Amidst all the Khabi-disaster, Sam Gagner was recently interviewed by Jason Gregor (check out the article on Oilersnation.com), and Steve Tambellini also spoke about him a bit.
Gagner mentioned he worked hard to lose a bit of weight in the off-season (yes, I said lose weight… I guess he wanted to lose some of the “baby fat” that he felt only slowed him down.. go figure). Jason Gregor noted that you could see it in Gagner’s face even that he lost that baby fat, and also that he appeared to be quicker on ice. Seems weird to comment on, but Gagner felt that by shedding the extra weight it would help him gain a bit of speed, and it does look like that may be the case. In addition, Gagner has been working on his shot and his conditioning. Jason Gregor also asked him if he had been working on his faceoffs, to which he said it was difficult to work on something like that, but he had been working on his strength (which he commented would assist in faceoff ability).
Steve Tambellini spoke about Gagner and threw out the best “morsels” of info on Gagner, such as how he looks in better shape and leaner (due to his change in training to more cardio/endurance training). The biggest morsel was that he’d have a “prominent role and prominent ice time”. To me that means he’s going to get a good look at #1C this year. Now before people get too excited, that doesn’t mean that he’ll get it and have to do nothing to keep it (i.e. not earn it). But, it’s good to hear that we can expect that the guy I consider to be our #1C of the future to be given the chance to take that spot if he wants it enough.
The journal also had a good interview with Gagner, which I’ll quote here:
“Obviously, I have a lot to learn to be a first-line centre, but I want to be a guy who’s looked upon to play in all situations,” said Gagner.
“I’m willing to take the steps to be that guy and I’ve always been taught if you put the work in you’ll be rewarded.”
He’s had one clear goal this summer: trim down a bit to get even quicker.
“My main focus this summer was getting faster and I’ve dropped weight,” said Gagner, who played at just under 200 pounds last season, is currently 193 and would like to get closer to his rookie weight of 190. “When you’re coming into this league, everyone’s telling you to put on weight … you get caught up in it, but I’ve worked this summer to lose pounds, to work on my fast-twitch, work on my speed with my trainer. I hope to see dividends from that.”
Three pounds to go.
“If I get to 190, I won’t get knocked around at that size and I think I can get in and out of places quicker.”
Now all this stuff could sound just like the usual unfounded buzz we hear around this time, but I think Gagner was had a decent end half to his season despite battling a hip injury (he stated it would flare up from time to time because he never gave it time to heal). There are also still some concerns in the defensive zone, but I think playing with a guy like Penner will help though, in that regard. I honestly think this is Sam Gagner’s big year (OK, not THAT big, so settle down… I mean, it’s the start of where people think – “Oh yah, I’m seeing the #1C now..”) IF he gets the top center role (more so on the powerplay). I said my prediction below earlier this week to a friend of mine, and he thought I was crazy, but I’m thinking he should get significant ice time on the top line as well as power play.
So behind all the Khabibulin hoopla and the hype surrounding the rookies (Magnus Paajarvi, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, in particular), Gagner has been quietly working hard to be come a better player, and I think we’re going to see that this year if he gets top billing. If he’s put at center for a couple of rookies, I think that changes things (although granted, I think he’ll still get top PP time and that will help keep the numbers up). Anyways, without further ado…
Prediction: 60 points – 20 goals, 40 assists (if he plays close to a full season).