Sam Gagner

Gaudreau, Wilson, Gagner named NHL’s three stars of the week


Calgary rookie Johnny Gaudreau, Nashville’s Colin Wilson and Arizona’s Sam Gagner have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 28, the league announced on Monday.

The details:

Gaudreau led the NHL with five goals (5-0—5) and shared the League lead with a +5 rating to power the Flames (19-15-3, 41 points) to a pair of wins.

Wilson tied for second in the NHL with 4-1—5, scoring in all three games to lead the Predators (23-9-2, 48 points) to four of a possible six standings points.

Gagner led the NHL with six points (2-4—6) in three games to help the Coyotes (13-18-4, 30 points) pick up a pair of victories.

Gaudreau’s performance was especially crucial given the timing — Calgary was mired in a seven-game losing streak before his natural hat-trick in last Monday’s 4-3 OT win over L.A.

We should also mention that Gagner’s outburst came after he was parked as a healthy scratch by head coach Dave Tippett earlier this month.

Gagner back in Coyotes lineup after ‘frustrating’ healthy scratch


With just three goals and 10 points in 27 games, it’s safe to say Sam Gagner’s first season in Arizona hasn’t gone especially well — which culminated with his healthy scratch in Saturday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Wild.

Tonight, Gagner will draw back in for a tilt against Edmonton, but still sounds like he’s stinging a bit from his stint in the press box.

“I don’t think this one was as expected,” Gagner told the Arizona Republic, alluding to an earlier healthy scratch during his Oiler days. “I don’t think this one was as expected. I feel like I want to be out there helping the team get out of it. It is what it is.

“It upsets you and it fires you up, and it makes you want to go out and prove yourself. I’m not happy with the way my season’s gone personally or the way the season’s gone for the team.”

Gagner, 25, was the biggest acquisition in Arizona’s quiet summer, coming from Tampa Bay along with B.J. Crombeen in a cap-clearing move by the Bolts (the Coyotes sent just a sixth-round pick in return.) On paper, the move looked to be a nice get for the Coyotes — they didn’t give up any assets, and Gagner was pegged to replace the offense left following the Mike Ribeiro buyout.

Now, though, the move doesn’t look as sharp.

Gagner’s struggled to fit into Dave Tippet’s system, one that is predicated on defensive awareness and sound two-way play. Case in point: Tippett’s explanation as to why he parked Gagner on Saturday…

“There’s a second effort without the puck that I think can improve in his game and sometimes when offensive players get in a slump, they think the only way to get out of it is to create offense.

“So they start thinking about not defending and just all about offense and in actual fact, good defense lets you play good offense because it lets you play in the offensive zone. Simple as that.”

Given Arizona’s woeful season, their fuzzy financial future and GM Don Maloney’s earlier roster shakeup, it’s fair to speculate that Gagner could be in play come trade deadline time. He’s in the second of a three-year, $14.4 million deal with a $4.8 million cap hit — a little spendy given he’s in a down year, but possibly worth a shot for a team needing center depth and willing to gamble on Gagner for next season as well.

Jooris’ hat trick leads Flames past Coyotes


Flames’ rookie Josh Jooris scored his first career hat trick to lead Calgary over Arizona 5-2 Tuesday night.

David Jones and Sean Monahan had the other goals for the Flames, who have now won three straight and four of five.

Johnny Gaudreau, Jiri Hudler, Dennis Wideman and Curtis Glencross each had two helpers in the win.

With the win Calgary remains perfect against Arizona having beaten the Coyotes three times in the past 19 days.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Sam Gagner had the Coyotes goals. Arizona has now lost four of five.

Jooris, who scored his sixth, seventh and eighth goals of the season, joined some exclusive company.

Coyotes ‘hope we can make a deal’ with trade target Vermette


Three weeks ago, we welcomed Antoine Vermette to the trade rumor mill on the heels of a report from Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, which explained the “in limbo” Vermette was “trying really hard” not to think about his uncertain future.

Today, the Arizona Republic dug deeper into Vermette’s murky situation:

The Coyotes hope they’re able to retain Vermette, whom they initially acquired via trade in 2012. Since an extension wasn’t reached before the season, contract talks have been tabled for now.

[GM Don] Maloney is also awaiting for clarity on the team’s budget, which he expects will come once Andrew Barroway’s addition to the ownership group is approved by the NHL.

“He’s an important player for us, and we hope we can make a deal that makes sense for both parties,” Maloney said.

Vermette’s situation is complex. It’s no surprise the Coyotes want to keep him; he’s a talented, two-way center that’s durable (hasn’t missed a game in six years) and still only 32 years old. He led Arizona in goals last year, with 24, and played nearly 20 minutes a night.

He’s been very good this season as well. Vermette currently leads the Coyotes in scoring (16 points in 23 games) and has reportedly drawn interest from a number of teams across the league as the arms race for center depth continues.

And that’s the rub.

Heading into free agency this summer, Vermette will likely get a raise on the $3.75 million he made annually on his last deal. That could put Arizona in a difficult spot — aside from an uncertain financial future and new ownership coming aboard, the club could finally go all-in on the proposed youth movement Maloney wanted to implement this season, but pulled back on prior to the start of the campaign.

The Coyotes have spent two recent first-round picks on centers — Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson — and it’s possible both could be with the team next season… if there are spots available. Martin Hanzal probably isn’t going anywhere (under contract through ’17) and Sam Gagner is on the books through 2016, which means Vermette might have more value to Arizona as a trade chip at the deadline, rather than a roster player beyond this season.

Why are the Oilers still bad? Look at their drafting


No, this isn’t about Nail Yakupov. Enough has been written about the Oilers’ decision to use their third straight first overall pick on that guy.

This is about the drafting that took place early on in Edmonton’s playoff drought, which started all the way back in 2006-07, the season after they lost the Stanley Cup Final to Carolina, and continues to this day.

In 2007, the Oilers had three first-round picks. They chose forward Sam Gagner (6th), d-man Alex Plante (15th), and forward Riley Nash (21st). All three are no longer with the club.

Imagine, if you will, that Plante had turned into an impact defensemen, as opposed to playing just 10 NHL games before leaving for Austria. At 25 years old, he’d be the same age as P.K. Subban, who, by the way, was drafted 43rd overall in 2007.

Heck, imagine if any of the many defenseman the Oilers drafted from, say, 2007 to 2010 had panned out. Alas, Johan Motin, Troy Hesketh, Kyle Bigos, Ryan Martindale, Jeremie Blain — all taken in the fourth round or before — have not. Maybe Martin Marincin (46th overall in 2010) will. Then again, given the trade rumors, he might soon be gone from the club, too.

Is it fair to criticize a team for failing to draft diamonds in the rough? Not on a case-by-case basis maybe. There’s a whole lot of luck involved when it comes to drafting 18-year-olds. But when taken as a whole? Absolutely it’s fair. Otherwise, what’s the point of having scouts? Just let a monkey make the picks.

Consider Duncan Keith’s importance to the Blackhawks. He was taken 54th overall in 2002. With time to develop in the AHL, he was able to enter his prime just as forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, selected in 2006 and 2007, respectively, were entering theirs. Everyone knows defensemen take longer to develop than forwards. Shea Weber is another Norris Trophy candidate who wasn’t drafted in the first round. He was taken 49th overall in 2003 and needed two more seasons of junior, plus some time in the AHL, before he was ready for the show.

Drafting beyond the first round, then properly developing those players, is of paramount importance in the NHL.

From 2007 to 2010, the Oilers made 23 draft picks that weren’t in the first round.

What have they got to show for it in 2014?

An extremely frustrated fan base, that’s what.

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