Gagner

 

Maybe this is the Oil fan in me, but I believe the sixth overall pick is cursed. Ever since the Oilers drafted in that spot three straight years back in the mid 90’s (and more specifically, inexplicably passed on Shane Doan in favour of Steve Kelly at the ’95 draft) the sixth overall pick has been cursed. I don’t really know how to explain it. That draft position just keeps churning out flops. Oh you may get a reasonably good NHL player but if your dream is a star, you can kiss that dream goodbye. Since the curse came into effect only Minnesota’s 2001 selection of Mikko Koivu at #6 has yielded a star calibre player. Teams expect much more from such high picks so the hype is big. The return, however, has been consistently disappointing.

 

With that said, I’m more than willing to admit that this may just be coincidental. After all, my Oilers and the perennially inept Blue Jackets have each picked in that spot three times since (and including) the Steve Kelly debacle. It is somewhat faulty to doom every sixth overall draft pick to fail to meet expectations because the teams picking in that spot the most are among the worst in the NHL over that span of time. That sentiment is little consolation for this week’s Cage Match contestants as both were selected by those “sixquisitely” doomed franchises. Sam Gagner and Derrick Brassard may both be lucky to find themselves featured on Cage Match but they are both destined for mediocrity (as if you didn’t already know that).

 

If you had not already accepted unexceptional returns from Brassard or Gagner then consider the following. Both Brassard and Gagner made their NHL debuts in the 2007-08 season, which makes this past season their “magical fourth year” and as I’m sure you are well aware that year came to pass without even the slightest bit of magic. Owning either one these past few years has been like going for a long walk down the yellow brick road, making this past season the unveiling of the Wizard Oz.

 

Granted they are both still young and still boast some upside it’s time we once and for all tempered our expectations. Simply clicking your heels while whispering, “There’s no place like home,” won’t rid you of the Tin Man or the Cowardly Lion (I’ll let you decide who is who as it is not essential to the metaphor) as they won’t be handed a heart or a brain any time soon. It isn’t all bad for those of you who own them though. While the trade returns for either one is surely diminishing by the day, they still have value as a decent second line center and as it stands they also remain the top dog on their respective teams, so you cannot rule out a Stephen Weiss-esque awakening.

 

In the end the upside for both these guys is still an assist heavy 75 points but with Nugent-Hopkins likely on the way for Edmonton and Ryan Johansen coming to Columbus both guys are screwed long term. With that in mind let us do battle with the numbers.

 

Brassard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GP

Goals

Assists

Plus/Minus

PPP

PIM

SOG

2007-08

17

1

1

Minus-4

0

6

13

2008-09

31

10

15

Plus-12

7

17

59

2009-10

79

9

27

Minus-17

10

48

125

2010-11

74

17

30

Minus-11

16

55

183

 

Gagner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GP

Goals

Assists

Plus/Minus

PPP

PIM

SOG

2007-08

79

13

36

Minus-21

16

23

135

2008-09

76

16

25

Minus-1

11

51

156

2009-10

68

15

26

Minus-8

17

33

170

2010-11

68

15

27

Minus-17

9

37

138

 

 

It is worth noting that you can’t read much into Brassard’s first two seasons. His inaugural year was split between the AHL (where he performed quite well) and the NHL. His second season he suffered a season ending injury that collapsed all hope of his breaking out. The one thing we can really draw from those early seasons is that Brassard is somewhat injury prone.

 

On the whole the numbers do not show you much of anything. The Goal and Assist totals are quite similar, so are PPP and SOG. You cannot read much into the Plus/Minus stat because they both have played for crappy teams. That Brassard was able to be a plus player on Columbus’ one and only playoff team is promising though. It shows he was responsible enough to earn minutes under the greatest stickler of them all, Ken Hitchcock, so let’s concede Brassard is a slightly safer bet here.

 

The same can be said for PIM. Gagner has never been a big PIM producer. He did have one mildly big season of 60 PIM in 56 games back in 2005-06 in the USHL but if we are going that far back then Brassard can trump him having put up 92 PIM in 58 games, that same season, in the QMJHL. Brassard has a career average of reasonably well over half a PIM per game, while Gagner’s career average is just under half a PIM per game. It is a marginal difference but it exists.

 

Ultimately there’s not enough within the numbers themselves to make a decision one way or another. Yes Brassard seems to have a slight edge in a couple of categories but it is not conclusive.

 

The point of showing the numbers though is to demonstrate that while Gagner is clearly developing sideways like a low interest savings account, Brassard is actually improving his numbers each and every season. His development may have stagnated as a result of his injury but progress is still being made and this cannot be ignored.

 

When watching Gagner you don’t get the sense of a player who is on the cusp of emerging. His skill is evident but I question his drive. It seems as though his will to put the time and effort in has been crushed by all the losing in Edmonton. He’s like a pot of coffee, only someone forgot to turn the element on. A change of scenery would do him good because he needs a fire lit under his ass before it’s too late. He’s only 23 years old but with four years under his belt it’s getting a little late to start learning things like the importance of faceoffs and conditioning.

