gagner snip

It was a tough season for Sam Gagner. His coverage (as reflected by the photo above) was beyond the pale, his offense was in the pail, and, for part of the season, he was spitting chiclets into the pail! What an awful year. The sun comes up, and it’s time to talk. Do the Oilers move on from 89? What should we expect in return?


Many Oiler fans I speak to don’t believe Craig MacTavish will be able to find a trade partner for Sam Gagner. I respectfully disagree. He’s established himself as an offensive player of note and with goals being a priority every offseason I suspect there will be interest from several cities.


centers sledgehammer

This is the Vollman Sledgehammer for all the players who spent time at center this season. You can make your own Sledgehammer below, courtesy Rob Vollman.

Player Usage Charts.

The bubbles represent “Corsi on” which is shot differential*. Blue bubbles are good, but there’s no blue bubble in the chart. The best way to explain it might be this: Arcobello’s bubble is the color of small crime, like you took a Coca-Cola from the pool hall. Nuge and Gagner’s bubbles would be a larger crime, maybe theft over $1,000 or something. Gordon and Acton need a lawyer.

However, that’s only one side of the issue. Nugent-Hopkins is facing the toughest available opposition, so despite a big break on zone starts (he gets the cherry minutes there, close to 60% because offense). Gagner faces the second toughest opposition, but also gets great zone starts because offense.

Gordon? He’s over at Shawshank, in the laundry room. Gordon’s 5×5 zone start is a bear, and he’s facing the other team’s best offensive players—this is probably worth $3 million a year, but there are days when Gordon probably feels like driving to the airport and heading to Cancun.

Ryan Smyth is in a tougher part of the graph, and Arcobello gets under 50% zone starts but isn’t facing the toughest opps available.


The real issue for Gagner in this graph is the location of his bubble. A man with his experience — even an offense-first player — should be trusted with more severe zone starts and to take the tougher opps from the 21-year old phenom. Gagner never was that player as an Oiler. The big pants were worn by Horcoff and now Gordon this past season.

And that’s really the issue with Gagner, and the reason he’ll be dealt to the Islanders or the Hurricanes or the Panthers. The Oilers need a more complete player, certainly until RNH can handle the Kopitars and the Toews of this world.

And Gagner isn’t that guy (see photo above) because he’s never been that player. Not in junior, not in 2007 as a rookie nor in 2010 or 2012. Not before Kassian and certainly not after.


Sam Gagner has value. A team that can move his bubble down toward the Arcobello bubble, and maintain the quality zone starts, is probably getting a 50-point player.

Edmonton? They need a more complete player. Full stop. That’s it, that’s all.



Zack Kassian is a dink. However, he may have done the Oilers a favor. This season, where Sam Gagner’s limitations were on display while his offense struggled, pointed out a major hole in the team’s center depth chart.

The Edmonton Oilers may choose to move him to the wing, but at this point we’ve probably seen the end of Sam Gagner’s Oiler career as a center. The market for centers who can score against the soft parade is strong, but Edmonton needs a more complete pivot.

Surely the 2013-14 season proved it beyond a doubt.

* From Extra Skater

Corsi is the number of shot attempts by a team or player. In
other words, it’s the sum of a team or players’s goals, shots
on net, shots that miss the net, and shots that are blocked.
It’s used as a proxy for puck possession: since we can’t (yet)
measure how long a player or team has possession of the puck,
we use corsi as an approximation.
We’re interested in puck possession because you can’t score if
you don’t have the puck (and the team that has puck more often
usually wins).
For players, we usually measure “on-ice” corsi, or all of
their team’s shot attempts while they’re on the ice.