It might not seem like it, but there are quite a few bright spots in an otherwise uneventful season for the Detroit Red Wings.
Whether it’s the emergence of depth pieces like Givani Smith or the growth of Filip Zadina, the team has come a long way from the 2019-20 season.
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the quiet yet eventful emergence of Sam Gagner. Acquired in the Andreas Athanasiou trade in the 2019-20 season, Gagner is showing an immense amount of defensive expertise in his role.
Advanced stats show us what the eye test cannot: Sam Gagner is quietly having a terrific season.
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Sam Gagner’s power unleashed.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to Evolving Hockey’s advanced statistics model, Gagner is having one of the best hockey seasons of his career. With a whopping 8.9 shooting percentage and 2.68 GF/60, he’s creating offensive chances every time he sets foot on the ice. While he’s many years removed from his seven-point game, he still makes for an intriguing depth option for the Red Wings.
Gagner is one of the Red Wings’ top leaders in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). This means his contribution on the ice results in the team winning more often than it does when he’s not playing.
His jaw-dropping goals-for percentage sits at 68.87%, just a few percentage points above Mitch Marner and Brayden Point. While he’s obviously not the offensive threat that either of these players are, these numbers are highly encouraging for a 31-year-old.
What this means for the Detroit Red Wings.
With such encouraging numbers, general manager Steve Yzerman has many options at his disposal. If he chooses to keep Gagner around, he can ensure a strong veteran presence for young up-and-comers. Michael Rasmussen could stand to benefit from a role model like Gagner.
Their similar styles may benefit Rasmussen in the long run, helping him to serve up and down the Detroit Red Wings lineup for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, such a promising defensive player could make for an excellent trade piece. He’s not going to net the Red Wings a high pick, but Gagner’s defensive power could likely net the team a 3rd round pick.
With his cap-friendly salary and defensive ability, Gagner is an excellent choice for any team looking to contend for the cup.