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.


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:

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  • 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.


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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.


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. 

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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.

  • oilerjed

    The second line has been in a slump all year long?

    Haha ha, are you kidding me? The 2nd line carried the entire team for the better part of the year, and you listed the linemates wrong, Ralph didnt play it the way you illistrate at all, Hemsky was the thorn in the 2nd lines side, all year long, and that line was blended so much its hard to call it a line at all.

    The 1st line was a no-show all year long, it wasnt until eight or nine games ago that they even showed up. All the Kings horses and all the Kings Men couldnt put that line back together again the way Ralph asked them to play for most of the year, once they reunited recently and changed the dynamic managment of the entire line, only then did they begin to produce as we all expected them to do all year long.

    There has only been one season long slump and its been from the 1st line, get over the mancrush on Hall, he was the reason the offense wasnt balanced on the 1st line to start with, and for that matter Hemsky held back the 2nd line from producing even more goals than it did. There is no explanation for Nuges numbbers and Eberles crash, while Hall kept producing, ha ha Hall is a playaction Vampire and can cherrypick better than anyone I have ever seen. He needs to be kept on a tight leash as Krueger finally figured out when he sat him and sparked the fire we see now.

    Hemsky should never have been on the 2nd line, he should have been on the 3rd with Smyth and Horcs, all year long, our lines were terribly mismanaged this year, to an epic degree actually.

    Ralph was disguising Gagners true value and contribution levels and undermining his earned respect by refusing to move Hemsky to the 3rd line where he belonged, screw ralph Sam earned the compliments long ago on his own and they are to long in coming. Had we moved Hemsky to the 3rd with Smyth and Horcs and moved MPS to the 2nd with Gagner and Yakupov, kept our 1st line Hall-Nuge-Ebbs, and then properly managed the 1st line the EXACT way Gagner manages his line so it could have produced early like it is doing now, and asked the 3rd line to play the fastbreak pass game like they can with Whitneys support, we would have had 3 NHL caliber lines able to project diffeerent styles of execution, we would have been solidly in the playoffs right now. Instead Ralph tried to change the Players to fit the lines and system, he needed to adjust the system to fit the players and the dynamiccly correct lines they create together.

    Players who played with Gagner on the 2nd line or PP produced more goals for the team when we needed them to win games than any other spot this year. The 2nd line carried the team even though it was juggled constantly.

    I dont know how the hell anyone can look at the year our 1st line has had and not call it a season long slump? What have you been watching? Once you get to Nuges stats the game is over you know something was dynamiclly wrong with the 1st lines managment tactics all year long, you dont need to build Rockets for NASA to see that. Then you look at Eberle and his slump identical to Nuges and suddenly the air gets really thick and heavy because when you look at Taylor hall you get your answer
    to how and why those tow slumps catalysed and continued. A lack of dynamic managment balance.The 2nd line was succeeding even through Ralphs mismanagment because it was managed by someone well versed in NHS dynamic managment tactics. It was able to execute system responsibilitys and still create offense from outside of the systems playaction tactics. The 1st line wasnt able to do this because they didnt have anyone utilising Intuative Dynamic Managment skills as Gagner does. They had Halls hands on tactile stats based perspective dynamiclly managing the line and it was a classic case of putting the cart before the horse, Nuge is the Master on that line and ALWAYS will be, Hall is a tool for Nuge and ALWAYS will be, for that line to succeed and lead this team next year this message has to be clearly supported from game one, I screamed for change since game 3 of this year online because I instantly recognised our weaknesses dynamiclly, but whats a fan to do?Ha ha ha.

    Taylor Hall may have had sucess but it was at the direct cost to Nuge and Ebbs and it is not reflective of the line that carried the team, that was the 2nd line. Taylor overachieved because he was as I said an over dominant Playaction-Vampire from game on on, he was pumped and mismanaged by our coaching staff.

    Ralph misunderstood the NHS concepts and tried to build his lines around dynamiclly matched “duos” when he should have been building them around first his centermens strengths, creativity and skill, then his 3 zone entry specialists fits with his best snipers, those zone entry specialists are Hall, MPS, and Hemsky, we needed one per line and we needed them to stay intact all year long. Ralph misinterpreted the constellation of details needed to properly build and manage a line useing Intuative Dynamic Analysis, he tried dam hard, but he tried to shortcut the process by useing the “duos” idea,an admirable attempt at replicating the NHS concepts in abbreviated form, but not complete enough to achieve results. Ralph needs the entire NewAge Hockey System template, he is picking parts he wants and not incorporating them fully or completely and is recieving fals/positive results because of this fact. he isnt in for a dollar he is in for a dime and those are the results we are seeing.

  • oilerjed


    I think the Oilers did exactly the right thing given Gagner a 1 year contract last summer. They got another year to see what Gagner was made of when they obviously weren’t sure about him and they let themselves in a position where Gagner has to negotiate with them since he is a RFA. If knowing came with the risk of costing a bit more and they were more concerned on the downside, then good on them.

    But, as you point out, Gagner’s season makes this a tough call for the Oilers. Gagner’s offensive production has been a pleasant surprise for me. I would have bet he wouldn’t crack the 55 points/82 pace this season. But the possession numbers are frightening.

    If you are Gagner’s agent, you probably are happy that the Oilers demonstrate ZERO affinity for fancy stats like Corsi, so you probably should be good for a decent payday.

    That said, if Gagner wants more than $4.5M avg. with those possession numbers, I would look to deal him for a top defender. You likely will never get more value for him than you will this summer. Then cross your fingers Lazar is the real deal or deal one of the defensive prospects in a package for a second line centre.