Is Sam Gagner on the verge of returning to the Oilers?

 

The Oilers might be about to get some welcome – and oh so rare – good news on the injury front. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Gagner is “getting much closer to a return” and McKenzie hints that the Oilers’ centre could be back basically any day now.

McKenzie’s tweet comes four days after the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland offered the most recent update on Gagner’s health.

A Brief History of an Injury

Zack Kassian’s reckless use of his stick ended up breaking Gagner’s jaw and leaving his face a bit of a mess:

The injury came on September 21; at the time the expectation was that Gagner would miss six-to-eight weeks, putting his estimated time of return sometime around the first half of November. Roughly a week later, at the start of October, Gagner told the Journal’s Jim Matheson that he wanted that timeline down to four or five weeks; tomorrow will mark the fourth week since Gagner made that comment to Matheson.

Gagner has been practicing with the team for 10 days, now it’s just a matter of him being cleared to play.

The Lineup

How do the Oilers adjust their lines if Gagner is ready, for instance, to play against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday? Dallas Eakins could choose to stick him in the top-six immediately, displacing one of Mark Arcobello, Ales Hemsky or Nail Yakupov, or he could ease him in as a second centre on Boyd Gordon’s line.

After watching Mark Arcobello’s line struggle against the Kings’ Anze Kopitar (and in fairness, the whole team was struggling), I personally like the idea of bumping Gagner into the top-six and sticking Arcobello on Boyd Gordon’s line, like so:

  • 1. Nail Yakupov – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
  • 2. David Perron – Sam Gagner – Ales Hemsky
  • 3. Ryan Jones – Boyd Gordon – Mark Arcobello
  • 4. Luke Gazdic/Anton Lander – Will Acton – Ben Eager

Gagner gives the Oilers options, though the similarity of a bunch of these forwards makes constructing balanced lines difficult. The team is still better with him than without him.

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  • I’d like to see Gagner on the wing, at least for a few weeks, to see what he can do there. Arcabello has filled in nicely and can handle the defensive side of the game better than Gags. Gagner is more dynamic offensively for sure, but hopefully he can find that part of his game playing the wing.

  • Serious Gord

    I would leave Arco on the second line and start Gags on the 3rd line winger spot.
    Reasons – Arco has developed some chemistry with Hemmsky and Perron as well as Ebs on the first line. He is good defensively and leads all forwards with hits (or so I hear. His FO % is above 50% and you know how poor Gags is on the dot. Arco has what 8 points in 10 games…excellen t!
    Gags is poor on faceoffs and will definitley be rusty..leave him with Gordon on the wing and he can (hopefully) pick up a few tips and get his timing back with fewer minutes initially anyways. Gags would do well in a checking role as he was a good PK player last year.
    Long term when Jonesuu, Smyth and Hall get back Arco may have to be shipped down or their MAY be an trade opportunity.

  • Zarny

    You completely miss the point.

    It’s not about an extra inch or an extra 10-20 lbs although that does amount to a full weight-class bigger.

    It’s about a style of play. It’s about scoring goals a different way mostly in the playoffs.

    Toews is strong enough to go into the corner and physically battle Chara. He’s listed at 209 lbs but looks more like 220 lbs. Gagner looks like a hobbit next to him.

    No one on the Oilers top 6 F except maybe Hall could go into a corner with Chara and come out alive right now.

    Hossa is considerably stronger on his skates that any Oiler top 6 F. Compared to Hossa every Oiler top 6 F is easy to knock off the puck.

    And you forgot to look at who else made contributions for Chi last year.

    Brian Bickell 6’4″ 233 lbs. 17 pts in 23 playoffs games. They also had C Michael Handzus 6’5″ 215 lbs.

    Why stop at Chi and Bos? Look at LA…Jeff Carter 6’4″ 220 lbs, Dustin Brown 6′ 212 lbs, Anze Kopitar 6’3″ 225 lbs, Kyle Clifford 6’2″ 209 lbs.

    You’re right once Hall fills out he’ll probably be 210-215 lbs. That gives the Oilers 1 top 6 F that can play heavy on the puck.

    Perron, Eberle, Yakupov, Nuge and Gagner will never be heavy on the puck. Sure they might fill out a bit more but they are perimeter players.

    They will never score the type of goals you get from Hossa, Lucic, Brown, Perry, Horton, Carter, Bickell or any of the bigger power F in the playoffs. Never.

    And if you actually want to win the Stanley Cup that is what the Oilers will need. You are not going to get the required physical play from a group who averages 6′ 191 lbs.

