gagner common11

The Edmonton Oilers were halfway home in terms of their starting 4 centers before the offseason began. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Boyd Gordon are locks, but what about newly signed Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander? What about the 3rd overall selection? It’s a mistake. All of it. The Oilers have to do more.


Although Craig MacTavish signed Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander to matching $600,000 contracts (that’s a great deal by the way, especially for Arco), I don’t think the club will keep both on the roster. If we look at the role Eakins asked each to play last season, it perfectly reflects his famous quote about Lander:

  • Eakins:“If (Lander) is going to play here, he has to be able to play centre, he has to play left-wing and he has to play right-wing. He has to be able to step in on the power play and kill penalties. He has to be able to wear a bunch of different hats.”

Let’s look at how each player was deployed (per game) by Dallas Eakins:

  • Even Strength: 12:17 for Arcobello, 10:38 for Lander
  • Power Play: 1:07 for Arcobello, 1:05 for Lander
  • Penalty Kill: 1:54 for Lander, 1:38 for Arcobello

Pretty similar, no? I think we can argue that either of these men could complete a 4th line trio that begins “Gordon-Hendricks” depending on who is playing well and who has been traded. Fair? 

  1. The problem for Lander is offense. He hasn’t scored in his NHL time, and his AHL totals have been ‘wind-aided’ by power-play opportunities he’ll never get in the NHL. It’s a problem, folks. You have to score, even just a little, to stay in the NHL. I think his current contract is a good one, gives him a chance to show well and strengthen his hold on a big league job. If he had one more step and some real offensive ability, this guy would already be an established performer of note. As it is, I think we’re looking at a guy who might be the final cut in training camp.
  2. The problem for Arcobello is perception. There is NOTHING in his resume to complain about, save for the fact he wouldn’t be a 2line C on a real NHL team. Arcobello lacks top end skill, but he’s a beautiful player in pretty much every area. A fanbase  that SCREAMS for someone to take the body, knock a player off the puck and grab it, has one in their midst. Arcobello doesn’t get the credit because he’s small, but for me he should get MORE credit for it.


We haven’t discussed Sam Gagner, and we should.


  • 5×5 points per 60: 1.44 (6th among regular forwards)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 2.20 (6th among regular forwards)
  • Qual Comp: 2nd line opposition
  • Qual Team: 2nd line teammates
  • Corsi Rel: 0.7 (6th best among regular forwards)
  • Corsi for % 5×5: 44.2
  • Corsi for % Rel 5×5: 0.0
  • Zone Start: 55.5% (4th easiest among regular forwards)
  • Zone Finish: 47.2% (5th best among regular forwards)
  • Shots on goal/percentage: 143/7% (7th among F’s>100 shots)
  • Boxcars: 67, 10-27-37
  • Plus Minus: -29 on a team that was -51


  • 5×5 points per 60: 1.82 (4th among regular forwards)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 2.65 (7th among regular forwards)
  • Qual Comp: 4th line opposition
  • Qual Team: 2nd line teammates
  • Corsi Rel: 6.4 (3rd best among regular forwards)
  • Corsi for % 5×5: 48.1
  • Corsi for % Rel 5×5: +3.7
  • Zone Start: 47.7% (8th toughest among regular forwards)
  • Zone Finish: 39.5% (7th best among regular forwards)
  • Shots on goal/percentage:  70/5.7% (10th among F’s w/70 or more shots)
  • Boxcars: 41, 4-14-18
  • Plus Minus: -7 on a team that was -51

Gagner got the tougher opposition, but a nice zone start push, Arcobello was slightly above Gagner in the points disciplines. I don’t think Arcobello is a long term solution at 2line C, but he certainly looks capable of replacing Gagner. Now, how much credit/blame do we give to the injury?


