Why Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky - Nail Yakupov Will Succeed

Yup. Him too. - Jeff Gross

Which line controlled play in 2011-12?

Tyler checked in on the Oilers Corsi vs Chances performance and commented on the shots struggles of Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner:

Hemsky and Gagner both have a track record of posting respectable Corsi numbers as seen above, so I’d be surprised if this continues. That’s why I’m inclined to believe more in the chances at this point than I am the shooting numbers – I figure they’ll both start to post better Corsis. I do wonder why their Corsi For numbers are so low though and wonder if some of it has to do with Yakupov. Yakupov has a similarly low Corsi For number, although he doesn’t have the big Corsi Against number that Hemsky and Gagner have, which is likely to do with him sitting out some defensive zone faceoffs and late in games when the Oilers are protecting a lead and not pressing.

I haven’t sat down and ground through video or anything, but I have been kind of struck watching the Gagner/Yakupov/Hemsky trio that Yakupov seems to sort of wander around the ice at ES, not really consistently getting into places where the puck might come to him, whether to shoot it or to keep the play going in the offensive end of the ice. There are moments where he finds holes and makes a chance happen but they aren’t as frequent as they will be.

Tyler slightly understates Gagner and Hemsky's effectiveness when both are healthy, but the numbers show up in comparisons. I took the even strength scoring chance data compiled and published by Dennis King and mc79hockey from 2011-12 by line combination:

Line CF CA CH%
Hall - Gagner - Hemsky 66 34 66.0%
Smyth - Gagner - Hemsky 14 8 63.6%
Hall - Hopkins - Eberle 91 77 54.2%
Smyth - Hopkins - Eberle 34 29 54.0%

While Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle grabbed headlines (thanks to Eberle's unsustainable percentages and some baby soft zonestarts) Gagner and Hemsky controlled play at the same (better) rate. And just for fun:

Line CF CA CH%
Eberle - Gagner - Hemsky 7 0 100%
Hartikainen - Gagner - Hemsky 12 11 52.2%
Horcoff - Gagner - Hemsky 15 11 57.7%

Of course, the success of both lines was built on the backs of Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones who were all thrown to the wolves and defensive zone start lions early and often:

Line CF CA CH%
Smyth - Horcoff - Jones 146 187 43.8%

Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner together form a highly skilled pairing capable of playing with nearly any left wing. Tyler is right - the early concern about their struggle with Nail Yakupov is misguided. Yakupov is still just a dozen games into his NHL career, but is one of the biggest talents in the game. Give Yakupov some time to figure the NHL game out, but leave him on that line. After all, Gagner and Hemsky together can win the chances battle with anyone.

Line CF CA CH%
Omark - Gagner - Hemsky 6 17 0.261

Well, almost anyone.

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