Sam Gagner and the Reset Scratch

One of the things limiting head coach Dallas Eakins’ ability to make changes up the middle has been the recent injuries suffered by Boyd Gordon. Once Gordon’s back, though, Eakins has the perfect opportunity to send a message, by scratching underperforming veteran Sam Gagner.

Why Gagner?

Gagner isn’t the only player on the team who has done enough to earn a seat in the press box. He is, however, the one the Oilers would miss the least.

While Jordan Eberle to Justin Schultz or Taylor Hall have all exhibited the kind of ‘damn the defence, let’s get the goals’ mindset that the Oilers can’t seem to shake even when, say, defending a narrow lead, all of them also provide something that’s hard to find elsewhere. Hall and Eberle drive offence; Schultz is needed on a blue line lacking competence and now short Jeff Petry.

Gagner’s been worse than any of the others, and if this season is any indication Mark Arcobello would be an upgrade, at least over a single game. This would be a “reset” scratch, like the one Petry just had or Nick Schultz did earlier this year, one where the coach could make it clear that a laissez faire attitude towards puck management and defensive positioning simply isn’t tolerable.

Suggested Top-Nine

  • Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
  • Perron – Arcobello – Yakupov
  • Smyth – Gordon – Hemsky

The other nice thing about this setup is that it gives Eakins two solid defensive zone lines. The third line has been his defensive zone choice for most of the season, and it’s been doing just fine in that role of late (with Arcobello in for Gordon).

But this lineup also gives Eakins the option of double-shifting Anton Lander in for Nail Yakupov and sticking the second line out there for defensive zone draws too without being overly concerned about. And let’s be honest, halfway through the game when Yakupov and the fourth line gets glued to the bench that’s a nice option to have.

Then What?

I still think Sam Gagner’s a useful NHL player. I also think he’s a guy whose two-way game probably suffered from all the coaching turnover in Edmonton over the years.

But he’s played badly this season. At first, injury was the obvious (and reasonable excuse), but at some point the Oilers need to get more out of him. They don’t have enough defensively responsible forwards to let a veteran like Gagner skate on that issue. So it makes sense to give him a reset, reinforce to him that this is what he needs to do, and then see if he gets the message.

If he does? Perfect. If he doesn’t? No-trade clause or not, the Oilers don’t have room for a second-line centre who plays the way Gagner has this season.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Truth

    No, they should have traded him for a top pairing defenceman last summer. Gagner was coming off his best season offensively and likely had never been worth more. The Oilers also should have known he is a flawed player on a roster without the depth to cover a flawed player.

    Not trading him, RNH injury or not, was a horrible mistake.

    I could not have put it better myself.. ty sir!!!!!!!!!! OVERRATED…. I want him to go onn a hot streak so we can trade him.. Gags has to go….. Dman or Size up front. Package him up lets go!

  • Micbilly99

    Sit Gagner? Are you kidding me..How about sitting Justin Schultz? His play the last few weeks has been awful, terrible and lousy, whatever word you want to use. He was directly to blame for the overtime goal because of his lackadaisical play. For some reason, he gets a free ride. His play in the offensive zone is weak and does not produce any really chances and his defensive zone coverage is bad. And yet, he never gets criticized every…Why???

  • DO NOT HEALTHY SCRATCH GAGNER. Instead, trade him before the No Move Clause hits. Play him, and trade him. If MacT really thinks he’s a long term option, then by all means, press box it is. If not, play him. The worst thing we could do is HS him and then look to trade him after we destroy his trade value around the league. So, i’m saying that is likely what will happen here.

  • Truth

    if we sat all those that deserved based on Eakins initial comments on how he is going to run his team, we’d have to forfiet.

    Gagner is an asset. treat him as such.

    understand what you need already. it is NOT a CORE OF 8-9 current players.

  • Look. I get it. Gagner isn’t a 6’5″ 220 pound beast who can smash faces,score 80 points, be 60% in the dot and the first guy back to the D Zone every freakin time. ~By that mystical benchmark he’s an utter failure.~

    But thinking a guy like Arcobello can take his place with a 20 or so game history is the pinnacle of Oilers fanboyism.

