James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Gauging Gagner's great game

Friday, February 03, 2012

If you’re in the mood to get a word snob all huffy, just throw words like “amazing” and “unique” around flippantly. Nothing gets their blood boiling quite like hyperbolic statements that bend – or even break – the rules of language.


With those irritable folks in mind, I cannot say that Sam Gagner truly experienced a “unique” night on Thursday. That would state that he accomplished something one-of-a-kind, which isn’t totally true.


Instead, I’ll go the safer routes and say that he did something unusual and extremely unexpected. Sure, there’s no denying that the playmaking forward has the pedigree to produce – he was the sixth overall pick of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, after all – but if you were asked to pick an Edmonton Oilers player who would score eight points in a single game, where would Gagner rank?


My guess is that you’d rank Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky and maybe even Shawn Horcoff ahead of Gagner. Some might even throw a defenseman like Ryan Whitney ahead of Gagner if they were feeling especially brazen.


That’s the beauty of sports and why George Berman loves saying “That’s why they play the game.” Gagner almost doubled his goal total (five to nine) and bumped his points to 30 as he scored four goals and four assists for that eight-point night.


Doing so made him one of 11 players to accomplish such a task in NHL history, including former Oilers legends Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey. Other hockey legends who managed the feat include Mario Lemieux and Maurice “Rocket” Richard. Gagner’s happens to be the first player to pull it off in 23 years, by the way.


In case you’re wondering, here’s the list of players who have scored at least eight points in a single NHL contest:


Darryl Sittler - 10 points (Feb. 7, 1976)


All other players listed below had eight points:

  • Richard (Dec. 28, 1944)
  • Bert Olmestead (Jan. 1, 1954)
  • Tom Bladon (Dec. 11, 1977)
  • Bryan Trottier (Dec. 23, 1978)
  • Anton and Peter Stastny (Feb. 22, 1981)
  • Gretzky (Nov. 19, 1983, Jan. 4, 1984)
  • Coffey (March 14, 1986)
  • Patrik Sundstrom (April 22, 1988)
  • Lemieux (Oct. 15, 1988, Dec. 31, 1988, April 25, 1989)
  • Bernie Nicholls (Dec. 1, 1988)
  • Gagner (Thursday night)

Note: Wow, the 1980’s sure were ridiculous weren’t they? (Especially Lemieux in 88-89.)



As fun as it is to look back on Gagner’s night and reflect on its historical significance, most fantasy owners are wondering if they should scoop up the Oilers forward.



Well, there certainly are some pros to the idea. For one thing, Gagner has the pedigree of a high-end draft pick and it’s not like he’s been lost at sea for a long time. He’s been hovering around the 40-point mark for much of his young career, but perhaps this will be the breakout he needs to become of more interest than just a fringe guy. He’s certainly been hot lately as that outburst helped him generate 10 points in the last four games.



There are some minuses, however. For one thing, he’s been really streaky. He started off the season with zero points in his first three games and had a seven-game pointless streak in November, too. Gagner also failed to score a single point in six games before this mini-eruption.


Another thing to consider is that he's only average at best in peripheral categories. His 28 PIM are decent enough but nothing to swing things in his corner while just 86 SOG on the season means that he's averaging less than two points per game. His +2 rating isn't half-bad on an Oilers team that looks lottery bond, but it isn't awe-inspiring either.



Ultimately, it comes down to your situation. If you’re strong on offense he isn’t really worth the blind piñata swing. That being said, if you’re desperate for a little jolt, there’s the possibility that this is the kind of night that can instill confidence in a promising player who’s only been so-so at this point in his young career.



The Carolina Hurricanes swept their season series with the Boston Bruins thanks to their 3-0 win last night. If you need a go-to reason for this 4-0 edge in 2011-12, look no further that Cam Ward, who produced a 47-save shutout on Thursday and only allowed five goals in those four contests overall … There’s talk that the St. Louis Blues might be shopping power forward Chris Stewart, for whatever that’s worth … The Kings/Blue Jackets clock malfunction situation is a mess, but Drew Doughty’s owners aren’t complaining over his GWG from Wednesday … The next few games might determine whether or not the Tampa Bay Lightning will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.



It sounds like Mike Green might be heading in the right direction as his skating is picking up … Dustin Byfuglien returned to action for the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, helping them edge the Lightning and stay in the running for a playoff spot …The Devils earned a comeback win against the Montreal Canadiens but Adam Larsson banged up his knee in the process … After missing 10 games with a shoulder issue, it appears that Jeff Carter is no longer on the injured reserve … Andrew Brunette is day-to-day with an upper-body injury … Antti Niemi might be banged up, so keep an eye out. (Click here for the full injury list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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