As the spring moves along, we’re going to hear about possible solutions, today RJ Umberger is in the news because of a trade request. Umberger isn’t the answer, his skills are eroding and the contract is a bear:

umberger es

This is from Extra Skater. We can see Umerger’s Corsi for % 5×5 plunge from par with his team in 2011-12, as he hasn’t improved as the team moved forward through the next two seasons. The playoffs, as perfectly detailed here, were a hot mess. When you add age (32), contract ($4.6M) and term (three more years) this isn’t an attractive acquisition. 


I can see the Oilers trading for him. The Blue Jackets own (I believe) two second-round selections, #47 and #55 (from the Gaborik deal). If the Oilers have decided to move on from Sam Gagner, and are looking for a bridge player and a second round pick,it wouldn’t be a shock for Scott Howson to whisper nice things to MacT about a player he signed to a career contract.

It would be a mistake.

  • bwar

    Gagner had a terrible season. Arcobello had a good start to the season and then struggled a bit more when drop down the depth chart from the 2C position. Arcobello dominated in the AHL (at least stats wise) and didn’t get much of a real opportunity with the team once Gagner returned.

    I think the question should be can we succeed with either of these guys as the 2C? I think it can be safe to say Gagner can be much better than he was this year but still probably isn’t a solution as a 2C. Maybe he can be converted to the wing or maybe he can center the mythical third scoring line. Arcobello at this point probably lacks the offensive fire power to be a good 2C but he is a much better all around hockey player than Gagner. If Yakupov ever gets back on track and Perron shows similar form to last season, Arcobello might be able to give you enough offence/defense to make that line work.

    tldr; Gagner 3C or 2/3W. Arco 2C or AHL.

  • bazmagoo

    I had to laugh at the Arcobello to Gagner comparison. They’re roughly the same, so this might make it okay to replace Gagner with Arcobello? We replace one problem with a smaller version of the same problem, just one that hasn’t been around long enough to become a whipping boy? Boy, that’s the ticket to the playoffs right there folks.

    Lander and Arcobello are fillers. Depth in a worst case scenario. An ideal situation to me is one where neither make the team at the beginning of the year because we’ve made the appropriate trades and signings to fill those holes with real NHL caliber talent. I almost wish we would stop talking about both of them until either one of them make a serious, legit step forward in improvement.

    Or until Mark Arcobello manages to grow 3-4 more inches and gain about 40 more pounds.

    • Lowetide

      Felt I covered that subject when saying “There is NOTHING in his resume to complain about, save for the fact he wouldn’t be a 2line C on a real NHL team.”

  • Zarny

    Oh, I agree Lowetide which makes his re-signing here an absolutely perplexing situation for me. What did MacTavish tell him and his agent to make him want to re-sign and so quickly to boot? My guess is that they’re honestly willing to give Arcobello a look at being the 2C at the NHL level next season which is something that no other team in this league would do. I have to say if that’s true, this makes me scared. That means even this early they don’t believe their prospects of signing a good free agent center or making a good trade is possible or likely.

    I’d like to think that we’d all agree that Arcobello is not really a serious improvement on Gagner in any respect and that’s just not good enough. If we want to make serious steps forward, we need to actually improve and not just replace pieces that aren’t good enough with other pieces that are marginal improvements at best.

    We’re going to be in for a very long season again next year if our 2C boils down to a training camp battle of Lander vs Arcobello.

    • Lowetide

      Maybe. However, I think the Arcobello side probably thinks there’s an opportunity there. No disrespect to Lander, but if the Oilers keep 5C’s among their 14F’s (reasonable) it makes sense to retain Arcobello.

      I think Arco and his agent would have been satisfied with the ‘one-way’ portion of the deal.

  • Raider Jesse

    If MacT trades for Umberger in any form that doesn’t involve us getting paid for absorbing that contract would be beyond forgiveness.

    We already have a 4th line winger who sewers the possesion numbers being overpaid we don’t need another. That’s where Umberger will be that in a year.

  • bwar

    Based on the new news of Umberger, the Oilers getting him and a 2nd rounder for Gagner does open doors a bit…prospect-wise…but Umberger becomes the new 3rd line center IMO with Gordon covering the 4th line now.

