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.

  • 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.”

  • 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.