Gagner to the wing?

gagner diving

Sam Gagner would like to forget last season. After Zack Kassian broke his jaw in preseason, he missed the first 13 games of the season. He returned to the lineup on October 29th, but he admitted afterwards that he came back too early.

Gagner was seemingly playing catch up all season and he finished the year with 37 points in 67 games, an ugly -29 ranking and his advanced stats, CF% and FF%, were both 44. It was a tough season.

Gagner’s struggles have led to much speculation about trading him, and I believe the Oilers will move Gagner, but it might not be where people expect.

Trading Gagner, or any player, is always an option, but his trade value is at an all-time low right now, and I don’t see Craig MacTavish giving him away for nothing. The Oilers still believe he can be a productive player, and unless a surprising trade offer arises, I suspect you will see Gagner moved to the wing next season.

I’ve said for two seasons I would play Gagner on the wing. He hasn’t shown the ability to be a strong two-way centreman, so instead of hoping it happens, I believe the Oilers will move him to the wing where there are less defensive responsibilities.

In seven seasons Gagner has never been better than 47.6% in the faceoff dot.

2008: 41.8%

2009: 42%

2010: 47.4

2011: 43.8

2012: 47.6

2013: 43.9

2014: 46.8

Gagner has won 2271 of the 5038 faceoffs he’s taken in his career. Through seven seasons he is 45% in the dot. Faceoffs are not his forte, and it is foolish to expect him to make a drastic improvement starting his 8th NHL season.

Gagner’s best assets are his play making skills, his competitiveness and his offensive instincts. I don’t believe a move to the wing will suddenly make him a 60+ point player, but it will lessen his defensive responsibilities and hopefully improve his analytics.

Andrew Cogliano felt he was best suited to be a centre when he played in Edmonton. He was traded to Anaheim in the summer of 2011, and played centre his first year with the Ducks. The next year Bruce Boudreau moved him to the wing, and Cogliano’s game flourished.

He scored 22 goals this past season, and in the lockout year he had 13 goals in 48 games, (prorates to 22 goals in 82 games). I asked Cogliano about moving to the wing last season.

“I always felt I was a centre. I wanted to play centre, but when Bruce moved me to the wing I had to accept it. Now I love it. I wouldn’t play the middle again now if they asked me. The wing is much easier defensively, and I can use my speed more to get in on the forecheck. I find I’m not as tired, because I don’t have to battle down low as often. I probably should have been more open to it when I was younger, but I grew up playing centre, and I that’s what I knew, but now I feel more comfortable on the wing than I did at centre,” Cogliano said.

I know Cogliano and Gagner are different players, Cogliano is faster, and there is no guarantee Gagner will have the same success, but after seven seasons it seems clear that he won’t excel down the middle. That doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective player, in fact, I think the move will help him more than it will hurt him.

I know many fans want to trade Gagner, but his trade value is at an all-time low so if they trade him now, they likely will get nothing of value in return.

I sense the Oilers feel the same way, and I’m guessing Dallas Eakins has already sat down with Gagner and told him to come to camp prepared to play the wing. That would be the ideal plan.

It gives Gagner time to mentally and physically prepare to play the wing. He can practice picking up pucks along the boards, and getting it out of his own end. He hasn’t had to do it regularly.

The other thing the Oilers should do is show Gagner film of the final 28 games of his rookie season. Gagner finished that year with 28 points in 28 games, and he played the majority of those games on the wing with Cogliano as his centre.