    A 100% healthy Gagner is a scrappy player who gets 50-60 points a year and is a solid, if not remarkable second line C. He’s the kind of guy who’ll be played properly, with complimentary linemates and reasonable expectations on any team we trade him to. And he’ll be the guy the same fanboys will be whining about saying “WHY DID WE TRADE THAT SUPER USEFUL ACTUAL NHL’er FOR MAGIC BEANS???”


    • S cottV

      i’ve no illusions that Arcobello will save the world, but to say that thinking Arcobello should be given a chance is not fanboyism.

      just because he is older it is assumed he hasn’t got what it takes to play. i’m fairly certain he hasn’t shown me he can’t.

      don’t understand the logic that a guy cannot blossom or develop later and turn into a quality player, maybe even better than some who were drafted much much higher. it is possible.

      we talk every year how good Gagner can be, he isn’t. i’d hazard he won’t be either. hope i’m wrong. love to be.

    • I actually agree that it’s a mistake to think Arcobello’s a better player than Gagner at this point. We’ve seen this sort of thing before; it takes time to know what Arcobello is.

      With that said, Arcobello’s certainly capable of holding his own while Gagner takes a brief recess.

      • S cottV

        Arcobello may or may not be his replacement but suffice is to say Gagner is not a 2C. We should go and find that guy, regardless of what Arcobello becomes.

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        Perhaps we need to distinguish between assessing who is the better player….Gagner has a proven track record of scoring in the NHL and would return higher value than Acro in a trade scenario…..but Arcobello is definitely playing better than Gagner right now / this season.

        • Spydyr

          Then it is a no brainer.Trade the player with better value .Keep the better player.

          In all honesty IMO Acro is not the answer long term as #2 center but he can hold the spot until one arrives.

    • srbuhr

      I don’t think Arcobello is the answer either. But he can adequately do the job is Gagner is traded, cause he gives you more right now then Sam is giving us.

      I believe Arcobello can be as effective, cause Sam plays like he’s 5’8 160, and has not figured out the defensive side of the game in 7 years. Gagner should not be replaced with Arco, he should be replaced with someone with size.

      If Sam could be used to get a top 2/3 defender or a big winger that would be great. I don’t think a Gagner for Couturier type deal exists. To get the big center we have to part with one of the wiz kids, that’s a tough reality.

      I hope Sam shuts up the doubter again. I hope we see the Sam that we saw through stretches last year when albeit a Corsi nightmare, was scoring goals and winning us games.

    • Chainsawz

      Pretty funny you get to set the unrealistic benchmark as to which we are judging Gagner on.

      Who cares about his size if can play big. He doesn’t. Who cares about his faceoff percentage as long as it close to 50%. It’s not. His production does matter which I will concede increased last season but has oddly returned to it’s flatlined numbers, between 40-50 points. His defensive play matters as well if the production isn’t going to be there.

      Just because you build up scarecrows in your argument to beat up doesn’t make you right or that everyone else is a “fanboy” who doesn’t agree with you.


    • ganger has never cracked 50 points so you sound really stupid right now.

      he is streaky and he has never been, never will be good defensively. we don’t need another player that style. so trade him away in trade that involves a number one d.

      just dont make a smid trade.

      you say arcobello is the the example of fanboyism. your thoughts on ganger are the deffinetion of being a fanboy.

      your pumping his tires and making false statements.

      your right arcobello is a small sample size, but he looks good defensively most of the time. and if u play him with any linemates when hes at center it makes them look better. ganger needs sheltered zone starts. arcobello has the worste xone starts besides Gordon.

    • 2004Z06

      Gagner has NEVER cracked 50 pts and I don’t care about the “on pace” argument as speculation is not fact.

      Furthermore he has been a + player once in his NHL career at +5. 6 of 7 years he has been a – player.

      Stats don’t lie…..scrappy or not, he is not what this team needs to move forward in the 2c role.

      Time to move him now while he has some modicum of value.

