February 29, 2012
Gagner surprised by Gilbert trade
By DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - If Sam Gagner knew Saturday would be the last time he saw Tom Gilbert in an Edmonton Oilers jersey, the centre would have made a point to wish his good friend best of luck in person.
But as is often the case, there is little notice when it comes to deals just prior to the trade deadline, and Gagner found out Gilbert had been traded following the morning skate Monday in Winnipeg.
He had to settle for a phone call to his former roommate.
“It’s tough to handle but it’s part of the business and you learn to cope with those sorts of things, losing friends to trades and whatnot,” Gagner said prior to Wednesday’s game against the Blues. “It’s tough to see him go, he’s obviously one of my best friends and he’s a great guy, but we picked up a great player in return. It’s one of those things that happen in this league and you have to deal with it.”
Gagner and Gilbert broke in with the Oilers together and shared a house along with Andrew Cogliano for a couple of years.
Gilbert had stayed behind in Edmonton while the team travelled to Winnipeg, told to nurse a sore back. Few had any idea the Oilers were going to move him and once the trade came down, Gilbert was quickly on a plane to Minnesota.
“When I was told at first, I didn’t believe it and I don’t think I wanted to believe that he had gotten traded,” Gagner said. “It’s one of those things that catches you by surprise considering there were different guys in trade rumours and his name never came up. He’s a great player and a great friend so it’s tough to see him go, but it’s part of the business.”
BAD LUCK IN BUNCHES
If things do happen in threes, perhaps every head coach in the NHL is breathing a little easier this week.
On Sunday, San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was the latest to be injured on the job.
McLellan was hit with a stick while behind the bench in Minnesota, knocked out momentarily, and is currently unable to step behind the Sharks bench with concussion symptoms.
“It’s weird, it hasn’t been a great year for coaches, but it’s about time they get into the fray a little bit,” joked Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff. “They’re always coming in here and saying you have to be more physical, well this is the price you pay.”
McLellan’s incident follows Tom Renney’s mishap, getting hit with the puck during a morning skate and Lindy Ruff of the Buffalo Sabres who broke three ribs in a collision during practice.
Renney has since returned the bench after suffering concussion symptoms, while Ruff didn’t miss a game.
“I kind of view it if you’re around long enough, things are going to happen, you can’t really do anything to stop it,” Horcoff said. “But it’s weird how it seems to come in clusters.”
STAYING THE COURSE
One of the reasons the Oilers were able to deal Gilbert on Monday was the recent play of Jeff Petry.
In Petry the Oilers felt they had a player similar to Gilbert, who can provide offence from the back end, while being responsible in his own zone.
Now that Gilbert is gone, however, Petry doesn’t plan on changing his game.
“We’re going to have try and pick up the slack offensively now that he’s gone, but we don’t want to force it too much, because you don’t want to put your defensive zone in jeopardy,” Petry said. “
“You don’t want to get away with what you’re comfortable with. It’s important not to try and change your game too much.
“I think in the last month and a half, my offensive game has picked up some, but to me, it’s more important to be consistent.”
Lennart Petrell loved the atmosphere in Winnipeg Monday and is glad the NHL went back to the Manitoba Capital.
“It’s a lot of fun to play in front of that type of crowd,” Petrell said. “It really gets you going. It really doesn’t matter if they’re cheering for you or against you, it gets you fired up.”
Petrell had one of his best games of the year against the Jets, scoring a goal and adding an assist in a 5-3 win.
Hailing from Finland, Petrell was familiar with the Jets even before they returned to the league.
“Yeah, everyone from Finland knows about the Jets because of what Teemu Selanne did there in his rookie season,” Petrell said. “I’ve always known that there were really passionate about their hockey. Actually with what Teemu did there, it was sad to see them leave. It’s good that they came back.”