The Edmonton Oilers are less than a week away from salary arbitration with one of their young forwards, Sam Gagner. Five years into his NHL career–and still young enough to be part of the young cluster of talented forwards–Gagner’s contract will tell us what each side really thinks of the other.

Five years into a relationship you should know enough about a person to decide if the next 5 includes them. Everyone has their foibles, things you’d like to change, bad hair days, strange relatives, love of truly dreadful things like fruitcake and cleaning.


Gagner has delivered offense in his 5 seasons–he is 2nd in total points from his draft year–and has done it with a variety of linemates (some good, some Jacques). He’s also worked very hard on the aspects of the game that needed improvement.

  • Former coach Tom Renney in 2011: Well hey, what’s been lost in the equation with Sam, and the expectations that he certainly has for himself, but also everyone else does too; he’s really worked on his defensive game. He’s worked on his two-way game. The number of clips that we showed last year of Sam being sorta that third guy high in the offensive zone… reloading hard and getting back above the puck as the first forechecker… taking his responsibility right back deep into our own end. Those are huge commitments from players and certainly a player like Sam, where instinctively at least, the offense comes real easy to him. The defense is something he has continued to have to work on, and he should continue to. I think he’s becoming a more complete player. I think given the nature of our line-up now, and the depth and the competence of people… to do things on both sides of the puck. I think it’ll actually allow Sam to really sort of spread his wings, reach a little further offensively and be that type of guy that we hoped he would be, certainly contributing to our offense.”

Gagner’s Corsi QOC number–which measures the quality of competition during all events–shows Gagner is one of the players who is on the ice when the puck is heading in the right direction. This chart tells us he plays very well with Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky with the game on the line–perhaps offering a line combination for 12-13.

  • 5×5 points per 60: 1.96 (4th among regular forwards)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 3.66 (6th among regular forwards)
  • Qual Comp: 8th toughest among regular forwards
  • Qual Team: 6th best teammates among regular forwards
  • Corsi Rel: 6.3 (4th best among regular forwards)
  • Zone Start: 54.1% (4th easiest among regular forwards)
  • Zone Finish: 51.8% (4th best among regular forwards)
  • Shots on goal/percentage: 149/12.1% (5th among F’s>100 shots)
  • Boxcars: 75, 18-29-47
  • Plus Minus: +5 on a team that was -26

That’s a pretty nice season for such a young player.


Up until this point in his career, Gagner has not been successful against tough opposition. In fact, despite the struggles of Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger last season, coach Renney was hesitant to match him up against tough opponents. That’s understandable for a coach protecting a young player, but this is the point in his career where Gagner needs to become a leader. The lessons suggested by Tom Renney above need to be applied at higher levels.

Gagner gets good linemates these days–certainly better than in the past. This chart shows he enjoyed a steady diet of Hall, Eberle, Hemsky this season and he should get more of the same if he’s an Oiler in 12-13. Gagner also fell off badly after his big 8 point game, at a time in the season when injuries really crushed the depth. This points to Samwise being more of a complementary player than a guy who can push results on his own.


Look, for an organization that spent half a decade worth of picks on centermen and came away with Jesse Niinimaki, Marc Pouliot and Rob Schremp, a guy like Sam Gagner is manna from heaven. I think the Oilers would be wise to look long term, 4 or even 5 years. Make the cap hit reasonable and understand that he may never be the guy leading the charge. However, his sublime skills and cerebral playmaking ability make him a quality player who can play with the elite kids.

That’s not an easy thing to do.


Nation Radio hits the air at noon today on Team 1260. Among the scheduled guests:

  • James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail. We’ll talk about the NHL/NHLPA negotiations along with a quick trip through the Canadian NHL cities and their summer acitivity.
  • Benjamin Wendorf from Arctic Ice Hockey. Benjamin will tell us about the Jets summer and how they’ve spent their dollars.
  • Rob Vollman from Hockey Abstract. Vollman is a brilliant hockey mind and has introduced "usage charts" to inquiring hockey minds. It’s a revelation.
  • Corey Pronman from Hockey Prospectus. Corey’s Oilers top 10 prospect list is a must read and his insights are valuable for any hockey fan.
  • Eric T. from NHL Numbers. Eric has been looking at some information collected through the Philadelphia Flyers 11-12 season and it reveals astounding results in regard to possession, zone entries and the importance of neutral zone play. This is some ground breaking stuff.

Emails welcome to and you can twitter @lowetide_ or @ItsNationRadio. You can also post thoughts and questions in the comments section of this post. It’ll be fun. Bring your brain.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Forget about Sam for a second, why aren’t we after Semin?

