Sam Gagner Comparables Lead Us To The 1980s

Last September, I went in search of comparables for Sam GagnerOilers' fans were frustrated by Gagner's lack of progress, but weren't considering other similar players who produced at similar levels early in their careers.  The three closest statistical comparables I could find were Bobby Carpenter, Dave Keon and Bobby Clarke.  It was Clarke that was striking distance:

Mention Bobby Clarke and Sam Gagner in the same breath and there is a certain portion of the OIlers' fanbase that may faint.  However, it is Clarke's 21-year-old season that is within striking distance for Gagner in 2011.  In order to keep pace with Keon and Carpenter, Gagner would have to post an actual, non-adjusted season similar to 76 GP, 19G - 48A for a total of 67 points.  To keep pace with Clarke, Gagner would need 76 GP, 18G - 37A for 55 points.

Gagner needed .724 P/G to keep pace with Clarke.  He clocked in at .617. 

If Bobby Clarke isn't the guy to peg Sam's production to, it's time to find some new comps.

Last time around, I explained my methodology in the post and I'm using the same methodology here:

Jonathan Willis took a different tack and came up with the wonderful idea of  normalizing scoring in the league prior to searching out comps, but he created a set of limiters to his comparables that I'm not interested in:

"To make comparisons a little fairer, I went back to the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, and looked at all the forwards who a) were 6’1" or shorter b) played in the NHL in their first year of eligibility and c) didn’t have a truckload of penalty minutes. I then took those players and adjusted their offence to reflect an NHL season in which teams averaged three goals per game, and projected that offence over an 82-game schedule."

I chose to normalize every forward in NHL history for era effects and then find all forwards under the age of 21 that were in the range (+/- 15% of P/G) of Gagner in one of their three NHL seasons, and didn't go terribly off of the rails or take off towards superstardom shortly thereafter.  Height be damned, 1980 be damned, who can we find for Gagner that matches up solely by the math?

I've added Gagner's 2010-11 numbers to the table and sorted by 21-year old season points per game.

*This table is sortable by column.  Simply click on the header.

Player G A P P/G PPG
G A P P/G PPG
G A P P/G PPG
G A P P/G PPG
Jeremy Roenick - - - - -
30 30 60 0.732 7
22 34 56 0.683 5
37 48 85 1.037 14
Kirk Muller 13 29 42 0.512 7
20 33 53 0.646 4
22 42 64 0.780 8
31 47 78 0.951 14
Dave Keon - - - - -
- - - - -
23 29 52 0.634 -
33 45 78 0.951 -
Bobby Carpenter 25 27 52 0.634 5
25 29 54 0.659 11
22 31 53 0.646 6
42 33 75 0.915 9
Rod Brind'Amour - - - - -
22 30 52 0.634 8
16 29 45 0.549 4
29 39 68 0.829 7
Peter Zezel - - - - -
15 45 60 0.732 8
13 29 42 0.512 3
31 37 68 0.829 6
Dan Quinn 22 38 60 0.732 13
17 33 50 0.610 6
24 33 57 0.695 14
26 41 67 0.817 9
Brian Bellows 29 24 53 0.646 12
33 34 67 0.817 11
21 29 50 0.610 6
25 39 64 0.780 9
Bobby Clarke - - - - -
- - - - -
17 35 52 0.634 6
27 36 63 0.768 10
V. Damphousse - - - - -
18 21 39 0.476 3
11 32 43 0.524 1
21 35 56 0.683 5
Sam Gagner 15 40 55 0.671 4
18 28 46 0.561 7
19 33 52 0.634 8
19 35 54 0.663 4
Doug Gilmour - - - - -
- - - - -
19 22 41 0.500 2
17 29 46 0.561 2

Unfortunately, young Mr. Gagner could not keep pace, in fact he spun his wheels.  But, as Bruce mentions, "...No doubt he has been victimized to a large extent by being a young player on a crappy team..." and he's been victimized by a terrible power play as well.  In fact, through the entire list of comps, Gagner scored the second-fewest number of power play goals, and given his piddling six power play assists, it's a good bet he's in a similar overall spot in both assists and total points. 

So after working out all of this arithmetic, through four years of Sam Gagner's career, his closest comparables are Doug Gilmour and Vincent Damphousse.  That sounds familiar, where have I heard that before?  Oh yes, I know:

The incomparable Lowetide loves his comparables, and after searching high and low, he arrived at Vincent Damphousse, but his readers chose Doug Gilmour.  He's been tracking Gagner against those comps since settling on Damphousse.

I feel like I did when I was a kid working out math problems.  My dad would look at the problem and immediately know the answer.  I'd work out all of the math, write down the correct answer, look up at him and say the answer just as he said it.  In this case Lowetide knew from the jump.  Old guys always seem to have a knack.

It makes sense that Gagner is amongst this group.  The two surround Gagner at the low end of the power play totem pole.  Start pulling away the power play production and the comparables fall back to Damphousse and Gilmour.  So where does Sam go from here?  If we focus in on Damphousse and Gilmour, we have some goalposts for Gagner's 2011-12 season:

*This table is sortable by column.  Simply click on the header.

Player G A P P/G PPG
G A P P/G PPG
V. Damphousse 21 35 56 0.683 5
27 51 78 .957 7
Sam Gagner 19 35 54 0.663 4
- - - - -
Doug Gilmour 17 29 46 0.561 2
21 23 44 .541 2

Assuming league-wide scoring rates remain stable next season, in order to keep pace with Damphousse, Gagner would have to post an actual, non-adjusted season similar to 76 GP, 26G - 47A for a total of 73 points.  To keep pace with Gilmour, Gagner would need 76 GP, 19G - 22A for 41 points.  Note that Damphousse ups his power play production while Gilmour remains stagnant.  Without a significant jump in power play points, it's unlikely that Gagner can get anywhere close to Damphousse.

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