Listen, I know everyone’s excited about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hopping on board and playing 1C, 2C, or something in between. And I don’t really blame you. One of the perks of finishing last in the NHL is that you’ll have a pretty good shot at getting a player that stands to play in the NHL for some time.
But there’s some dangerous counter productive thought that’s swirling through the ranks. It involves getting Nugent-Hopkins in the lineup ASAP at any means possible, and it might come at the expense of one of the most productive Oilers over the past few years.
The main threat for him, it seems to me, is that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will also make the Oilers this year and he will pick up all the playing time that Gagner really needs in this crucial season for him as an Edmonton Oiler
David Staples, Edmonton Journal (19 AUG 2011)
Geez, this sounds bad. Is he going to get any better? Maybe we should trade him for a prospect. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should be in this lineup. He should take Gagner’s place. That’s it. Nugent-Hopkins good, Gagner bad. Gagner’s got to go.
Let’s step back from the ledge for a second. It’s no secret. Gagner’s defence needs to be better. I’m going to bat for the guy, and I’ll be the first to tell you that when he’s not on the rush, you’re getting a mixed bag at best. But look at the big picture.
- Gagner is 22. We’ve got a full-blown NHL player at 22. Gagner at 22 has scored 173 points over four NHL seasons – that’s just about 43 points a year. Before you got all hot and bothered, understand that I agree with what you’re about to shout at your monitor about defence. Look at the points though. Who else scored forty or more points last year? (Hint: Hall, Eberle, Hemsky).
- Hey! I happen to know someone else who had a forty point season at age 22. Happens to be that Doug Weight had 48 points in the ’92-’93 season. Sam Gagner is not Doug Weight. But, Sam Gagner is 22. So was Doug Weight at that point. What does this all mean? Doug Weight played some quality hockey in his career. Sam Gagner will likely also. The only other player to have more points from the draft class of 2007 is Gagner’s teammate from the London Knights, Patrick Kane.
The crux of the matter: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is going to get every look this preseason, and there’s a good chance he’ll end up making the final cut. Many fans I’ve heard simply don’t think he’s worth putting at 3C or 4C (agreed), so someone’s got to move in order for RNH to get immediate playing time.
Pull back those horses, stallion. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins doesn’t need to make this team. There’s no two ways about it. Although, I admit that it’d be pretty cool if the eighteen year old came in and lit up the scoresheet en route to a playoff berth, finishing with seventy-five points and a driving a brand new Ford Fiesta with twenty six inch rims.
I don’t think that’s plausible with Sam Gagner on the team, and I don’t think getting rid of Sam Gagner is going to help make that happen.
It’s no secret that the Oilers and their fans expect great things out of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and I’ve no reason to think that Nugent-Hopkins won’t perform. I don’t think that getting rid of a 22 year old player who likely hasn’t reached his career potential in favour of a brand new guy on the block is going to be beneficial for either of their careers.
So I ask you: What is Sam Gagner’s year going to have to look like in order for you to be satisified? Will 40 points and some better play without the puck do it for you?
Tonight is Edmonton’s first preseason game(s) of the year, as a split-squad home-away matchup between Minnesota (at Rexall Place) and Chicago (in Saskatoon) begin the long and optimistic winding road to April.
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