    Hey, so why is Semin still out there? There has been a ton written lately dispelling the rumors about him being lazy and not backchecking and all that. His numbers are incredible!!!!!! And because his phone doesn’t seem to be ringing, couldn’t we get him for cheap on a short contract? The line combinations with Semin on our team are endless. Watching him mentor our other young Russian with either Nuge or Gags between them would be such a show. Hell, shelter the line and give them easy competition to absolutely chew through. Or sling him on the top line with Nuge and Ebs, let Hall and Nail tear it up on the second line and use the third vet line for crowd control. Adding him and say a Coliacivo on the back end, shipping some people out or getting them on two contracts for injury replacement and the Oilers officially become the most skilled team, maybe ever? Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Semin, Nail, Gags, Hemsky. The other teams wouldn’t know what to do. Obviously this is a huge long shot and everyone is going to say he doesn’t fit in, or we’re not ready for free agency or whatever, but again, I bet you under pay a durable, proven 40 goal scorer to come to Edmonton short term while the kids grow, learn, and become dominant. Plus there does seem to be a spot on that left wing that needs filling. Right now it looks like either Paajarvi or Harti will take it, but really isn’t Semin just a head and shoulders better option than either of those? If Tambillini is really serious about improving the team, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be trying to get Semin for bottom dollar. If this was three years ago and Semin hit the open market, he would be the biggest name in free agency. Anyway, I know this had nothing to do with Gagner, but I’m just shocked this guy hasn’t signed anywhere yet.

      • Cheap Shot Charlie

        Hmmmm, if you are interested check out this great piece on SB nation about that very notion:

        I’m not saying he’s going to lead the Oilers ala Crosby or Ovechkin to consecutive playoff berths, but what I am saying is that given his numbers, especially how they’re presented in this article. Why has a team not signed him yet? And because a team hasn’t signed him, does anyone think he can be had for cheap. And if he can be had for cheap, or at all, why wouldn’t the Oilers want to at least look at him. As for not doing the work in areas he needs to, I’m saying that might be a myth. Certainly he would at least be a substantial upgrade on our left wing after Hall, and since there appears to kind of be a spot open depending on how the lines shake out, why on earth would the Oilers not try to upgrade / fill a huge hole. Everyone’s Oilers shopping list seems to have at least one more top six forward, well this is about as top six forward as free agents get, only nobody wants him.

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    Gagner doesn’t rhyme with Gilmour yet, but he’s still a good player who hasn’t seen his best days. 5 years is perfect and I hope when this is sorted there’s no hard feelings on either side. I want to see what these top six can do together with a healthy Hemsky and a brand new Yakupov upgrade. If Gagner forever becomes the defensive conscience of the top 6 and can still put up 45-55 points a year, and fight the odd good fight, how is that bad?
    Maybe make him play without a helmet?…

  • Reg Dunlop

    We have 2 NHL centres and 2 veteran boarderline types. Adios to Sam for a Dman means Horc or Blancmanger move up the depth chart. This we don’t want because, well, they are Horc and Blancmanger. Also because we are thick with quality D prospects, some(Klef,MartinX2,Fedun) that really could be players soon. Why create a donut second line when we don’t have to?

    I like Sam and you should too. As soon as a skill first team wins Stanley, everyone will clamor to acquire a 2C like Sam. Plus, 1 gristly centre won’t keep our youngsters from being abused.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    1.) Sign Semin to underpaid free agency contract because nobody, for some reason seems to want him.

    2.) Move Hall to center (though with him being out till a few weeks into the hopefully regular season I don’t know when this will happen outside of a game situation

    3.) Trade Gagner for a good name D (like a Yandle or whatever else we perceive we need) thus giving us three solid (not top end but solid) lines of D.

    4.) Hope Winnipeg is in a selling position before the deadline a trade either prospects or picks for Antripov, talk to him beforehand and ensure he’ll sign an extension for less money than he gets now.

    What was accomplished:

    Better size at #2 center with some veteran presence who traditionally plays well with scoring Russian wingers (which we’d have two of on either side of him)

    Better D as all three lines have a point producing puck mover who’s not a defensive liability (I”m looking at you Wideman), and a more traditional and steady shut down guy with degrees of physicality and meanness.

    1 player gone, 2 brought back upgrading on size, skill, and veteran presence to help with our youth movement, without getting too old so as not to be able to compete in the coming years.

    Honestly, of all the hypothetical what if scenarios, underpaying Semin, and getting Antirpov in Edmonton for little (Assuming Winnipeg are sellers at the deadline), and finally trading gags for D is the scenario I both like the best, and think could actually work (See no pie in the sky trades like Omark for Weber).

    • Wax Man Riley

      Semin will sign for $5M+ a season. Look what Hemsky got.

      So you are saying trade Gagner for Yandle? That leaves us thin at C and I’m not sure Phoenix does that. Why do they want Gagner if you don’t?

      HOPE Winnipeg wants to sell Antropov for nothing? What if Winnipeg doesn’t want to give him away for nothing, or Antropov doesn’t look to sign your value contract? We are stuck with Horcoff or Belanger at #2C. Hello lottery.

