There’s a lot of talk about young Sam Gagner these days, some troubling moments in the defensive zone married to sluggish offense have many wondering about his future as an Oiler. Should there be concern?


Gagner’s play defensively has been off this season. Although never a strength, his errant passes and exits from the defensive slot just in time to be "also in photo" are shocking for a player of his experience. I’ve watched this player from the beginning, and swear he’s never been this bad in his own end. Mistakes? Yes. Poor decisions? Sure. However, not like this year, a year in which we have this discussion damn near every game.

WHAT is going on? IS it impacting his offense as well?


One of the best ways to judge offensive talent is by 5×5 points per 60 minutes. If a player can post numbers at even strength he should be able to do it on the man advantage, and Gagner has been good 5×5:

  • 2007-08: 1.96 (7th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2008-09: 1.69 (6th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2009-10: 1.56 (6th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2010-11: 1.91 (2nd among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2011-12: 1.96 (4th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2012-13: 1.84 (4th among regular Oiler forwards)
  • 2013-14: 1.34 (10th among regular Oiler forwards)

Interesting. We know that Gagner has been poor away from the puck, but the 5×5/60 number also indicates he’s well off the pace offensively. This is a fairly consistent hockey player, and we’d need to see this happen over an entire year, but I think we’re seeing some effect of the horrible injury on the offensive side here. 

What are the typical causes of a poor season after a group of better ones?

  1. Injury and recovery
  2. Age
  3. Coaching change

We can exclude age, Sam is a young man who should be entering his prime as an NHL player. Injury is certainly a part of this, and despite the player claiming things are good again I think we can assume part of that is the player not making excuses (hockey player bravado is famous), and so I’ll count the injury as a major contributing factor.


The Oilers have already traded a recently signed veteran (Ladislav Smid) so it could happen again, but I’m not buying that Dallas Eakins has problems with Gagner. The comments by Eakins in regard to Gagner have been typical fare, certainly nothing that would cause a raised eyebrow. Eakins has been using Gagner more and more lately—he played over 19 minutes last night—and has him playing with two exceptional talents (Hall and Yakupov), so he’s either putting him in a position to succeed or showcasing him.

I’d suggest that one thing they could do is put Gagner in a soft-minutes situation when Boyd Gordon comes back, in an effort to get Gagner going offensively at even strength.The Oilers have a ready replacement on the 2line in Mark Arcobello.


In my experience as a fan, these things usually straighten themselves out about the time we identify them. There’s no secret that Sam Gagner has been struggling, but he scored 2 assists last night and that’s perhaps the beginning of a strong run that will see him climb to career norms.

This is a very talented hockey player and a big part of the team. My bet is Craig MacTavish and Dallas Eakins give Sam Gagner all the time in the world to get things together. 

Even if it takes the season.

  • Rdubb

    Pardon me, but what is this ” 5×5/60 number “?
    What exactly does it mean?
    Is it another one of these “corsi” stats that really nobody in the western hemisphere understands?
    I’d greatly appreciate it if someone could please answer for me and explain it in layman’s terms as I am not a math major or anything of the sort…
    Thank you


    • camdog

      It’s a misleading stat, sort of chicken and egg argument. On this team Arcobello has an excellent 5×5/60 number when playing with elite wingers, however his 5×5/ 60 falls dramatically when he isn’t playing on the top 2 lines, as his quality of wingers depreciates significantly. For the number to be significant it would need to be calibrated based on the quality of ones linemates.

      An example of how this stat is misleading is when we drafted Mark- Antoinie Pouliot. In junior he played with Crosby. He probably had an excellent 5×5/60 but that wasn’t because he was good, it was because Crosby was good.

      That’s my interpretation however if I am wrong I would welcome being corrected.

      • camdog

        Now here’s an interesting stat on Petry. I like looking at the splits. The splits say that Petry is a good d-man on the road and horrible at home. Just look at the plus minus. This would be a nice one for Lowetide to dig into. Weird how a teams top pairing d-man could have such a good plus minus on the road and such a horrible plus minus at home. Looks like he’s lost confidence at home…


    • oilfan in yyc

      PECK, not sure if anyone replied. It isn’t a corsi type stat, it’s actually quite simple. It’s points per 60 minutes of playing time at full strength. Getting two assists at full strength in one game where you played 20 minutes would give you a number of 6.0

  • BillHK

    It’s true, Lowetide, Gagner’s never displayed any of the things you described/ he displayed, especially after he returned from his episode with his jaw-fracturing incident! Have anyone considered this to be a PTSD! Does anyone ever have an injury similar to his? Taped and broadcast throughout North America no less? How could we even attempt to understand what Gagner’s going through these days?! Remember how we were collectively hoping that he would come back from his injury and help this team do better? And come back he did, prematurely!!!
    Yes, physically he might be on the mend, but psychologically he’s still seeing that horrible, bloody face disfigurement in his mind….. Get the picture? Still wants to kick him while he’s down???!!! We are a lot better than that, aren’t we?

  • BillHK

    They should not have let him rush back to the ice after the injury. Having 2 plates stuck in your head will need recovery time even if it’s not part of the body that is usually facing contact over the course of a game, his injury likely warranted some additional rehab time.