Gagner G A P PPG S TOI
Apr 3 ’08 EDM @ VAN 0 0 0 0 1 14:43
Apr 1 ’08 CGY @ EDM 0 0 0 0 1 20:34
Mar 29 ’08 EDM @ CGY 0 0 0 0 2 16:45
Mar 28 ’08 EDM @ COL 1 0 1 0 6 15:22
Mar 26 ’08 EDM @ MIN 0 0 0 0 1 19:52
Mar 24 ’08 MIN @ EDM 0 1 1 0 3 17:47
Mar 22 ’08 COL @ EDM* 2 0 2 0 8 18:13
Mar 20 ’08 VAN @ EDM 0 0 0 0 2 20:25
Mar 18 ’08 PHX @ EDM 1 2 3 1 4 17:32
Mar 16 ’08 EDM @ SJS 0 1 1 0 1 19:47
Mar 15 ’08 EDM @ PHX 0 0 0 0 3 21:57
Mar 13 ’08 EDM @ COL 1 0 1 1 2 22:32
Mar 11 ’08 STL @ EDM 1 2 3 1 5 21:14
Mar 9 ’08 EDM @ CHI 0 2 2 0 1 18:17
Mar 7 ’08 EDM @ CBJ 0 0 0 0 1 18:48
Mar 4 ’08 NSH @ EDM 0 0 0 0 3 19:45
Mar 2 ’08 CBJ @ EDM 0 1 1 0 0 19:25
Feb 28 ’08 LAK @ EDM 0 1 1 0 2 18:01
Feb 26 ’08 DET @ EDM 0 0 0 0 2 20:50
Feb 24 ’08 COL @ EDM 1 0 1 0 3 16:18
Feb 22 ’08 EDM @ DAL 0 1 1 0 0 21:59
Feb 19 ’08 EDM @ NSH 1 1 2 0 3 18:28
Feb 16 ’08 EDM @ VAN 0 1 1 0 2 16:47
Feb 14 ’08 EDM @ SJS 0 1 1 0 1 15:55
Feb 12 ’08 MIN @ EDM 0 1 1 0 2 18:05
Feb 9 ’08 EDM @ CGY 0 1 1 0 2 18:03
Feb 6 ’08 CHI @ EDM 0 2 2 0 2 16:37
Feb 4 ’08 CGY @ EDM 1 1 2 1 2 20:02

It is a small sample size, but showing Gagner video of him succeeding and producing as a winger can’t hurt.

I don’t see him improving as a centre, and I believe the Oilers will move him to the wing. He had the most productive 28-game stretch of his NHL career playing on the wing, and while it is unlikely that he’ll be a point-a-game player as a winger, I think he will have more success in a position where he has less defensive responsibilities.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Just about everybody acknowledges that Gagner does not have the tools or the smarts to play 2C and we have years of experience to demonstrate his defensive shortcomings. There are many in the camp that favors keeping him and playing him on the wing so that he can bounce back and we can get full value if we trade him. One concern is why do we think he can play the wing. He is not big, he is not fast, he loses puck battles continuosly and the only year he put up good numbers on the wing we were not playing the current Ducks, Sharks, Flames, Kings, Blues and Hawks teams, all of whom are bigger than us. Exactly what will he bring to the wing?

    The idea in all of this discussion is that we should be selling high.

    On that basis, we absolutely must trade Perron this summer. He has had a career year, wasn’t injured and will bring the best possible return. While he has a little bit of grit, he doesn’t terrorize anybody and he does not have size. Too many people have a man crush on Sam Gagner. He appears to be a nice guy but he will not be on this team if it is a Cup contender, now or in the future.

  • A-Mc

    Since they seem to like Jultz so much, why don’t they play gags on Defence? Then they’ll have another smaller skilled offensive dman that can’t play defense.

  • The Oilers missed their opportunity to get the most out of Gagner last summer. Coming off a good 2013 season as an RFA, they would have been better served moving him at the draft while his shiny statistics looked like he was starting to realize his potential and they could have received a decent return for his type of player.

    I get the idea that those same statistics were alluring to the Oilers, but they promptly overpaid for a healthy Gagner, let alone the broken version Kassian rendered him to be. On top of that, he is a less valuable version of what they have a lot of: small skill. That didn’t change with the jaw injury.

    As is their custom, this team’s management made a misstep since it takes good assets to acquire good assets…and Gagner was a good trade asset last offseason. This year, he’s pennies on the dollar. Hopefully the suggested move to the wing will help him rebuild that trade value – even if that contract creates an automatic discount for other teams.

  • pkam

    Do we have anyone in our roster who can do better than him in that 2C now?

    We call talk all we want but we can’t afford to do it, not until we find that player.

    • bwar

      Arcobello can do almost as good offensively and much better defensively. But then we have Gagner as a winger on the third line expected to be capable of playing defensively.

      • pkam

        Except this year, Gagner worst year will be 50 pt over 82 games. Even this year with such a major injury, he still manages 45 pts over 82 games.

