All three words can carry the same meaning, yet when put together, they do a good job of describing what Sam Gagner has done for those teams that snagged him. For many recently associated with this youngster, including the Oil, this just translates to… Win. Win. Win.
What took them so long? From January 15th through February 1st, Edmonton lost six of their eight games. Now, with Gagner settling in with first-line duties and prime power play opportunity, the Oilers have reversed their fortunes, winning four of the last six games. As no coincidence, Sam has had a healthy six-game scoring streak during that time with the best opportunity of his young career and a total of eight points to show for it. He’s now scored 27 percent of his total points for the year during this short time. His shots-on-goal rate has improved, and he has even managed a zero plus-minus during this time despite his awful minus-14 overall.
The future has arrived early for this young star, and Edmonton has to be loving it. Along a similar route to that of fellow rookie Mueller, Gagner started a bit slow but is now bursting out. Still, the opportunity came at the expense of Mr. Horcoff. As discussed in a previous installment of The Wild West, Horcoff will soon be passed up by young talents like Gagner. We are seeing it come to fruition now, and if this keeps up, Horcoff may be a second liner from here on out. After all, Sam has the talent to remain on the top line for the next decade or so. Does he have the consistency at this point? We will see, but I’d expect him to finish with 45 points for this season. In February his full-season projection has jumped from 34 points prior to 41 points in only a handful of games. With Horcoff out of the picture, 16 more in the remaining 21 seems reasonable. And this kid is only18, and should be a consistent point-per-game player before he can drink. Keep on rolling Sam… Gagner your owners a fantasy championship.
The Status Report:
Jiri Hudler, C/RW, DET
Stating the obvious, I’m a Hudler fan. We've seen a significant slump from this young gun in the past month or so, and I only see this as an opportunity. He has only four points in his last fifteen games. Still, with three points in his last five games, this should serve as a reassurance for you to invest yet hopefully not bring his value up significantly in the eyes of your opposition. Go grab the kid. Inconsistency is to be expected, and Cleary’s jaw only helps his minutes. With 20 games left, the kid still looks capable of reaching the 50-point mark, doubling last years total, and is on track for the future.
Ed Jovanovski, D, PHO
Perhaps you noticed. Ed has been healthy a lot this season. And as expected, his production has been huge as a result. Do you believe he will now become the epitome of health? Hell no. He hasn’t played in 80 games since 2002. Still, he is VERY valuable. With 19 points in his last 18 games you may be able to get a huge return for him. Even if he does stay healthy from now one, a point-per-game blueliner he is not. Sell him like he is. Only Lidstrom has been better in the last month on D.
Alex Burrows, LW, VAN
If somehow you are in a deep league where a player like Burrows has some trade value, there is no better time than now to move Alex to a naive owner. His 46 penalty minutes in his last two games are definitely the exception… not the rule. Dazzle someone with his top five rank in the last month.
Cactus of the Week: The player you shouldn’t touch right now.
Dominik Hasek, G, DET
Times are rough for this ancient superstar. The end must be near. His perennial backup is killing him this year and even the youngster Howard looks ready to take over in some capacity as either the backup in training or starter next season. Though your grandma could win a game in goal with Detroit, Howard has impressed in February, only allowing one goal in each of his three appearances. Meanwhile, Osgood has been Hasek’s equivalent throughout the season… stealing 23 wins and another shutout Monday. Now with a hip flexor injury, Hasek is not traveling with the Wings and doesn’t get the start or save totals teams need out of a top tender. It is time to finally let go.
Fantasy Flashback: Your weekly reminder that fantasy hockey is a rollercoaster.
Radim Vrbata, RW, CHI
He has finally arrived. I had my doubts. Despite his streaky nature, Vrbata has easily passed his previous career highs of last year.
2006-07: 77GP, 14G, 27A, 41P, minus-4, 26PIM, 215SOG
2007-08: 54GP, 27G, 22A, 49P, plus-11, 8PIM, 186SOG
Vrbata is nearing a point-per-game pace again with his latest streak and may even make for a decent sell high before his seemingly inevitable slump to follow. This is a walk year for Radim, so be weary of the a fat and happy regression next year. Regardless, he seems like a solid 70-point talent for the future and possesses sneaky value in some leagues with his solid shot totals.