Sam Gagner’s Bakersfield Condors Debut
1 month ago
The road back for Sam Gagner was long, but one Tuesday night, he finally made his long-awaited return to the ice. Over the off-season, Gagner had hip surgery, but despite that, the Edmonton Oilers signed him to a professional tryout. He signed an American Hockey League contract and debuted for the Bakersfield Condors on Tuesday night.
The Condors won that game 5-1, and Gagner contributed with a pair of assists. The first game on Lane Pederson’s opening goal after Gagner’s shot deflected into Pederson’s path, who then did the rest. Later in the game, the former 6th overall pick from 2007 made a quick play to Ben Gleason, who added to the scoreline.
Those two assists came in just over 19 minutes of ice time. Gagner contributed at a high level throughout, playing well at 5-on-5, and chipped in on special teams with 2:03 minutes on the power play and 1:25 on the penalty kill. Not bad for someone who just recovered from hip surgery.
The most noticeable part of Gagner’s game was his intelligence. When you’ve played over 1,000 games in the NHL, you pick up a few tendencies you will carry with you no matter what. He did a great job keeping plays alive by keeping the puck in the offensive zone and playing well as a support option for the players with more energy. Gagner didn’t overdo it either, which will be crucial to his success this season.
There were a few moments where you could see the speed wasn’t in his legs anymore. He got caught around the boards a couple of times and got himself tangled up when he didn’t make a play quick enough. His shots weren’t snapping as quickly as they could, but that will also come with time on ice.
“The game at the NHL level has passed him by,” said Bruce Curlock on Oilersnation Everyday. “His footspeed doesn’t look great — it will be fine — but at the American League, fine. He has such a good brain, though. It’s unbelievable. He thinks the game so well that he can get away with things in the AHL that he may struggle with at the next level. It is only one game, so we will see how he continues to look.”
“Colin Chaulk has tried to put skill with skill. Last night [Tuesday], you had Xavier Bourgault and Lane Pederson with Gagner, and you could see Bourgault’s game elevate. As rude as that sounds, I don’t want to see him [Gagner] in Edmonton because I think these kids will benefit from playing with him so much.”
Gagner has been an incredible servant for the Oilers and the NHL; it’s great to see success in his first game back. Could Oilers fans see Sam Gagner play at Rogers Place this season? A few things would need to go wrong before the team reached that point. With that said, a lot has gone wrong already, and the Oilers are only six games into the season, so never say never.
This season, the key for Gagner and the Oilers is to have him be around the younger players. Educate the future Oilers like Raphael Lavoie, Xavier Bourgault and even Lane Pederson on what it takes to be an everyday NHLer and succeed. It’s a vital role that the Oilers need somebody in.
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