No matter how you spin it, Sam Gagner had a putrid season with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013-14 with a career-low 37 points before being shown the door – to the delight of many – and ending up with the Arizona Coyotes via a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out” was the reaction of Gagner’s many critics in his 7th NHL season, one that started with a broken jaw courtesy of Zack Kassian in pre-season, as Edmonton’s second-line centre behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Harsh, but understandable, given eight straight years out of the playoffs.
So, Gagner gets a fresh start in Arizona, not to mention an actual shot to make the playoffs this season. The Oilers, meanwhile, are still looking to fill the void left by Gagner. Until GM Craig MacTavish makes a trade, it looks like it will be a combination of rookie Leon Draisaitl, Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander getting a crack at the job.
Even in a worst-case scenario – if MacTavish can’t swing a deal to land a proven second-line pivot — you’d have to think any one of the above mentioned trio will be able to do better than Gagner’s 37 points (his best is 49 points, in his rookie season), right? We’ll see how that plays out.
A LOOK BACK
Gagner, who got married this off-season, did an interview with Jason Gregor on TSN 1260 today and took a look back at his time here and a look ahead at moving south to the Valley of the Sun. Some snippets from that interview:
On why the Oilers didn’t progress during the rebuild the way the team had hoped during his time here: “It’s hard to say. I mean, obviously if I had the answers, I would have done a better job of helping us out of it.
“I always try to pride myself on being a good teammate and being somebody who can lead by example, be a leader on and off the ice. I don’t feel that I ever wavered in that, even through some tough times. I’m proud of that fact.
“Obviously, it wasn’t good enough. You know, we just couldn’t figure it out as a group. I still have a lot of great friends on the Oilers and, you know, I wish them all the best. I’m sure that coming up here, they’re going to be a team to reckon with.”
A LOOK AHEAD
On the transition to playing in Arizona, out of the NHL fishbowl that is Edmonton: “I don’t think it’s something you know until you’re in it. All my hockey my entire life has been in Canada obviously, growing up here and playing with the Oilers my entire NHL career.
“It’s hard to say what it’s going to be like. I think at times it’ll be good to be able to get away from the rink and focus on some other things and get my mind in the right place. I’m sure, at times, you compete and push through. You know what? It’s an exciting challenge for me regardless . . .”
On a fresh start and putting the struggles of 2013-14 behind him under coach Dave Tippett: “I don’t have any regrets. I’m just excited for this year coming up I feel like I’ve had a good summer and it’s important for me to get off to a good start.
“It’s obviously something where I need to be coming into camp ready. I have new people that I need to prove myself to. It’s one of those things were you’ve got to be ready right from the first day of training camp to prove yourself and make sure that you have a spot in the line-up solidified and that you can move forward from there.”
THE WAY I SEE IT
The Oilers wanted and needed to get bigger and grittier in the top-nine up front and Gagner didn’t fit into that plan. He certainly didn’t force the issue or create any second thoughts with the kind of season he had. In that regard, it was time for him to move on.
Even with all the warts on his game, and there were many, Gagner gave you all he had, even if on some nights it wasn’t good enough. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we see a bounce back from Gagner this season in Arizona, even if it seemed he hit a wall here.
As for what Oilers fans can expect and will get out of the No. 2 hole at pivot this season, it’ll be an interesting juxtaposition with what Gagner does in the desert with the Coyotes.
WHILE I’M AT IT . . .
. . . This today from Gregor upon his return from vacation: “I see Taylor Hall scoring 90 points this season.”
If Gregor is taking any action on that prediction, I’d be willing to make a wager. While Hall is coming off a season in which he scored 80 points in 75 games, that GP number represents a career-high. His previous seasons saw him play 65, 61 and 45 (48-game season).
Hall has a career mark of .91 PPG (it was 1.07 last season), so a full season of 82 games at .91 would put him right at 75 points. I see Hall in the 75-80 range again.
. . . Congratulations to ON’s own Jonathan Willis, who’ll essentially be taking over Tyler Dellow’s old gig writing for Sportsnet’s website now that he’s been bought off by the Oilers.
The sports writing business is changing quickly and it bears little resemblance to what was waiting for me in the early 1980s. No matter what the era, though, the biz always needs new blood and a fresh approach. Willis brings both to this writing scam.
AND . . .
Having survived the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – I made a donation rather than dump of bucket of ice water over my big mug – I’m looking forward to the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes campaign against domestic violence as part of the Oilersnation team on Sept. 23.
If you’d like to support the ON team, you can donate through the following link. Might be worth the price of a donation to see a 56-year-old man with no meniscus remaining in chronically dislocating knees wobble around on high heels, no?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.