      2007-08 Edmonton Oilers NHL 79 13 36 49 23 -21 — — — — —
      2008-09 Edmonton Oilers NHL 76 16 25 41 51 -1 — — — — —
      2009-10 Edmonton Oilers NHL 68 15 26 41 33 -8 — — — — —
      2010-11 Edmonton Oilers NHL 68 15 27 42 37 -17 — — — — —
      2011-12 Edmonton Oilers NHL 75 18 29 47 36 5 — — — — —
      2012-13 Klagenfurt AC Austria 21 10 10 20 8 — — — — —
      2012-13 Edmonton Oilers NHL 48 14 24 38 23 -6 — — — — —
      2013-14 Edmonton Oilers NHL 18 3 6 9 4 -7

  • S cottV

    The Oilers cant afford to roll two soft centremen out – back to back – in the first two rotations.

    Particularly – when it’s all pretty soft around them and behind them.

    Short term – sure – maybe give him a press box reset but long term it just doesn’t fit.

    Press box resets are probably indicative of Eakins struggling to get his vision sold, accepted and executed at the player level.

    Trading Smid probably had these undertones attached to it and you just dont like the look or lack of 200 foot commitment being shown by the core player group – that – in turn, forces Eakins to consider playing these cards.

    Eakins will have his hands full, trying to hold this thing together for the balance of this season.

    MacT has to come through and get some heavier lifters into the mix.

  • Chainsawz

    The season is shot. It doesn’t matter if we have depth at center this season or not.

    Trade Gagner. Find a replacement in the offseason. Let’s find out what we truly have in Arcobello.

  • S cottV

    After 6 years at centre with basically the same results from Gagner, what is going to change, to make him a 2C on a winning team?

    Use the rest of this year to see if he is a 2RW. You have a NTC with this guys and you should not be surprized at how he plays the game.

    2014 Top 9


  • srbuhr

    As I have been saying here for the past few years, Gagner is not a #2 centerman on a winning team. Size aside (which is not an issue), he is only an average (at best) skater that is one-dimensional. It has been what, six years now, and he still cannot make a defensive read? That cannot be compensated for by coaching – it speaks to the player’s coachability and willingess to sacrifice offense for defence.

    WRT a trade – Gagner is not an asset this year. I doubt any GM in the league would deal for him this year due to the exorbitant contract and his lack of defensive awareness and effort. Looks like the Oilers will be stuck with him now……

  • pkam

    Acro reminds me of Cogliano.

    A few years ago, those who wanted his head said he was not skilled enough to be a 2C and too small to be a 3C.

    I wonder what will Oilers fans say about Acro in a year or 2.

  • bwar

    Ah yes, the Gagner debate rages on.

    Debating the merits of the individual player is not very fruitful. Debating whether or not he fits on our team, and whether or not he should be traded, and whether or not the result of that trade would net a reasonable upgrade is also something that seems to be a bit moot.

    I think if either Tambi or Mac T could have traded Gagner for an upgrade at centre, they would have by now. There was a great article that listed all the second line centres in the league that are bigger, win more faceoffs, score more points, get scored on less, and come at a similar or cheaper cost. Of that list, guess how many would be available for trade, let alone take something we can offer, let alone be traded here or want to come to this team.

    My point is, this second line centre upgrade on Gagner that the Oilers are able to acquire without selling the farm, does not exist. Every single team in the league is looking for that guy and the teams that have them are not trading them.

    Do you think Malkin or Kessler are going to come here? Is Montreal going to trade us Galchenyuk? Did Richards suddenly shake lose from LA? Can anyone name this player, then actually figure out a way to acquire that guy?

    I’d love to get Couturier out of Philly, but his overall stats are no where near Gags, and Philly has gone on record saying they won’t trade him.

    • Indeed. What would Sam return on the open market? Next to nothing, I would say. Top 2 d-man? Tough, defensively responsible centerman? Maybe if you threw in Taylor Hall.

      Calgary traded two really useful, albeit older players, and got back late first round picks and magic (or just plain) beans. Nashville trades an older, similarly soft forward with a slightly higher offensive upside in Martin Erat and gets back prospect (suspect) Filip Forsberg.

      A small, 0.5 point per game, defensively unreliable center who can’t win a faceoff and has a horrible contract? Don’t hold your breath.

  • srbuhr

    The only question about Arcobello is whether or not he’ll catch Gagner in offense. He already plays better.

    Currently Arco is outscoring Gagner with 2.5 minutes less TOI and lesser help. He is only one year and two days older.

