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.
SAM THE GOOD
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.
THE NOT SO GOOD
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.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.