 

Brassard’s outlook is more optimistic. I don’t watch as much Columbus as I do Edmonton so I’m no doubt harder on Gagner but I felt I saw more out of Brassard. He consistently shows a sincere passion for the game and he tends to battle a lot harder than Gagner does. Now that may be because Brassard is a lot bigger and thus more inclined to get involved physically but I don’t think Gagner gets a pass because of his stature. Brassard is also a much better skater so while he doesn’t have Gagner’s hands he can get more done with his effort and skating.

 

Brassard has also (ever so briefly) experienced a winning environment. I do not feel his development has been quite as sullied as Gagner’s. Both players have a long way to go, as do their teams but Columbus is more ready to compete now and so is Brassard. As it stands the Blue Jackets are really only missing a puck mover or two on defence and they may have a couple who are on the cusp in John Moore and David Savard. The Oilers need puck movers too but they also need experience in general.

 

You cannot talk Oilers without mentioning the development of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Those players will undoubtedly be improved next season but to what degree remains a mystery. Brassard on the other hand has at least one teammate we know is a star in Rick Nash and they’ve shown some chemistry in the past. Gagner on the other hand showed little to know chemistry with Edmonton’s trio of rookies so even if they improve there is no telling if it will help his numbers. Gagner does have chemistry with Hemsky but that only last as long as Hemsky does, which is about as long as a virgin with a supermodel.

 

My firm belief is that Gagner needs a fresh start out of Edmonton while Brassard can nestle into a solid second line role (with potential for first line) right where he is. Ultimately I would prefer not to own either one of these two but Brassard is trending upward. If he can give me a bigger impact right away I will take it so I can trade him down the road. I am willing to take a chance on Brassard’s injuries while optimistically predicting a 60 point season for him next year. It is true that Johansen should join the team next season and eventually take the top line center spot away from Brassard but his mere presence will open things up for everyone next season. Gagner on the other hand will toil with(out) the youngsters once again. I think he hits a career high 50 points next season but it won’t be enough to win this Cage Match or keep him in Edmonton.

 

Oh and since it’s probably nagging at you, Scarecrow is Gilbert Brule (who has ironically played for both teams). You definitely don’t want to own him.

 


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Comments (11)add comment

Jeff said:

number54
back@ Steve Your argument about the last 20 games being meaningless is completely backwards. Teams in playoff contention are highly unlikely to rest players. The only notable exception is among teams that have already clinched a home-ad. That certainly wouldn't apply over a stretch as long as 20-30 games.

Particularly in the Western Conference, where the playoff race has been extremely tight every year since the lockout, very few games are EVER a night off towards the end of the season. This was even more the case in the 07-08 & 08-09 Northwest Division, where 4 teams competed for playoff spots in each of those seasons, and also included the 9th seeded team in each of those seasons. AND, the 9th seeded team WAS the Oilers in 07-08.

Over the last two years, when the Oilers have been the last seeded team in the conference, it makes sense that minor injuries to younger players (like Gagner) would warrant a rest over the last 20 games. And, in 09-10 and 10-11, the Oilers' games have been 'nights off' for better teams. However, neither of those are examples of his late-season production. In both cases, when Gagner put up big numbers, his team was within earshot of a playoff spot, and certainly didn't qualify as a 'night off'. If anybody's argument "doesn't coincide with the on-ice product", it's yours.
June 22, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

metaldude26
... Jeff - I've heard some of your arguments before and the problem is they don't seem to coincide with the on ice product. You are correct that Gagner has shown flashes of brilliance but the problem is that those flashes were two years ago and he has since stagnated.

With flashes like that they need to be building towards something otherwise it's wasted momentum and it starts looking more like he's going to be a streaky player if a good one at all. Sometimes (like Stamkos for instance) an end of year run can signify the coming of a big year or that the player is ready to take the next step. Other times, and as happened with Gagner, it's nothing more than a flash.

You also can't look too much into an end of year run because that's when teams start to rest players. In the past few years that has meant Edmonton is a night off on the calendar. For Gagner to play well in garbage games does exactly tell you much about his future production.

He also doesn't get a free pass for missing games at the end of the season. He's yet to play a full one as a pro. If anything his missed games and general demeanor remind me of a lesser talented Spezza.

You mentioned a lot of good players and compared his career numbers to theirs. The problem I see with that is that Gagner has clearly been rushed. We all knew he was getting pushed too hard when the Oilers kept him on as an 18-year-old and now our fears have been validated by his stagnation. He may have better career numbers than a lot of those players but Gagner was not developed properly and thus will fall behind. In fantasy brief greatness will always trump extended mediocrity. Gagner has shown and is destined for extended mediocrity. That's a bus I'd rather get off of.

Now you'll note I never took anything away from the potential either Brassard or Gagner still has. I still think it's there that at some point they could be very good second line centers (75 point upside). My point was that the potential on both has been overblown (which is something you agree with) so waiting for them to breakout is really a waste of time. Waiting until they are 30 for some sort of Patrick Sharp-like breakout season would be painful to hang on for. I truly believe Gagner needs to be moved to ever hope he can become a consistent threat and that could be more than a few years away.