    This then hurts both Lander and Arco for future full-time NHL work with the Oilers IMO… not help either and it still leaves that 2nd line center position open.

    However, this allows Edmonton to secure one of Bennett or Draisaitl for the 2nd line center position to play with say….Eberle and Yakupov. then it starts to look like a decent improving forward type lineup potential of:

    Hall/ RNH/ Perron, Yak/Bennett or Draisaitl/ Ebs, Winger/Umberger/ Joensuu, Hendricks/ Gordon/ Pitlick and or Gazdic.

    Then the Oil would have a chance to work with the possible 2nd rounder prospect pool too.

    Lander and Arco become call-ups. Finally to me… all in all this does appear a favorable beginning.

  • Raider Jesse

    I love Arco and think him and lander battling for the 3rd line centre would be an ok situation. Problem is we need a 2nd line centre. But none of the problems upfront even really matter until the major holes on defence get shored up first

  • Buhl_Country

    I for one do not care what Eakins has to say about any player. It was only till game 30 or 40 that he actually figured out who played where……..up till that point we were used to seeing players outside their position and performing roles they had never done before.

    Eakins emphatically stated at the start of the year……everyone one will have to earn their ice-time………we all know what a lie that was.

    Let’s not trade for anyone until we are damned sure we have a coach that is wiling to lead a practice……..not sit in the stands with the media!

  • LT,

    You got the RelCor from Extraskater right?

    Gabe’s site has his RelCor as this:

    2007-2008 Season -2.9

    2008-2009 Season -3.1

    2009-2010 Season -6.5

    2010-2011 Season 2.3

    2011-2012 Season -0.8

    2012-2013 Season -7.1

    2013-2014 Season -8.4

    I took out the post seasons.

    According to BTN it was -31 this year.

  • Buhl_Country

    If they draft Draisaitl or Bennett, I don’t like the idea that one of these two could be their 2nd line C. If that were to happen, and this defensive corps isn’t vastly improved upon, that could do some damage to either guys development. I hope by now this organization is realizing that isn’t the way to develop a kid with big upside. They need to be sheltered, that is if they’re going to be up with the big club. The current lineup wouldn’t allow for any sort of sheltering. All in all, I hope whoever gets picked is allowed to play another year in junior, then see where it goes from there.

  • bwar

    Typically first overall picks immediately make the jump to the NHL. Besides the #1’s just Gagner and Lander were pushed into the NHL. So this whole “The Oiler’s always rush development” argument that every loves making doesn’t have much basis. In the last half decade the Oilers rushed two players during years where the team was absolutely atrocious.

    Nuge and Yak probably could have benefited from another year of juniors but historically #1’s play in the NHL the year they are drafted.

  • bwar

    Arco 3c on a scoring line, the guys got heart. Gordon 4c on shut down with hendricks, all are interchangeable ,what’s the debate here, still need a 2c might not be coming for awhile if gagner can’t move

  • It is getting exasperating for Oiler Fans having to continually wait for Rookies and meager AHL’ers filling our roster , because even MacT. seems not capable of making trades/acquisitions , etc.that benefit us going forward . Putting in defective players where once others filled better . We are still trying to make addition by subtraction .

  • bazmagoo

    We have a 66.6% chance of landing either Bennett or Ekblad, who both fit a specific need on the team. We can’t really afford to pass on Reinhart as he’s an elite center prospect where Draisaitl isn’t. When you’ve got the opportunity to draft one of 3 players, all who could potentially go first overall, I’d have to say things continue to look up in Oilerville prospect wise. Not even Kevin Lowe could mess that up! Well, I hope not.

    I just don’t know if I can stomach another year of Eakins, listening to his bs was pretty tiring this season.

