It’s a little naive to believe that every player gets an equal opportunity in every situation.
A coach has to determine who goes on the ice when, and which players end up being healthy scratches. Sometimes that means guys get lost in the shuffle, especially when their salaries don’t jive with the salary cap.
You could make an argument that Sam Gagner didn’t truly get a fair shake with the Philadelphia Flyers, but it would seem like he’ll be given a true shot after signing a cheap, one-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
One-year terms almost always stand as “prove-it” deals, and that’s especially true for Gagner, whose cap hit dropped by more than $4 million.
At 26, he’s presented with a fork in the road. He could either flourish and be a fixture in the NHL – possibly sticking with the Blue Jackets – or he might flounder and risk heading down the dreaded “journeyman” path.
If nothing else, he’s saying all the right things about being determined to rebound, as this interview from the Blue Jackets’ website illustrates:
CBJ.com: Is there something to be said for a new player coming in here who’s in a situation much like the team itself – being hungry and looking to bounce back?
Gagner: Absolutely. Without a doubt. From a personal standpoint, I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been. I’m motivated to have success, and coming to Columbus where everyone feels like last year was an underachieving year, I think it’s going to bode well. We’re a determined group and we’re looking forward to proving a lot of people wrong. It’s an exciting challenge for all of us.
Yes, there are guys who get stuck in these patterns, like Lee Stempniak (who is probably just relieved not to be on another PTO).
On the other hand, Gagner only needs to look at former Flyers teammate Michael Del Zotto to see that seizing an opportunity can bring about a nice payday and plenty of security.
If that doesn’t create some fire in his belly, then what else will?
For more, including his optimism about Columbus’ chances in 2016-17, check out the interview.