        Arcobello has 18 pts over 41 games so prorated to 36 pts over 82 games.

        I don’t see how Arcobello is almost as good offensively, at least not now.

        • A-Mc

          You can’t compare their points because once Gagner came back, Arcobello was relegated to 4th line duties. no one scores on the 4th line with any frequency.

          • pkam

            If I remember correctly, Gagner also spent a lot of time in the 3rd line in one of his year (late start due to injury too), he still managed to put up 50 pts or more over 82 games.

          • A-Mc

            1. 3rd line can actually score some. 4th cannot seemingly.

            2. Gagner was on that 3rd line for far less time than Arcobello was on the 4th. We’re talking: not even close.

            The only point of discussion here is that while Arco was in the #2C spot, did he make a good enough case for himself that he could be a fill-in or even longer term option if in a pinch?

            My personal opinion is that he did make a good case for himself and i would certainly give him another look. INFACT i would have him center Gagner and Perron for the 2nd line if we want to let our drafted Centerman stay in junior for the year.

            There is no harm in trying it out but nothing is a certainty at this point.

          • Admiral Ackbar

            Considering Gagner played 25% more than Arco (average TOI 18:22 compared to 15:04), I’d consider their offensive production on par.

            The only thing I’d question would be quality of competition between the two. Arco quite obviously doesn’t have the offensive upside that Gags possesses.

            Gags is money in the shootout as well, let’s not forget that.

            Arco is pretty good in his own end, throws a tonne of hits (despite being so small) and is great in the dot. Interesting comparison between the two. It’d be great to see Arco play as a regular in the lineup.

        • ARCO spent too much time with Gazdic. He’s better defensively than Gags, he’s the most physical forward on the team outside of Gazdic, his face offs are good, and his offense at this level is basically unknown.

          Like I said in an earlier post, the last thing we need is another small forward, but ARCO has earned a shot. He deserves a chance to show the brass what he brings as a 2C…

          • Zarny

            Umm no, Marc Arcobello should not be playing 2C for the Oilers.

            I agree he is more defensively responsible than Gagner but he is not a physical forward. He will initiate contact I’ll grant you that; but at 5’8″ 166 lbs he knocks guys like Toews and Getzlaf off the puck about as much as the bugs hitting my grill effect my gas mileage. He’s certainly never leans on a big Dman to gain possession or position and he isn’t going to move anything in front of the net.

            He also isn’t “good” at FO; he’s just not bad. And we got a taste of Arco’s offensive abilities when he started the year playing with the top lines. He had 0 G and managed to pick up some easy assists while Hall etc did all the work.

            Bottom line is that Arcobello doesn’t compliment Nuge any better than Gagner as a 2C.

  • bwar

    I think Gagner is a better fit as a winger but I have no clue what on earth our lineup looks like when you add in another offensive winger and open up an even larger hole down the middle. Basically would require some fancy trading by MacT or signing Kulemin and Grabovski. Maybe he can pull something off but it shouldn’t be something we are banking the season on.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    One could make an argument RNH should be moved to the wing as well. He hasn’t really shown he belongs in the 1st line center position 3 yrs into his time here.

    The fact that he’s this teams 1st line center is a red flag. He still looks 3 yrs away from earning that spot.

    • bwar

      Definitely some truth to that but I don’t think he has failed bad enough to be moved to the wing. I wish we had another center that was capable of pushing him for the 1C role.

    • The Soup Fascist

      One COULD make that argument. But they would be wrong.

      Nuge had a bad year stats-wise by his standards, coming off an injury. He was the defensive conscience on his line most every night. His line drew the defensive toughs, routinely.

      Yet he still was 27th among NHL centers in scoring. He is the very definition of a first line center – even in a bad year. Was he an elite first line center last year, certainly not. Is he a viable first line center with the potential to be elite (a PPG guy)? Absolutely.

      We have way bigger issues than Nuge.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        All of these less important “issues” do have us where we are today though, no?

        Little bit of problematic goaltending last season. A little bit of blueliners forced to play more than their effectiveness/skill level would permit. Forwards having off years. Breaking in yet another ego maniac/rookie head coach.