      I say trade Omark for Weber. Throw in some picks or prospects to sweeten the pot.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Trading Gagner to upgrade the Defense leaves a big hole on our second line. Eberle has played Center so maybe hes an option, Hall has played Center as well so hes an option – but both players would be better on the Wing so I think it would be a mistake.

    If Hall moves to Center, than Hartkainen would get the 2rw/3rw spot, but I dont think that is the solution for a playoff team. We dont need rookies coming into the lineup(other than Schultz and Yakupov) this year, and more growing pains.

    We should sign a Kubina/Kuba type dmen, and Hartkainen should come into the lineup when injuries occur – which they always do. Lets have the depth and AHL guys come up and be suitable replacements when our small roster gets hurt – rather than the opposite which leads to lottery picks year after year.

    • Wanyes bastard child

      What do you think of my above proposal to get Semin on LW (eliminating more young kids coming in the same year), and hopefully getting Nick Antorpov (who was good with scoring Russian wingers, of which Nail and Semin both are).

      Plus that frees up Gagner to be traded for D.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Huge “hugs” to you DSF. Your inability to express your love for the oilers is just a product of our lousy education system and I for one will continue to believe that under all of your not so complex layers is a misunderstood person crying out to be the head of the oiler fan club. More “hugs”

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Dommination To Follow


    I like the idea of Signing Semin, I personally believe the Media has assassinated his character for some reason(because hes Russian) and his laziness is extremely exagerated. Only 4 players- FOUR in the entire NHL have a better +- than Semin in the last 5 years(Chara, Sedin, Sedin, Burrows). Nash was -19 last year and makes 7.8, but because hes a good ol Canadian Boy- his character is never questioned. If Semin were to accept a 2 year deal – 6 Mil per I would be open to the idea. As a fan adding a 30/30 guy that pushes us up against the cap is a positive, ultimately its Katz money not ours.

    Gagner has accomplished more than most 25-26 year olds in the NHL so unless we are getting back Yandle,Enstrom, Bogosian- I would not trade him. I would prefer to trade Hemsky for a #3/#4 Dman as I dont see him as a fit on the most expensive 3rd line in NHL History.


    Im not sure who would be on the #1 pp – but both units would be absolutely dynamite.

  • O.C.

    Semin isn’t lazy. He’s soft and disappears with hitting. Teams figured that out and now he stays out of the hard areas.

    Anyone can float high and be a “great two way player”

  • DoubleJ

    Is there a way to see what Gagner’s production is when he plays with Hemsky. I think his production is way off when he plays with Hemsky. I would actually bet money his point totals drop when he plays with Ales.

    I hope they sign Gagner, but Hemsky doesn’t follow any systems and you can see the frustration on Gagners face after a shift where he try’s to read Hemsky’s mind on a missed played rush. It happened a lot.

    • 24% body fat

      Ha! indeed you’re better off trading Omark for Weber. The Oilers should have seen if Omark and Renny were enough to get Weber.

      As for Semin I honestly don’t know what that contract would look like. Since he hasn’t been signed yet, it kind of says to me everyone is waiting to see where Nash goes, and then the remaining teams will scramble to scoop up the remaining talent.

      What do you think it would take to bring him here? Do you think there’s a hole at LW? Is Semin an upgrade on the current potential LW? (Smyth, Hall, Paajarvi, Harti, or Hemsky/Nail off wing)

      Is a top two lines that include (in no particular combination) Hall, Nuge, Ebs, Nail, Semin, Antripov not a huge upgrade on the current crop?

  • Gary

    Also, are you seriously comparing Horcoff to Jordan Eberle, and All Star in his second NHL season?

    Have you ever played hockey? I’m sure you have. And so you know one of the easiest tasks in the world is to “back check”, “clear the zone”, “dump the puck in”, etc. Secondary stats are probably good measurement tools for average to below average players. Because you will never see Sam Gagner drive the net or with speed and size, or win a puck battle in the corner, he better darn well be good at “moving the puck in the right direction”.

    I think the reason Edmonton guys are so onto the advanced – sorry, SECONDARY – stats, are because most of our players’ primary stat numbers have been so abysmal for the past 10 years.

    Ever played RISK? A guy can accumulate the best stats in the world for 90% of the game and still lose, because he never learned how to beat anybody.

    • 24% body fat

      I compared their seasons! you obviously dont understand to read the replies properly.

      Have you ever played hockey, you probably never had an eight point night. But ya Sam has no skill.

      And for the hundredth time I am not using advance stats, I quoted one.

      I am not ripping on Eberle, I like the majority of our players being a fan and all. The rest of you the rip on players for there size, or lack of other things is ridiculous as most of them give it there all. Gagner has been said to be the hardest working oiler numerous times by coaching and management.

      So ya edmonton lets trade actually NHL players for coke machines.