  • John Chambers

    Priorities this offseason:

    1 & 1a – Letang and Phaneuf

    2 – Grabovski for 2/3 line C

    3 – 2 of Moss, Winnik, Kulemin, Pouliot, or like

    Adding a C is high on the priority list, but adding two tough minute D is immeasurably more important

  • One thing that might help in not acquiring Umberger is he has a modified NTC. I don’t know the details of it, but I’d imagine he can pick teams not to go to.. so one would hope the Oilers are on that list.

    Also, re: Arco. He is far from the “sexy” option, but I have never really had problems with him on the team. I think he works quite hard and that goes a long way. He knows what he has to do in order to stay in the NHL, while some other guys think they’ve already made it and can coast.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    •5×5 points per 60: 1.44 (6th among regular forwards)
    •5×4 points per 60: 2.20 (6th among regular forwards)
    •Qual Comp: 2nd line opposition
    •Qual Team: 2nd line teammates
    •Corsi Rel: 0.7 (6th best among regular forwards)
    •Corsi for % 5×5: 44.2
    •Corsi for % Rel 5×5: 0.0
    •Zone Start: 55.5% (4th easiest among regular forwards)
    •Zone Finish: 47.2% (5th best among regular forwards)


    If these were league wide numbers it would carry some weight for an 8 year veteran. On a 28th place team…….not so much.

    MacTavish gambled at that center ice position going into the season…… and was burned beyond recognition by that decision he made. How can this not be anything other than intentional (tanking) from this management group.

  • Bucknuck

    OK… if you get a nice big nasty 2 line C… and Gordon is your fourth line C… does that make Arco your 3 line C? With some decent wingers could he be the answer there?

    As far as I am concerned, Gagner’s time is up.

    • bazmagoo

      I’d bet that Arcobello and Ladner will be battling it out for that 3rd line spot, with Gordon elevated throughout the line up as needed. Let’s hope one of them actually proves they belong in that spot!

  • Cool Beans

    Do depth charts mean anything any more? Over 82 games maybe 5 guys in the league can play on the top line every night. It is a competition and you are only as good as your last one or two SHIFTS.

  • bwar

    i watch mark Arcobello (175) drive willie mitchell (210) into the boards.
    leverage him and drive him in an elevated position.
    Most important:
    Arco was not out of position.
    Arco got the puck.

    A hit without procession is just poor positional play in the regular season.
    hits/gm forwards.
    Hartnell 1.98/gm
    T. Lewic 1.98/gm
    Doan 1.95/gm
    Arco 1.9/gm
    Boyle 1.88/gm
    Wheeler 1.83/gm
    iginla 1.82/gm
    Simmonds 1.61/gm
    Yep 4 inches is a problem.

    No cue about physical play.
    the torso and chest cavity are highly resistant to contact.
    Thighs and head not so much.
    A physical shorter forward is more effective against taller players with contact just below the hips.
    Hips are how you slow a player down.

  • bwar


    my 6 year old has better understanding and imagination when it comes to the reality of Hockey.

    The reality is play player with the other players they are most successful with.


  • Zarny

    They should have called the Oil Change series “It’s A Mistake”.

    The Oilers won’t make the playoffs until they have a legit 2C.

    Arcobello is not an option. The age the average NHLer has their peak production is 25. For Arco that was last year. He’s an undrafted college kid who is in his prime and will be a 3/4 line player at best for a few years.

    Lander made big strides last year but unless he figures it out at the NHL level he’ll never be more than 3/4 line option either.

    Umberger certainly isn’t a solution. He was a 1st round pick who didn’t make the league for 5 years. He had a few nice years from 25-29 y/o but he’s done now.

    Bennett, Reinhart, Draisaitl…doesn’t matter. At best they are as good as Nuge. They won’t be ready to contribute for 2-3 years.

    So unless the Oilers sign Stastny or trade for a 2C solution Gagner returning to lockout season form is the Oilers only real hope.

    Good grief.

  • bwar

    Chicago gets by without a 2C. Just need a Duncan Keith, a Brent Seabrook, a Patrick Kane and a 3rd line that can score.

    That being said, I think Chicago would be unstoppable if they ever filled that 2C hole.