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The Progress Report: A Little Perspective

by Travis Knee / Edmonton Oilers
Progress can sometimes be a difficult thing to see, never mind measure. As is the case with the Oilers season thus far, progress has taken on many forms and has at times been difficult to pick out. A combination of injuries, losing streaks and inexperience has clouded some positives that should be noticed and taken forward as this team continues to build towards a contender.

This week’s progress however, is not that difficult to pick out. Sam Gagner has turned around his season in the matter of one historic week.

Sam is coming off a four-game stretch that saw him record 14 points (8G, 6A) and fill in for the mostly injured Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the team’s top centreman. During that streak, Gagner was able to put together a game for the ages with an eight-point (4G, 4A) night against Chicago at home in Rexall Place. His eight points tied a franchise record for points in a game that was held by Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey set back in the 1980’s. I don’t have to explain to any Oilers fans what it means to join that kind of company, especially in today’s lower scoring NHL.
Sam has not stopped after his 8-point night, recording 14 points in his last 4 games.

To put that kind of night into further perspective, eight points in one game has not been done by any player in the NHL since Mario Lemieux did it in a playoff game back in 1989. In today’s game, some highly paid NHL players such as Montreal’s Scott Gomez have only eight points all season, giving further evidence to the magnitude of Sam’s performance.

“It was a special moment for me for sure,” explained Gagner. “It just seemed like everything I touched was going in.”

After a slow start to the season had his name popping up in trade speculation, Gagner has gone about putting together a strong stretch of hockey that extends beyond just this magical week. If we look back to the start of December, Gagner had yet to score a goal this season. Since that point, Sam has 30 points (13G, 17A) in the past 29 games.

“He’s been playing some great hockey for us and that was really important through all the injuries we’ve endured this season,” stated head coach Tom Renney.

Sam sits today with 36 points in 47 games on the season. He is now on pace for his first 20-goal campaign and is close to a 60-point pace. Both of these totals would be career highs for Gagner who really is looking like a player starting to come into his own at the pro level.
Gagner's play has helped the team through Nugent-Hopkins shoulder injuries.

“I feel really good out there, I’m seeing the ice and things are paying off,” said Gagner.

One thing that is very easy for people to forget is that Sam is still just 22-years-old. Being already in his fifth year in the league, he has yet to even enter his prime. He is just now starting to show the complete skill set that made him a sixth overall pick in the 2007 entry draft.

When it comes to progress, a player like Sam Gagner having a season like this makes it all that easier to see. Although he may have not have had the meteoric rise out of the gate that some high draft picks enjoy, Sam’s hard work is showing the signs of paying off.

With the trade deadline fast approaching, it seems to stand out that Gagner is an important piece of this puzzle. With a lot of the attention being paid to other young stars such as Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, people have to remember that Sam is right there in that mix as well.
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