    FYI…the average NHL forward is 6’1″ 205 lbs. That’s the average.

    Every single Oiler top 6 F is smaller than the NHL average. Nuff said.

    And yes, the Oilers need a couple of legit shutdown D like Keith & Seabrook to win the cup too.

    • Perron, Eberle, Yakupov, Nuge and Gagner will never be heavy on the puck. Sure they might fill out a bit more but they are perimeter players.

      They will never score the type of goals you get from Hossa, Lucic, Brown, Perry, Horton, Carter, Bickell or any of the bigger power F in the playoffs. Never.

      This is a great point, and an important one, but the problem is that everyone who argues this point completely fails to mention the fact that none of these guys can score the type of goals that the Oilers you mentioned can score.

      You may or may not be right, but to make a fair argument you have to look at the whole picture.

      • Zarny

        No one fails to mention to anything. No one said every small F needs to be upsized. 6 Milan Lucic’s doesn’t win the Cup either.

        Winning has always been about the right mix of players.

        The 80’s Oilers had Gretz, Kuri and Anderson but they also had Mark Messier who beat the crap out of opponents. Mess could lean on any D in the league and drive the net.

        Chi, Bos and LA also have guys like Kane, Krejci, Bergeron and Kopitar. They create offense one way and guys like Hossa, Lucic and Brown get it done another way.

        The result is those teams can win different kinds of games. And that is the only way you win 16 playoff games.

        The Oilers have the skill they need in spades. They just need more than 59-180 games of NHL experience.

        But they have nothing else. That might get you into the playoffs but it won’t win you the Cup.

        Pit has 2 of 3 best players on the planet and more skill than Edm. They got halfway to winning the Cup last year and then got pasted by the Bruins.

        • pkam

          So Pits only got halfway to winning the cup because they don’t have the right mix of players (only skilled players but no power forwards and two way players)?

    • No I didn’t miss the point, I quite get your point. You’re now bringing up others who make contributions, but from the bottom 6 when you speak of Bickell and Handzus. Yes, the Oilers dearly need these types of guys, who absolutely could move up the line-up into the top 6 they’re facing heavier teams. Move Perron to the third line and insert Bickell onto the second line? I’d love that. But I don’t want to see Perron traded for a coke machine who can’t play either.

      Don’t get me wrong, the Oil absolutely need guys like Bicks & Handzus to win a cup. Can Joensuu be one of those guys? I have my doubts but that’s what MacT is trying to do is to bring in some meat that can play. That’s why he offered Clarkson what he did, because he sees this as a need. Doesn’t mean you trade Yakupov at this point to acquire a 15 goal scorer because he’s 15 lbs heavier and 3 inches taller.

      I think you missed one of my points as well. They’re not going to stay 191 lbs as a group. They’ll be closer to the 205 lb average you mentioned than 191 in 3 years.

      Would it be nice to have Lucic? Obviously. Anyone who says no would need their head checked.

  • Gagner was a big time contributor to the Oilers potting some wins last season. Both he and Hall were probably the two best forwards and having one or both of them out over the first 13 games has really hurt this club. I’d like to see what this team can do with both of them back.

    I really like Arcobello. but with Gagner coming back, he gets bumped down. I think he is much better playing with skilled wingers than playing on a grinding line. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong again. I guess we’ll see.

  • Zarny

    For those who think having Gagner back will change our fortunes, I would contend he will need at least 5 games to re-adjust.

    Over the last five games it’s clear our shot differential has gone south and somehow I don’t see Gagner changing that. It’s funny how the professional writers have all mentioned that the Oilers defensively are lacking but not a one of them hold Dallas Eakins accountable for his lack of NHL systems as the problem.

    They can continue to state the obvious but at some time they have to assess responsibility where it belongs…….coaching!

  • pkam

    Re-uniting Gags and Hemsky should be interesting tonight. The buds are almost as bad as the Oil defensively, so it could be a show. Last year when playing together gags and Hemsky were consistent point producers, but were also minus players. Dangerous at both ends of the ice.

  • Katz reminds me of Howard Hughes. When Hughes.
    was losing his empire, and marbles, he surrounded himself by Mormon aides, who he obviously felt were the most reliable people he could think of. Katz unfortunately surrounds himself with larry, curly, and mo, aka Lowe howson and Mac, plus the assistants Bucky and boso. I’m not sure why this fatal attraction continues, but one would think that after Katz bulldozed his way to getting a new arena, he may consider the fact that all the fans may have disappeared. If you ran rexall like you operate the oilers you’be selling reading glasses at the farmers market. Am I outta booze already! The coal miner