Brassard on the other hand may not need a move. He's showing flashes of improving right now. I don't want to wait for either one of these guys but Brassard is more prepared and thus if I'm taking one of them I'm taking the one who will produce for me sooner and that definitely feels like Brassard.

If you want to wait on the upside then your argument has logic. I just don't have that kind of patience.
June 16, 2011
Votes: +1

steve laidlaw said:

metaldude26
... Ian - In retrospect your dealings look very good but context is everything. At the time I'd say you took a serious risk moving players with a lot of potential for a guy with multiple concussion issues. Had you stuck with Savard this would have been bad. Ultimately you turned him into Streit and a pick upgrade so overall you did quite well, even with the retrospect of knowing Streit missed a whole season. Having Hartnell is probably a nice bonus as well.

JW - Thanks man! I know things got heated in the comments section last week because I will always defend my piece but I also take criticisms to heart and I felt like I learned a lot from last week's comments and applied them here.

Ev - I agree and that's something I certainly alluded to in the article.
June 16, 2011
Votes: +0

horrorfan said:

horrorfan
Re: Vermette Thanks Steve, it does help.
June 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Jeff said:

number54
I'd give it to Gagner... You're drastically under-rating him. Personally, I think you've overlooked some flashes of greatness on the part of Gagner. He finished his Rookie and Sophomore years in style. He had 28 points in his last 30 games and 21 in 20, respectively. The last two years, he's missed that bread-and-butter stretch and still put up respectable points per game. Brassard's only managed a stretch like that once in his career, and it ended with a shoulder ijury, 30 games into the season. This comparison makes me think that Gagner has a better chance of reaching his upside; he's shown more consistently that he's capable of p/g play.

I would also like to note that only one player in Gagner's draft class ('07) has more NHL games or points, and that's Pat Kane. Brassard, on the other hand, has been outpointed by a number of his classmates: Toews, Backstrom, Kessel, Staal, Stewart, Giroux, Frolik, Okposo & Berglund. Thus, comparing with players in the same age category, Gagner is the favorite again. Clearly, Brassard is in the stronger draft class, but within Brassard's draft class, Gagner beats all but the top 4 in career points.

Finally, I think the expectations that people have of Gagner are patetnly absurd and unfounded. Your cage match cites Mikko Koivu as the last 'great' 6th overall pick; Gagner is 21 entering his 5th season. At 21, Mikko Koivu hadn't yet played an NHL game. I don't know how well Gagner will play when he's 23, but I will guarantee that he FAR eclipses Mikko's rookie total of 21pts/64gp. Brassard might beat Mikko's 23, or he could band-aid himself into oblivion.

In sum, I'd say this cage match is a definitive K.O. in favor of the unfairly underrated & undervalued Sam Gagner
June 16, 2011
Votes: +0

Big Ev said:

Big Ev
... It's not that the 6th pick is cursed, it's that the teams are not making the right pick and not developing their picks properly. Gagner was rushed.
June 16, 2011
Votes: +0

JW said:

maya has the knife
Excellent job! Great article! Each piece you write gets better and better. I love the passion you write with and also how you inject humor when appropriate. This piece really hits the mark in every way for me because you didn't base it solely on the numbers; you used the numbers to support your own thoughts and observations. That's the way to do it! Keep up the great work.

- maya has the knife
June 16, 2011
Votes: -1

Ian NM said:

Nifty Mittens
Good work Metaldude! What do you think of this trade i made in the 2010 offseason - Dan Ellis, Paul Martin, Brassard, Gagner FOR Hartnell, Savard. I then traded Savard, 13th rounder FOR Streit, 4rth rounder (right before Streit got injured for the year). We keep 10.
June 16, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

metaldude26
vermette One of the great things about Vermette (and why he ultimately wasn't mentioned in the article) is his chameleon-like way of slotting in the lineup. He can play both center or wing and can slot in on the second powerplay unit and the penalty kill. That said, there was clearly a hierarchy on the Jackets this year and that went Brassard = C1, Vermette = C2. Brassard's presence won't directly impact Vermette but Johansen's might. We may see more of Vermette floating about the lineup picking up minutes or we may see him slot into a more traditional defensive centerman role as C3 with Brassard and Johansen duking it out for C1 and C2.

That is at least how I see things, so hopefully that clears things up for you.
June 15, 2011
Votes: +0

horrorfan said:

horrorfan
Vermette? Just wondering on how Vermette will affect Brassard going forward (or vice versa), if at all? Thanks, good article.
June 15, 2011
Votes: +0

Maximus said:

Mr Zizzla
Quotable! "Gagner does have chemistry with Hemsky but that only last as long as Hemsky does, which is about as long as a virgin with a supermodel"

absolutely incredible!

i appreciate the insight (as a Gagner owner) and that line not only made me laugh out loud but sigh at the same time. I hope he can pull his head out of his ass and figure his game out and get passed the 50 point mark.
June 15, 2011
Votes: +0
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