Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Edmonton Oilers Postgame 12: The Curse of Sam Gagner

A talented and flawed player was Sam Gagner, and the
massive junior season was clearly Kane-infused.
I'll give you one guess as to which team has the least points in the NHL since the Oilers drafted Gagner. If you guessed your Edmonton Oilers, well done. Sporting 473 points in 540 games for a point percentage of 0.876 per game, they are 30th overall, behind the New York Islanders. It's 268 losses, and for the petroleum-product faithfuls, it's been a hard, long journey.

When Gagner was drafted, the Oilers draft team saw explosive scoring totals, and good Canadian born and NHL bred kid. Right up to the draft day, the 6th overall spot was pegged to be a Voracek vs Gagner battle, and it's obvious in retrospect that the Oilers passing on Voracek was the first in a string of awful decisions that produced the gaudy numbers in the first paragraph. If you want to call it a curse, it's as good a spot as any to start pointing fingers at the Lords and Lawyers that have fashioned the NHL's worst team of the last 7 years.

Once and a while, bad decisions get rubbed in your face like boarding that too-full subway car simultaneously with a large, sweaty man. In this case the large man was from Kladno, and he was sweaty from pumping in the winning goal - his second of the game - just 16:04 into the game. Voracek plays the kind of strong, two-way puck possession game that Sam will probably never... possess. This isn't a Flyers blog - I think they are a lousy team, sporting a 44.8% corsi close number - but Jakub was the answer to the question: are the Oilers mediocre without Hall?

Speaking of game one without Hall, I think the first mistake contributing to the loss was breaking up the hounds on the fourth line. Acton was inserted, the "Tough Actin'" Will Acton - who looks like he's trying so hard every shift - managed to contribute very little: 0 shots and -1 in a team low 9:02. At some point Eakins clearly realized his mistake, and reunited the hounds of hell. I can see his smarmy face in the post-game presser now, spinning how it was to find some offence in the third. No Dallas, it's because you get better results when Acton plays less and the fourth line plays together.

Sportsnet's color guy, Remanda, wanted to harp about how the Oilers didn't play that bad versus the Flyers, and how they were dominating the shot clock. I actually think he's an excellent upgrade over Debrusk, but I have some logic to kick here:

  1. The early results from the Flyers, especially with three regular Dmen missing from their lineup, are indicating a poor team. If you don't care for Corsi close, then their 23rd ranked overall, 12 points might be a more convincing proof-in-the-pudding number for you.
  2. The Oilers were essentially sawing off shots and play until the score was 4-1. I've talked about score effects before, and here they are again. Even the best, most disciplined, most impressive teams in the league let their foot off the community gas pedal. So take the final shot totals, 36-25 Oilers, with a grain of salt.
  3. The Oilers were victims of bad bounces, yes, but let's follow that thought. The Oilers needed to allow the opponents entry to the zone, then possession of the puck, then allow the opposing player to shoot the puck, and our goalie has to not stop it. Their is a safety net against bounces, and it's more than just one bounce. It's a series of small mistakes, faulty reflexes, and underwhelming players. Case and point, the reason Voracek scored on the second goal was because Purcell was inexplicably guarding the man in front of the net - Marincin's job, and he was in the right place - instead of covering the point. The pointman (MDZ) had plenty of time to make a heads up, cross-slot pass that eventually transformed into a mighty morphin' puck-in-the-back-of-the-net.
  4. Finally, and probably most important, is the fact that the Oilers played another team mostly even. How many times this season have we seen the Oilers as the clearly start-to-finish superior team? Teams that can merely saw off play are constantly going to live and die by the ping-pong bounce of the puck, and the mighty hockey gods above. That's an extremely lucky playoff team at best (cough cocky Colorado).
Further dissection after the hop...
Oskar Klefbom played a decent overall game, actually, regardless of the -2 in 18+ minutes. He looked slightly stunned both times the pucks went in, but most of the doe-eyed-rookie-delicacy is gone from his game. He looks like an NHL defender for the most part, and especially from a raw tools perspective, has a good chance to be a solid #3 guy in the league if his progression continues.

