of the 36 games that he took a faceoff he was 50% or better. Not only has he become a better point-producer he’s winning more faceoffs. He’s developing every aspect of his game.

I understand when some wonder if this is just another Gagner hot-streak, but remember he’s never been this consistent for this long. He looks more confident in his overall game than he ever has before, and he’s making a case that he, along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, could make a pretty good 1-2 punch down the middle.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I’m not certain the last 39 games prove he’s going to be a regular 65-point player, but if he remains close to this pace over the final 23 games, he’s going to make many of us wonder if this was his breakout year. Gagner is still extemely young, he’s only nine months older than Jordan Eberle, despite having three more years of NHL experience under his belt, and it is still too early to accurately say what type of player he’ll develop into.

He’s taken a large step the past three months, and if he can turn that into another solid two months, then it will become increasingly harder to say he isn’t a top-six NHL forward.

38 points in 39 games puts Gagner amongst the league leaders since November 22nd:

Evgeni Malkin         57 points
Steven Stamkos    50
Ilya Kovalchuk        48
Jason Spezza        45
Pavel Datsyuk        44
Claude Giroux        44
Henrik Sedin          42
John Tavares          42
Jordan Eberle        40
Zach Parise            40
Scott Hartnell          39
Sam Gagner           38
Jonathon Toews     38
Ray Whitney            38
Joffrey Lupul            37
Olli Jokinen             37
Daniel Sedin           37
Patrick Elias            37
Radim Vrbata         36
Jason Pominville   36
James Neal            36
Marty St. Louis        36
Marian Hossa         35
Phil Kessel              35
Marian Gaborik       35
Teemu Selanne      34

For the past three months Gagner has been a top-12 scorer in the NHL. You might say it is a prolonged hot-streak, but the longer it goes, the harder it is to argue that this might be Gagner’s coming out party. 

      • 24% body fat

        Based upon all the scouting reports there is a chance that grigorenko doesn’t become a high end offensive centre but based upon his two way play could still be a good defensive centre with some offensive upside. Just because he’s drafted at no.2 doesn’t mean he becomes a top line centre (David Legwand anyone?). Oilers should draft best player available and then if the forwards do end up creating a log jam then try to make a deal.

    • O.C.

      ? What the… point being…?

      I’m confused. Drafting another “Stud Centre” makes Shawn of the Dead expendable or at least the 4th option.

      RNH
      Gagner
      Grigorenko

      but… there’s also Anton (who is a kid rookie this year) and Pitlick (who is a player that has tons of upside) and Belanger who I think signed with an NTC (could be wrong there tho).

      So yes maybe another Top Centre isn’t the need but trading down a spot is always an option.

  • vetinari

    Gags is the poster boy for delayed development. I find it interesting how many people at the start of January were on the “trade Gagner” bandwagon because, at age 22, he was considered by them to be a bust.

    This is where teams like Detroit excel in player development: don’t rush the player, let him find his game and some success in the AHL or Europe first, and then slowly bring him onto the big roster in a controlled manner where veterans are going to compensate for some of his shortcomings until the player learns the ropes.

    Edmonton typically chucks players into the deep end of the pool (and usually with a group of them at the same time: see Gagner & Cogliano; or, Hall & Eberle) and then fans get critical when the players don’t develop into their full potential by the third year of their contract.

    Gagner is unusual in the sense that there are no other veteran players on the team that play the way he does and can mentor him on being a second line centre. Horcoff? Smyth? Hemsky? Jones? Eager? Either those players play different positions or play with a different skill set which makes Gagner’s progress all the more unique.

    • Not sure that I buy the notion that Gagner should have been left back for the sake of his development. He had a very good rookie year and kept his head above water in the rest. The fact that he’s just now breaking out in the NHL would be the same if he hadn’t been playing in the league for a couple of seasons after his draft year. It’s not like the Oilers had a lot of other options at center anyway.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Where`s all the Gagner haters now….crickets

    Sam is doing so many things better. His skating has improved, and it seems hes able to keep up. He doesn`t look as slow as before. He also seems to be not overhandling the puck, probably do to the linemates. His vision, offensive awareness, and scoring touch has been unreal.

    Glad it appears we got ourselves a keeper.

  • @andrewmk20

    http://www.tsn.ca/draftcentre/feature/?id=58415

    http://www.tsn.ca/draftcentre/feature/?id=57124

    http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=387177

    So just watch what Bob has to say about the first two picks, and then you can re-evaluate your stance on Grigorenko.

    This is why I think Gagner maybe moved at the draft to secure the Oilers a top Defenseman.

    It’s just a hunch because they may move Gagner to the wing next year if they can’t sign Hemsky.

    A lot can happen and I hate to speculate but mostly because I like Gagner.

  • Milli

    I have never been a Gagner hater, I don’t think I have said many bad words about the young man. I like the way he plays, i like that he fights. I like his try. I wonder if now is the time to trade him? What would the return be? I worry that with him, ebs and nuge, we are real small upfront. I dunno, just was thinking it today. Hemmer on the other hand, never been a huge fan even though for years he was the ONLY reason to watch, but suddenly I think he should be re-upped. One of those days I guess!!!

  • paul wodehouse

    …y’just seem to get a little older and wiser when your father passes…suddenly or not that whole mortality thing snaps your perspective into place…something I call the Cruel Indifference of the Universe…stay strong and live your life just like the old man wanted you to…GodBless Arch