        Not sure who’s in charge, but to have all areas like this suffering at the same time leads us to believe management is surely an issue as well.

        Pick a position, any position, we’re struggling in every area.

        • The Soup Fascist

          You don’t end up in 28th for nuthin’.

          I would contend that a sub-adequate (to be kind) defense, atrocious goaltending the first half of the year and a rookie head coach who channelled Ron Wilson and believed he invented the game of hockey (if I NEVER hear “1-3-1” and “swarm” ever again, it will be TOO soon) all were far greater detriments to any hint of success last year than our 20 year old first line center.

          Just my two bits.

    • Zarny

      Oh I think 52 pt in 62 games as a rookie is an argument that Nuge belongs at C.

      Over 82 games, Nuge’s rookie season works out to 69 pts which is 6 pts better than MacKinnon this year.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        True that.

        Was Nathan a 2nd or 3rd line center in Colorado this past season? The support (Stastny and perhaps O’Rielly) in front of him was certainly key. Nuge must feel naked with that 1st/2nd line center vacant. Using propped up numbers like that have less meaning when they’re 3 yrs old already,no? How do last season (much more applicable numbers) measure up against Nathans during the same timeframe? Rookie season vs rookie season aside.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        If Reinhert is another Nuge- we should draft him.

        Hall Nuge Eberle

        Perron Reinhert Yakupov

        Dynamic, Offensive top 6.

        Pouliot Stempniak Kulemin

        Hendricks Gordan Moss

        Big, tough, reliable, defensive bottom 6.

        Bottom six signings fall into the 2.5-3.5 per year range.

  • Not sure if this has been mentioned yet.

    I’m not going to dump on Gagner or state the obvious short comings as mentioned in the article, however, at some point the Oilers have to move out some players for different mix of players, the Oilers are loaded at the wing and the opportunity to move Gagner is now before his NMC kicks in.

    I don’t buy that Gagner lost complete value in just one injury plagued season; GM’s understand he had an off year due to injury.

    I think his body of work show’s he’s a solid contributor over the long term.

    Having said that, if the Oilers keep Gagner and move out Yakupov so Gagner can play the wing and Gagner implodes like last year….. MacTavish will have kissed his career good-bye, not sure MacTavish will make that bet.

    Gagner has to be moved so the Oilers can bring in different players, the only way they are going to get players they need will be by trade, NHL players want to play playoff hockey or have a chance to win the cup, nobody worth a damn is coming here, full stop.

    The Oilers need to start to trading players.

  • Zarny

    @nuge2nail

    Hall Nuge Eberle

    Perron Reinhart Yakupov

    Not a single player in that top 6 is bigger than the AVERAGE NHL F.

    In a 7 game playoff series against Chi, LA, Ana, StL, Bos etc they would get absolutely pummeled.

    • nuge2drai

      Oiler Domination To Follow

      Leon is only 1 inche and 11 pounds bigger than Sam according to the iss final rankings.

      Pick up size on the back end and bottom 6- let our dynamic top 6 hit their prime and begin to DOMINATE.

      • A-Mc

        The size ratings are not accurate here.

        I’ve compared the following guys’ heights and looked at pictures where they stand next to eachother: its not consistent.

        Mac T – 6’1
        Dallas Eakins – 6’2
        Andrew Ference – 5’11
        Sam Gagner – 5’11
        Leon Draisaitl – 6’1

        Pictures show that the height order goes:
        Mac T –> Dallas Eakins –> Andrew Ference –> Sam Gagner.

        I’m thinking their real heights are closer to:
        Mac T – 6’1
        Dallas – 6′
        Andrew – 5’10
        Sam – 5’9

  • Zarny

    I think Gagner is a good offensive talent, and would be great on a line with a center who could win draws. I don’t think the Oilers are shopping him all that hard.

  • papler

    “his trade value is at an all-time low right now”

    Nobody knows if this the all-time low right now.

    Yes, his trade value has never been lower than this. BUT… it still can get worse.

    cut your losses and move on.

  • Spydyr

    Gagner does not fit the wing either.He does not forecheck well ,win puck battles, hit , screen the goalie or many other things good wingers do.

    Trade him to someone in their division.That way the oilers can take advantage of his defensive shortcomings.