Home > Edmonton Oilers, Sports > Samwise the Brave: Gagner’s Eight-Point Night

Samwise the Brave: Gagner’s Eight-Point Night

So does this mean that he really had 16 points?

When the intermittent NHL powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks last visited Edmonton in October, the hometown Oilers demolished the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions 9-2 in a giddy premature ejaculation of offense that had Oiler fans and observers from around the hockey world buzzing with the euphoria of imminent possibility. The worm turned on the Oilers’ season soon afterwards, though. Due to injuries to key pieces like defensive anchor Tom Gilbert and rookie phenom Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, as well as a grotesque accident befalling young scorer Taylor Hall and a general course-correction that stat-heads invariably predicted during the team’s strong start, the thin construction of the Oilers’ roster caught up with it and a run of futility ensued. This included 8 losses in 9 games leading towards the All-Star break, with a dispiriting 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the rival Flames on national television bringing the waters to a particularly low ebb.

A slight bounce back has materialized since then, with a couple of points from shootouts and a solid win against Colorado earlier in the week making it clear that the Oil are unlikely to finish dead last this year again, at least (though that has more to do with the fanciful disaster that is the 2011-12 Columbus Blue Jackets than any leaps forward the Oilers have accomplished as a team or an organization). But another February-March stretch of meaningless games for a team out of the playoff picture for the sixth season running loomed, with the usual trade deadline sacrifices (good luck to Ales Hemsky with whatever contender will pay the too-low price for him) and another lottery pick waiting at the end of the dark tunnel.

What fantastic timing, then, for the Hawks to come back to Rexall Place and get torched by the Oilers’ young offensive guns and get that cruel, guttering glimmer of hope nicely blazing again. Last night’s 8-4 blitzing was not just satisfying, but surprising and even historic, and its mythic hero was distinctly unlikely: Sam Gagner, the talented, hard-working, little-rewarded top-six forward on a team choked with them, had a hand in every Oilers goal to equal the team record for points in a game with 8. That one of the young Oil’s whirring offensive engines might one day approximate the burning-house hockey of the Gretzky-led dynasty years has been the open aspiration of team management, city sports media, and the fanbase alike since at least the start of last season, when Hall and now-All-Star Jordan Eberle made their debuts. That Sam Gagner, the organization greenhorn of the depressing late ’00s, was the one to equal an ’80s team record (Gretzky had 8 points twice, Paul Coffey once) could not have been an expected outcome.

Is it the beard? It's the beard.

Now 22, Gagner has been in the league long enough to have become a bit of a stale taste to the notoriously fickle Oil Country hordes. Up until last night, he was having trouble establishing his game in a team full of very assertively-defined forwards. Perhaps a victim of the quiet effectiveness of his own game away from the puck as well as of coach Tom Renney’s mania for shuffling his non-top lines or perhaps just slumping in that ineffable athletic way, Gagner was looking like another potential deadline victim and a further footnote in modern Oilers history, a sure-to-succeed player who just could not succeed in Edmonton.

But then last night happened. Do you turn around in the next month and trade a guy who exploded for 8 points in a game? I’m no great admirer of Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, but even he’s not that silly in his decisions. That the balance of Gagner’s point-grubbing (seriously, spread it around a little, buddy!) came alongside Eberle and Hall (who both had the quietest 4-point games in recent memory) should make Oiler fans feel even better about that dynamic duo, as well make them wonder how much of Nugent-Hopkins’ pre-injury prowess was related to his Kid Line mates’ bona fides as opposed to his own.

All of those wider roster considerations aside, though, the triumph of Samwise (as Lowetide has amusingly dubbed him) was a bit of an aesthetic glory, and could be enjoyed most purely on that level. Just watch through the highlights package from the league, and witness the virtuosity take form with the inevitable exactitude of origami. By the time Gagner’s getting secondary assists on Cam Barker knucklepuck point shots, you’ve got to figure that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is reaching down His pasta appendages to effect the outcome. In an Oilers season largely dominated by valleys, Gagner’s absurd Thursday night was a towering peak. Admire it before we return to the unforgiving earth.

Categories: Edmonton Oilers, Sports
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