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Coyotes have high hopes for Gagner after ‘tough couple of years’ in Edmonton

Jul 25, 2014, 1:01 PM EDT

Edmonton Oilers v San Jose Sharks Getty Images

“He’s obviously a skilled player. He had a tough year last year — a tough couple of years — and we’re hoping the change of scenery is going to do him good.”

That’s Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett talking about the club’s big offseason acquisition, former Edmonton forward Sam Gagner. Acquired in a three-team trade involving the Oilers, Coyotes and Lightning, Gagner comes to Arizona as one of the NHL’s more unique stories — he doesn’t turn 25 until August, but has already played nearly 500 NHL contests and is one of just 13 players in league history to score eight points or more in a single game.

But he’s also fallen on hard times.

Last year, specifically, was a nightmare — Gagner suffered a ghastly broken jaw during the preseason that derailed his campaign. He finished with just 10 goals and 37 points in 67 games (not to mention a ghastly minus-29 rating) and, in what was an annual rite of passage in Edmonton, had his name appear in a number of trade rumors, even though he was in the first of a three-year, $14 million deal.

Now though, things start anew.

In Arizona, Gagner joins a more veteran and experienced group and will face stiff competition for minutes at center with a pair of very good two-way guys in Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette. He’ll also get some coaching stability in the form of Tippett. To say Gagner’s time in Edmonton was rife with change is an understatement — since breaking in with the Oilers in 2007-08, Gagner had five (Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins) different bench bosses; Tippett, meanwhile, has been with the Coyotes for five straight years and is fifth among active NHL coaches in terms of longest tenure.

In short, Gagner is going to a team well honed in the style its head coach wants… as opposed to a team that changes its philosophy more than its underwear. So he’s going to have to get on board with playing Coyotes hockey.

“He’s gotta come in and establish himself as a real good NHL player,” Tippet said. “Use his skills to the best of his ability, but be able to play a real tight-checking game.”

  1. oldirtyoiler - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    How long until the Yotes realize he doesn’t play a great D game or win faceoffs, and move to wing? His success (and I think potentially better than average success for a skilled average size player) lies as a winger, especially in the oversized West…

  2. rushledger - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Hope this works out, I believe it can.

  3. thailer35 - Jul 25, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    I agree. Bring Samuelson up to play 3c and put gange somewhere in top six as a winger, maybe with vermette and boedker? Or maybe even domi?

    • cgaz87 - Jul 25, 2014 at 9:45 PM

      Right on. Both domi and samuelson will make the club. Domi may be more polished but u are right that samuelson will be 3c. Look for him to have similar stats to hanzel but also bringing another much needed big body and a physical edge that has been missing past few years.

  4. innout10 - Jul 25, 2014 at 8:47 PM

    Samuelson can’t skate…won’t get out of AHL til he learns to move his feet

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