    Unless the Oilers pull an ‘Oilers’, Gagner is very likely expendable once the NTC clause is over. Of course they could keep both but I doubt Lowe will have any of that, too many centres.

    Arco currently is a more effective NHL player overall regardless of what happened in junior. If he scores consistently watch out!

  • S cottV

    I agree that Arco could be a short term replacement for Gagner, particularly to get through this pretty much lost year and while MacT finds a way to upgrade the 2C position by next year.

    A 2C warrior leader that fiercly competes in all 3 zones, would be a godsend to this line up for sure.

    That kind of leadership is missing from the club and it would sure be nice to pin a deserving “A” on the right 2C for the job.

    Don’t like this sharing “A” thing that Eakins has going on. It’s like copping out on picking your true leaders, so – what happens is the leadership becomes blurred and you get no real leadership. Truth is – there is probably only 4 true leaders in that room right now, so – why appease probable quesionables like Eberle, Hall, maybe Gagner, RNH, for what are probably the wrong reasons.

    I mean Eberle, Gagner, Hall, RNH or all soft and are not 200 foot warrior players by any stretch. What message does this send?

    Smyth probably should be a full fledged veteran AC but his stature and voice is minimilized by these young hot shots wearing “A’s” without having earned them.

    N Schultz doesn’t seem to have the playing stature you would like to see with one of your captains but maybe is real good in the room. At least – they haven’t pinned an “A” on J Schultz – yet.

    Ferrance as Captain maybe ok – dont really know. Only other guy who could wear it is Smyth and is probably too far past his prime.

    If only a Messier like 2C could come out of the woodwork and really help lead this group.

    In the meantime, maybe putting Messier on the bench to provide his kind of leadership can somewhat fill the void. You either start playing properly kid, or I will have to kill you, has a ring to it. Just kidding – Not really..

  • 2004Z06

    need a change of culture? Gagner, Hemsky, Yakupov, 2014 1st rounder are all trade options. How much of the losing do we have to watch before people realize Gagner at 2nd line C is not the answer. This team needs a major shake up. It also needs a better then Gagner 2nd line C. It also needs a 1st pairing D. There are other issues besides Gagner.. But to say HE is not also an issue?! How much more do we need to see he is an OK NHL player. Not good enough to win a cup with. It’s enough with hanging on to these players that show over and over they can’t get it done.

  • 2004Z06

    Oh how the mighty hath fallen!

    But, but….he’s on pace for 25 pts this year.

    Posted it a thousand times here…..He is not a legit NHL 2nd line center. Never has been. Try him on the wing, or move him out.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Gagner for me is just awkward in the way like most have mentioned, he is seemingly not skilled enough to be a top 2 centre and yet not big or gritty enough to be a 3rd line C-man. I am most likely one of the few who thinks that maybe his broken face is still a problem. Unless his skill set magically develops, his only chance is to be that 3rd line C man, but to be that, you need to not be afraid to get your face punched and get stuck in there.

    I’ve never had a broken jaw, nor have I ever had to have plates in my face, but I am only guessing that the biggest fear you have when you are injured like that is your face breaking again with the plates. And any shot to the head could do crazy damage.

    Right now it puts Gagner in a pretty crappy spot, he can’t change his game much until the jaw is solid and he is not afraid to take a hit to it (which he clearly is right now) but he needs to start putting up something respectable on the ice.

    I don’t know what the solution is, he was rushed back because the Oil had no centre men at that time but now that he isn’t needed so much, I would think of putting him on LTIR as that lasts 10 games, which then would be the Olympic Break, and after that it should be healed properly. Once he is back, he should be in the shape of his life and if he is still playing the way he has with the injury, then call it a loss and see what you can get for him.

    If he is currently being shopped around, with the way he has been playing, sitting him as “injured” might be the best route to maintain some trade value at least.

  • If Eakins is going to have hold players accountable than Gagner is long overdue for a seat in the press box. Arcobello is giving us more in the here and now so he deserves to play over Gagner. I understand that we are not going to make the playoffs but the team really needs to build some sort of winning culture where results matter and ‘buying in’ counts for something. I’m sick of having to say that every season but if we don’t start to build some character, we never will. Our roster is not even close to good enough but love it or hate it, some of the players on the team right now are bound to make up the core of this team for years to come so they need to figure out how to win consistently.

