February 3, 2012
Oilers Gagner still in spotlight
By Terry Jones, QMI Agency
More than anything, the town needed it.
Four games ago, before the players chose to save Tom Renney from spending the rest of the season coaching from the edge of a cliff, with three wins at home and a loser point in Vancouver, Edmonton fans were running out of patience. Oilers fans were having a difficult time focusing on the future.
But then they experienced Sam Gagner’s night of nights — four goals and four assists, for an Edmonton Oilers NHL record-equaling eight-points — and the future came back into focus.
“The town?” said coach Tom Renney. “Start with the team. The team really needed it.
“It could be as galvanizing a moment as we’ll have this year. This might be one of those moments where guys kind of bring it all together and look at it as something special and say ‘What else can we do?’ ”
Then he went there.
“This team is going to be special. No question. It’s got special people in it, kids who are deeply committed to where this can go,” said Renney.
There was more to Sam Gagner’s unforgettable moment than Sam Gagner. It was eight points but it kind of worked like eight pills.
Because of his night and an 8-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks, the Oilers are back to where they were (minus the possibility of making the playoffs) when the team went 8-2-2 to start the season.
You can see the future again. Happy days aren’t here again. But happier days have returned.
Renney went out of his way to use the moment to remind everybody that there are several other Oilers who are going to produce many more unforgettable nights.
“That’s what you can look forward to here. I’m not going to say it’s going to be a high-wire act every night and we’ll be doing extra-ordinary things offensively every single time we play, and there’s going to be this and that and every other little thing, but this team is going to be special. It’s got kids who are deeply committed to where this can go with their help.
“In a strange kind of way, maybe the Oil is turning. We’re going in the right direction and hopefully we can talk about more special things as time goes on.”
Renney even made it personal.
“Am I gonna be the guy here when they lift the Stanley Cup? What are the odds, right? I sure hope so. But that being said, I have to leave my work behind and say, ‘Not bad. Overall, good job. There’s your legacy.’ ”
So much about life is about timing. And so much of that was in play Thursday night.
Would it have happened if Renney hadn’t finally given Taylor Hall a break and unchained him from Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff and put him on the line with All-Star break Mexico holiday-mate Gagner and Edmonton roommate Jordan Eberle?
And what about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?
Without having lost the NHL rookie scoring lead despite missing a month, Nugent-Hopkins returns to the lineup from injury Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings, wondering if it all would have happened to Gagner if he’d been brought back Thursday as he’d hoped.
“I thought about that,” laughed The Nuge, who also couldn’t help but think about the nights which may be ahead for him in the same mix with Hall, Eberle, Gagner and the talent that’s not here yet and, in some cases, not even drafted yet.
“I thought about that, too,” said RNH.
“With the guys we have here, when everything starts clicking ...”
They can all have big nights like that. Not that there was anything shabby about the five-point night Nugent-Hopkins had against Chicago earlier this year, or the four-point nights Hall and Eberle had Thursday evening.
Instead of returning to play with Hall and Eberle, RNH probably gets the flailing, failing Hemsky.
“You definitely can’t split that up,” said Nugent-Hopkins of Hall-Gagner-Eberle.
“It was pretty incredible to watch. It was exciting to see from the press box. It was pretty cool to see something like that,” said the 18-year-old rookie who yesterday had his head shaved to raise money for charity.
“When Gags got his sixth, I said, ‘Holy crap!’
“I can’t imagine what the feeling must have been for him. From the look on his face it was like he was in shock.”
There was still shock there for Gagner Friday.
He was trending worldwide on Twitter when he went to bed the night before and woke up still trending in Canada.
“I had 60 messages and then another 50 when I woke up in the morning, so it’s been a lot of work writing everyone back,” said Gagner after practice.
“I got a couple of really big ones, too. Wayne Gretzky texted me. And Paul Coffey called,” he said of the two Oiler greats he tied in the Edmonton Oilers NHL record book with his great eight.
Gretzky did it in 1983 and 1984. Coffey got his share in 1986.
“To be mentioned with those guys is a special honour. To have then take the time to congratulate me, that’s extra special. That meant a lot.”
Gretzky was one of the first texts he received.
“To get a text from someone like that, who is the best player of all time, it’s something he really didn’t have to do,” said No. 89.
“He signed it ‘99’ and I was like ‘Whoa, that’s unbelievable.’
“He just said ‘Congratulations on your night’ and ‘Enjoy it.’
“It was a real classy move by both guys. Paul gave me a call in the morning. I know Paul a bit. I see him in the summer sometimes. He was driving his kid to a hockey game in London. his kid got on the phone to me and said congratulations. It was pretty cool.”
Then there was mom and dad. He talked to them before he left the rink Thursday night, after he’d finished all his interviews after the game.
“My mom usually falls asleep by the third period but she stayed up and watched the whole game, so it was a pretty special night for her. And my dad, too. Obviously I owe so much to him for my hockey career.”
His dad is Dave Gagner and Sam said the thing that made the night extra, extra special is that they now both share a record with Gretzky.
Dave Gagner equaled Gretzky’s record of scoring four points in a single period of a Stanley Cup playoff game.
“I think both my parents are pretty proud of me,” said Sam.
It seemed like every 20 minutes, from the time the game ended until he got to practice, somebody produced a new Sam Gagner statistic.
• Mario Lemieux was last to score eight points in one game. That was in April 1989. Gagner was born August 1989.
• Only Darryl Sittler had more points in an NHL game with 10. Only 10 players ever had eight.
• The Oilers are the first NHL franchise to have three players score eight points in a game.
• Wednesday Gagner was tied for 184th in points, Thursday he was tied for 104th.
• In one night he produced more points than 380 players in the league or 45.56% of the league.
• Computed another way, 406 skaters have eight or fewer points this season.
• Gagner had eight points in 17:28. He outscored eight NBA players who played at least the same amount of minutes the same night.
• Gagner now has over 200 points for his career, one of 104 players to tally that before turning 23.
One thing you should know, though. Gagner didn’t actually get a share of the Oiler record.
Nope. Jim Harrison, in the first year of the World Hockey Association, had a 10-point night — three goals and seven assists — for the then Alberta Oilers in an 11-3 win over the New York Raiders in Madison Square Garden.
So maybe Gagner, knowing that, can come down now, then, eh?
He said he needs to.
“I still think consistency is the biggest issue for me. It was just one game.”
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