Justin Schultz continues to move his needle in the positive direction, from "I don't like how petulant his face looks" to "capable big minutes defender". Technically, I still don't like his face - I wish he would get a new face - but he is thinking the game better. To really take the next step, however, he needs to be (surprised?) a bigger force offensively. When you get 5:23 of PP ice, and you are the load-up-the-clown-cannon on the PP point, you can't miss the net on three consecutive shots. Streit has 9 points and 28 shots. Justin has 5 and 18, hardly numbers of an elite offensive defenceman.

Ted Purcell is not a very good defensive player, and (self-admitted) not much of a warrior. He finished with a shocking 5 shots in 18:37 unless you realize the average shot distance was the Philly cheese steak stand outside the venue. I feel like his stock is winding it's way down to penny stock territory, which is essentially what the Tampa team thought his return was worth. If he doesn't score, and can't defend, what is his purpose? We perhaps should look at last years 80gp-10g-30a as the ceiling of his play, not the average.

Viktor Fasth put in another shaky appearance, but I'll be the first to admit that it's possible Scrivens would generate the same score. There were bounces, sure, and he made a couple of nice stops, but so did Steve "Two good seasons" Mason. Maybe if he's a shade quicker on the Voracek wrapper, or his reflexes are a touch tighter on the Voracek winner, it's a whole different ballgame.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored a hell of a goal, and it's the perfect time to take a facebook quiz. Based on your reaction to the Hopkins goal, what kind of fan are you?

You cheered and hollered and high-fived like a fucking maniac - You clearly are either a brand new Oilers fan, a puck-bunny who fancies Lord Hopkins, or the Orange and Blue oil has passed your blood brain barrier and severely impacted your higher-brain function.

You gave a moderate fist pump and/or turned to your buddy and said "finally!" - You have either: watched the Oilers for less than 3 seasons or you think Hitler dying was the silver lining to World War 2 (that would be an optimist).

You gave an approval grunt. That's it, you didn't even turn to look at your significant other - You have watched over 120 losses in person and on TV, every loss a paper cut to your soul. You also are probably pessimistic and/or a regular reader of Copper and Blue.

You did nothing. You were a slab of granite, unmoving, unchanging like a stone-artifact lost in the tombs of time - The constant litany of losses has turned you into a blank-faced zombie, and your black soul threatens to snuff out life on earth as we know it. Or maybe you're just a pragmatist, and you are smartly looking at the big picture: points are all that count.

P.S. That was one hell of a goal, even if I'm a pragmatist.

David Perron is a mobile block of stinky French cheese, and I can officially say that every Oilers fan in the universe loves him for it. The polls are in, he's the most likable villain since Tyler Durden in Fight Club. Also, he's probably going to finish with more than the pro-rated 6 goals he's on pace for. He had 4 shots in 19:58, and the rapscallion was in the middle of everything.

Nail Yakupov released a couple of lazer beams in this one, and it was a good sign for the Nizhnekamsk faithful. He managed a 6-shooter worth of bullets in only 13:55 of gameplay, and if he could even keep half that pace, he'd finish with 27 goals if you use his career (13.1%) shooting percentage. I still don't see anything I dislike in his game, especially when comparing him to last years model. Let's not forget, he's still only 21.


Craig MacTavish, 2013, pre-season presser:

Sam has really developed into a leader here… he’s a guy that’s really developed into the type of character we want and that’s going to be important when I’m making the decisions, is that we have the type of culture in that room. I would weigh rather take a marginal step backwards and have the culture that we want because I know it’s going to be more impactful going forward. We’ve had a few years of too much of a circus in there and that’s going to change.

And now he's gone, and where are we exactly? What has changed?


  1. Issues with the team, the off season signings looks crappy, only Fayne is bringing in what we expected. Oilers did NOT ice the best players to begin the season, Hunt over Klef, Marincin in the ahl to start, Acton on the team again. Eakins needs to go and a coach with NHL experience needs to be brought in. Eakins looks like that one lesbian aunt everyone has.
    To fix the team you need to
    Fire Eakins
    Fire Mact
    Fire klowe