Darren Dreger of TSN told the nation today two things: the Oilers are “looking for a center” and “Sam Gagner’s name seems to surface annually at the draft.” For Sam Gagner, center, that suggests this fall is going to see at least a position change, maybe more. Question: how much trade value does 89 have?
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
I’m not going to go over the season again, you know the mugging and the result and now we are here. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve always been a Gagner fan and love his sublime passing ability. Back when I learned the game, passing and making a pass and the fundamentals behind them were a major part of the discussion.
Gagner’s play without the puck was always an issue, and his minutes against softer opponents always seemed like slow progress. In each of the last three seasons, Gagner played softer minutes when Horcoff was fading and baby Nuge was learning to swim against the NHL currents.
SAM GAGNER 10-11
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.91 (2nd among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: 2.51 (9th among regular forwards)
- Qual Comp: 7th toughest among regular forwards
- Qual Team: 4th best teammates among regular forwards
- Corsi Rel: 7.0 (4th best among regular forwards) (-3.81 CorsiON)
- Zone Start: 50.9% (6th easiest among regular forwards)
- Zone Finish: 53.4% (best among regular forwards)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 138/10.9% (8th among F’s>100 shots)
- Boxcars: 68gp, 15-27-42
SAM GAGNER 11-12
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.96 (4th among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: 3.66 (6th among regular forwards)
- Qual Comp: 8th toughest among regular forwards
- Qual Team: 6th best teammates among regular forwards
- Corsi Rel: 6.3 (4th best among regular forwards) (-2.18 CorsiON)
- Zone Start: 54.1% (4th easiest among regular forwards)
- Zone Finish: 51.8% (4th best among regular forwards)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 149/12.1% (5th among F’s>100 shots)
- Boxcars: 75, 18-29-47
SAM GAGNER 12-13
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.84 (4th among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: 6.15 (1st among regular forwards, 19th in NHL)
- Qual Comp: 5th toughest among regular forwards (2nd line opp)
- Qual Team: 6th best teammates among regular forwards
- Corsi Rel: -4.3 (9th best among regular forwards) (-14.44 CorsiON)
- Zone Start: 51.4% (4th easiest among regular forwards)
- Zone Finish: 52.0% (3rd best among regular forwards)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 113/12.39% (2nd among F’s>70 shots)
- Boxcars: 48, 14-24-38
SAM GAGNER 13-14
- 5×5 points per 60: 1.44 (6th among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: 2.20 (6th among regular forwards)
- Qual Comp: 4th toughest among regular forwards (2nd line opp)
- Qual Team: 5th best teammates among regular forwards
- 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
By last season, he was playing against 3rd line (10-11, 11-12) and 2nd line (12-13, 13-14) opposition. All of that during a rebuild, and starting in 2011 fall with a flat out rookie who probably weighed 165 soaking wet slowly taking away the heavy lifting. Sam couldn’t play the toughs successfully.
Sam was too small one year, too slow the next.
The charmed life turned into a perfect storm for Samwise in 2013-14. His injury, added to a dreadful season and fan outrage reaching the boiling point, smashed together in an instant—and Oiler fans and observers spoke out against all that was wrong.
Missed assignments? That’s not really telling it as it was. Sam Gagner, whether through injury or moments of indecision, was at the wrong place at the right time seemingly every shift.
And people. got. mad.
Blogs were written. Points were made. The crowd wore black. It was not good. Sam Gagner, the 2007 draft pick who charmed a city and blazed right up to the brink of 50 NHL points before shaving, saw the other side of playing in good old our town.
After such a long time in the second division, after such a long time of looking up at success without ever grabbing it, is it time to start again?
I’m always hesitant to imply any area of expertise when it comes to hockey players. If you want advice about how to succeed in hockey, Sutherby or Strudwick are your men. They’ve seen things up close and personal. I can cackle about a defensive sortie gone wrong and point at the guy who went ass over tea kettle, but it doesn’t really help in explaining the game and finding out what happened.
Hockey players. If you can put up with the F-bombs, they’re a very informative group.
I want to tell you something I learned from a guy who didn’t play NHL hockey, although he was around it for much of his adult life. It’s a story about Tom Poti, who at the time—coincidentally—was in his final days as an Oiler. And it was told by Mr. John Short.
One day, John was in the bowels of the CFRN building and I was asking him questions. This happened possibly 1,000 times in my 20s and 30s, and I listened more than talked. On this day, I asked John “what in h-e-double-hockey-sticks is wrong with Poti?”
John Short, who is a storyteller before he’s anything, paused, and then delivered the following:
Every place Tom Poti played before the NHL, he never had a worry about the puck. In high school, and at Boston University, when he wanted the puck he just went over and got it. Tom Poti was the best player on the ice. He could dangle and pass and dipsy doodle whenever his heart desired.
And he never spent a minute in the minors.
When Poti arrived in the NHL, the game was different. Want the puck, kid? F-bomb! And so it began. Tom Poti never played the game the NHL men play until the moment he stepped on the ice, because he never had to, and in this way the on-the-job training began opening night 1998.
Tom Poti moved away from Edmonton on a March day over a decade ago, no doubt taking his crazy food stuff with him to Manhattan. He learned, he survived, and he flourished as a grown man after learning those lessons as an Oiler.
And Edmonton? We’ve got our new Poti. I always say there’s a difference between having five years experience and having one year’s experience five times. It’s a mean thing to say about someone, even if true. I think Staples’ words are as effective and less cruel so we’ll go with those.
Whatever happens this week Sam Gagner, thank you. I’ve enjoyed your hockey and will continue to at your next stop.
Be it right wing, or Florida. Sail on.