  • Spydyr

    For years now I have been saying Gagner is small , soft, weak defensively, does not back check, loses most puck battles.The response was more trash then prop.It is nice to see most of you finally see the light.Now about Dubnyk.He is not the answer in goal.Never was.

  • Spydyr

    The real issue with Sam is that he is not a natural center and never has been. He needs to play on wing……..let’s get a real centre with size and be finally done with it.

    Sam has heart and some skills ………and almost no speed so trading him is not really an option.

    At least Mr. Fitness finally benched one of the main culprits…… everything will be fine.

    • Spydyr

      Wingers have to win battles along the boards in the corner and fight to get the puck out at the blue line.They also need to stand in front of the other teams net and hold their ground.I just don’t see those skills in Gagner.

      There are other teams he is better suited for.Trade him for a less offensive more complete centre , defensive help or part of a package for a true number two centre or a top pairing defencmen.

      It would sure be nice to see a 3-1 deal coming this way for once.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    If you think scratching Gags is going to make Hallsy stop turning over the puck, cheating at the defensive blue line, or taking on six players on his own; or is going to get Ebs to produce, or Nuge to stop second guessing himself when he plays with Hall … I think you have been drinking out of the wrong water bottle. You need to rid the fever through copious amounts of rest and chicken noodle soup.

    Take a break from watching the tele until your senses return and then objectively look at what will actually make an impact on the ice. Whose attention do you really need to get a hold of here? What message needs to be sent?

    Has Gags been effective, no. Has any other part of this team? No. So, who do you send to the press box to sit next to MacT and explain themselves, … how about we start with Eakins.

    Let him watch how someone else runs the squad (Todd Nelson) and let him learn how to run it properly.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    All of you defending Gags, give your head a shake. He’s always been a garbage 2C. Gags hasn’t scored a meaningful point in a very long time. He has no grease or rage to his game. Arco has less offensive upside but does all the little things VERY well. I’d rather have a guy like that as my 2C. He’s only going to get better.

    Gags time here has come to an end with the emergence of Arco. The only reason Gags is still around is because Arco is learning the ropes. He’s in between a credible 2C and too good to be a 4C. Development in OKC is pretty good. I’m impressed with the defensive place of all the kids coming up. Perhaps Gags could’ve used a few years down there.

  • 2004Z06

    If we’re comparing Gagner to Arcobello, then it’s worth pointing out that Gagner’s cap hit is $4.8M per year and Arco’s is currently $600K. For that gap, I would gladly trade Gagner for a bag of pucks, replace him with Arco and use the extra cap space to sign a free agent defenseman next summer.

    After seven years, your draft pedigree counts for nothing, your last name counts for nothing, and your junior stats inflated by playing with Patrick Kane count for nothing. I’m tired of Gagner’s lack of effort and his cluelessness in the defensive zone. The fact that a 5’9″ minor leaguer with no draft pedigree can be play better defense and provide comparable offense says more than enough about his value to this club.

  • bwar

    A few games back Eakins sent out the line of Gagner – Lander – Hall. I believe they only played one shift but in that one shift they were clearly better than the Hall – Gagner – Yakupov combo that played the majority of the game together. I think that if Gagner can be shifted over to the wing permanently that a lot of our issues down the middle will fade away. In my opinion Lander and Arcobello and both better in the faceoff circle and more responsible defensively. This way Gagner can focus on losing battles in the Offenisve zone as opposed to losing them in the defensive zone.

  • S cottV

    Arco is currently playing better that Gags in all aspects of the game – face offs, points, defensively, and physically. And Arco seems to be able to play this way regardless of who he lines up with. I believe Gags is a better player (in some aspects). But at the moment, Arco is a better option. I am surprised that Gags hasn’t been tried on the wing but I am not sure who in the top 4-6 he would replace at this point.

  • S cottV

    If you’re wondering what the trade value is of an undersized center who scores over 0.5 PPG but can’t backcheck: the NY Islanders just put Pierre-Marc Bouchard on waivers. At a $2M cap hit, I would guess someone will pick him up off waivers, maybe. Waivers.