The Edmonton Oilers are at a crossroads with Sam Gagner. Fresh off of signing a one year extension for the upcoming season, thus avoiding arbitration, the Oilers need to see if Sam Gagner can become a consistant, reliable, stable 2nd line pivot the Oilers desperately need, acting as a safety net for the younger Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
There really isn’t anything wrong with Sam Gagner’s game. If you are looking for a 40-50 point player that can be semi-reliable in his own zone, then Sam Gagner is your man. Sam Gagner was tied for a team best +5, so he isn’t terrible defensively but also didn’t have to face tough competiton a lot of the time. The problem with Gagner is how he fits into the context of the team as a whole. Things plaguing the Oilers as a whole are experience, strength, and defensive acumen. When those three issues come up the first name that pops up in the depth chart is and where it can be improved is Sam Gagner. No offense to Gagner, but the team has been turned over so much in the last five years since he was drafted that his skills have become redundant and need to be replaced with some of the skillsets that are currently lacking on the Oilers.
We all know that the likes of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and now Nail Yakupov aren’t likely going to be traded for team needs, so that immediately puts the spots occupied by Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky to the forefront. One thing that Sam Gagner can improve on in his time with the Oilers his his shooting and increasing the amount of shots. With the amount of playmakers an puck transporters there are on the club these days, the thing Sam Gagner can work on is shot release and shooting without hesitation. If Gagner truly wants to stay an Oiler, Gagner will have to transform his game a bit to make it fit within the confines of the team. It will be interesting to see how the season plays out for Sam Gagner.
If I Could Grant One Wish – Strength: The thing that plagues Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also plagues Sam Gagner which makes things tough for Ralph Krueger to get desired matchups when your top two offensive centers have a hard time with faceoffs and one on one puck battles. Sam Gagner needs to find a way to distinguish himself from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Having two centers that do the exact same thing doesn’t help in matchups. Might help with injuries, but not with matchups.
Prediction for 2013 – Will not finish the season with the Oilers: TheOilers didn’t really go “all-in” on Gagner by resigning him to a one year deal. Essentially, by doing so, they indirectly said to the rest of the NHL that he is available at the right price. Sam Gagner is without a doubt an NHL player, but as the Oilers continue to try to become physically stronger and harder to play against, the Oilers will have to continue to turnover the lineup in order to do so.