    • 2004Z06

      It wasn’t that they rushed Sam. Sam rushed himself back when he saw Arcobello stealing his job.

      People forget that in Sam’s first season, his most productive season, he predominantly played the wing. On the wing he doesn’t need to be as defensively responsible, he doesn’t need to win draws.

      I would prefer to see him traded in a package for something of value, but if we are going to be stuck with him, at least move him back to the wing.

      He may put up decent points, but he give up 2 goals for every 1 he scores.

  • BillHK

    Jacques Lemaire was one of the best two-way players of his era, so no surprise when he coached his teams to be defense-first, and positionally-aware.

    I’m not sure that even Lemaire could “fix” what ails Sam Gagner’s game.

    If Eakins & Co. are serious about sending a message about defensive responsibility, Gagner should be at the top of the list for a trade.

    I cringe every time I see Sam pointing and “explaining” positional play to Yak or anyone else–are you kidding me?

  • camdog

    You guys are really under-estimating the impact his injury has. I speak from experience that rehab will normally take months longer than he took.

    Having said that, it shouldn’t affect his brain. And Sam has never demonstrated being a complete player. He was rushed into the league at minimum a year too soon (6 Rings strikes again) and I’ve said for 6 years now that hurt his development. But we are where we are.

    I was one of the guys who said not to trade him because of his age; that you’d eventually lose the trade as experience caught up to talent. I have to say now that it hasn’t happened. Time for him to go – but if that’s not an option then put him on the wing – it’s the only NHL position that he’s had some success in. Maybe our best 2nd line center – Arcobello – can get him going as his winger…

    • Zamboni Driver

      I think that’s the best, constructive suggestion I’ve read so far! People like to rush into conclusion, also, like to play judge and jury all by himself! Deep down I feel that Gagner hasn’t fully realised his potentials yet, and I hate to see him blossom into a super star in another uniform!

    • We should assume he’s also suffering the lingering effects of a pretty serious concussion, something the team didn’t have to disclose because of the time off for surgery/rehab.

      If he’s gutting it out from both jaw surgery and post concussion syndrome it probably explains why Eakins is letting Gagner play himself back into shape. It also might explain why he can’t engage (like Ben Eager) and is making alot of seemingly bone-headed mistakes.

      Hemsky sucked last year and now he’s ripping it up because he’s finally healthy. Are people willing to trade Gagner based on observations that probably see him playing no more than 50% of his potential? That’s moron talk.

      • camdog

        “Are people willing to trade Gagner based on observations that probably see him playing no more than 50% of his potential? That’s moron talk.”

        I and many of the others who want Gags traded wanted him traded this off season. I guess you could argue that in in his first 7 years he’s only been playing at 50% of his potential, that said how many more years would you say that we should wait to see him move up to 75% of his potential?

        • bwar

          The problem is pal, if you are willing to stick with Dubnyk, even though he’s proving that he doesn’t belong ( he’s also has 7 years to prove himself) why not give gagner the benefit of the doubt then?

  • Zamboni Driver

    “Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish are going to give Gagner all the time in the world…”

    Say….like….what? Seven MORE years to figure out how to play even a little defense and win 50% of his faceoffs?

    Sometimes, you know, it’s okay to say “the guy really isn’t that good”, EVEN if he wears an Oilers jersey.

  • Zarny

    People need to relax.

    Undoubtedly the injury has been a factor. A broken jaw means a liquid diet, dropping 10-15 lbs, missing training camp and essentially wiping out his off-season training. What about that screams hot start?

    Gagner has 11 pts in 19 games. Over 82 games that’s 47.5 pts. His career average is 50 pts over 82 games. So he’s on pace for his career average while struggling. Go check out Giroux’s first 20 games if you really want to see struggling. It happens.

    I would also suggest his new contract is a factor. Usually it’s the pressure of money and the mouth-breathers yelling. With Sam, I think it’s the term.

    He knows the Oilers aren’t sold on him or he’d have gotten 6-8 years. With the NMC, Gagner has this year to prove himself and the clock is ticking. Added pressure coming off an injury usually doesn’t go well.

    The real problem with Gagner is he doesn’t compliment Nuge well. They are basically the same player except Sam isn’t as good. Small and skilled with deficiencies on defense and face-offs.

    That might do if a couple of the top line W were built like Lucic or Horton. They aren’t. The Oilers top 6 F are way too much of the same. That’s not going to win the Stanley Cup.

    Which is why I maintain that the Oilers should trade Gagner regardless of how he started this year. Offensively, he’ll be a great 2C for a decade or more. He’d be a great fit with a C like Toews, Richards or J.Staal who can play more physical and handle the heavy load defensively.

  • bwar

    When Boyd Gordon comes back I would really like to see Gagner play a few games on the wing. Every game he seems to have 1 or two shifts as a winger and from my eyes it always seems that the Oilers carry the play much more than when he is performing his regular duties. Gagner can be an integral part of this team moving forward but I don’t think that piece is a center.

    As for trading him, I think you could get much better return for an Eberle, Yakupov or Hall than you could for Gagner. And I feel that if Gagner was moved to wing he could perform comparably to either of those three (Maybe not as high as Hall).