The Edmonton Oilers and GM Steve Tambellini have boxed themselves in with Sam Gagner’s summer contract. Content to sign him to a 1-year deal, the young center has delivered impressive boxcars and will cost a pretty penny–and he’s eligible for free agency just around the corner. Steve Tambellini is faced with buying free agent seasons at a premium, or trading 89.
SHOULD THEY SIGN HIM?
Taken from pretty much every angle, Sam Gagner’s offensive numbers are good:
- Overall: 39, 14-21-35 (2nd on Oilers)
- Even: 39, 10-9-19 (tied-2nd on Oilers)
- PP: 39, 39, 4-10-14 (tied-1st on Oilers)
- PK: 39, 0-2-2 (tied-1st on Oilers)
Gagner’s 35 points have him tied for 24th in the entire NHL, and if we were looking at a full season the youngster would be on pace for a 70-point season. He’s also a player the coach counts on based on TOI:
- EV: 14:37 per game (4th among Oiler forwards)
- PP: 2:50 per game (4th among Oiler forwards)
- PK: 1:45 per game (5th among Oiler forwards)
So, based on those totals I think it’s safe to suggest that Gagner is a pure "2nd line" forward on a healthy Oilers club, at least based on the way Ralph Krueger is using him this season. Fair?
When the Oilers signed Gagner to a mere one-year deal, there was a lot of chatter about consistency. Gagner has been an Oiler for a long time now–this is his sixth season–and all of the years before had at least one item that hurt his report card. Last season, he went a long period without impacting the offense as an example (Gagner went 19, 4-3-7 to close out the season after a brilliant 13, 9-9-18 February). This season, the offense has been consistent:
- January: 7, 3-5-8
- February: 12, 3-8-11
- March: 15, 7-5-12
- April: 5, 1-3-4
On the way to what would be his career season if it rolled out over 82 games.
THEN WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Well, it’s like this: coach Ralph Krueger appears to be trying to get Samwise offensive opportunities with the third and fourth (roughly) best wingers on the team, and 89 and those wingers simply CAN NOT do one damn thing with it in terms of outshooting the opposition and outchancing the other guy 5×5 with death on the line.
Any way you look at this, Gagner centers a line that borders on tragedy. The most confusing part? The WOWY numbers tell us that during zone-adjusted zone start/close situations Gagner-Hemsky isn’t working. This is a duo one would expect to flourish against the softer parade. Why isn’t it working?
- maybe it’s the rookie (Yakupov) or the young winger (Paajarvi) having a hard time.
- maybe it’s the Hemsky injury
Or, maybe it is as Tyler Dellow described today in a brilliant item over at his site. Tyler’s conclusion–it’s on management to answer for and figure out this mess (beyond the 1line) is the most important item.
And with Gagner’s contract up–and a signficant increase in pay likely–this is very important right bloody now.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
There’s been much clamoring about Sam Gagner’s lack of size being a major issue for the Oilers. I don’t think that’s a huge deal–we all remember how useful size looked when JF Jacques and Ryan Stone joined the skilled guys–but this season long slump by the 2line may be something Sam Gagner does not survive. Samwise will enter the summer expecting a big raise and a long term deal, and could find himself in a new city as early as draft day.
On the other hand, his coach considers him the 4th best option among forwards, and he’s having his finest offensive season.
Confused? Me too.