Complementary Players

25 Jul

Grizzled 23 year old NHL Veteran of 6 years Sam Gagner

A conversation with Lowetide on his radio program included the question “Is Sam Gagner an Impact player or a Complementary player. I think complementary, no question about it, and that is not an insult.

Lowetide really made my day when he asked me to be on his radio show (I appear at around the 19 minute mark). It was truly something very cool for me personally and I appreciate it very much. I hope I sounded like I knew what I was doing.

The complementary vs impact player question is a good one because I think so much of what Gagner can and will become is still unknown even after 6 NHL seasons. Most fans are ready to say they know what Gagner is and some are not shy to say he isnt good enough.

I disagree, but I dont think he’s an impact player.

Impact Players

I hold the standard for Impact Players pretty high. Even someone who has a great season might not be an impact player. I would loosely define an impact player as one who has the ability to individually take over the game whenever they are on the ice. It’s a fuzzy definition, I know, but it’s a fuzzy concept to begin with.

Impact Players in the NHL includes names like: (Present) Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Subban, Quick, Stamkos, and Chara. (Past) Gretzky, Richard, Lemieux, Stevens, Roy, and Orr.

The Oilers’ three 1st Overall picks all have the ability to be impact players, as of right now I am comfortable saying that Taylor Hall is an impact player.

Taylor Hall takes over games the way the Bulls take over Pamplona. He is all effort, a motor that never quits. I think we can assume based on all the underlying numbers and the fact that Nuge had a severe shoulder injury that when he comes back healthy he should be capable of taking over with his intelligence and vision. That boy can see things in a way that is reminiscent of he who shall not be named. And Yak? Yakupov will be taking over games with that hellacious shot of his. His one-timer is game changing.

Thus ends the list of Impact Players on the Oilers, and I think you would be hard pressed to find 3 legitimate impact forwards on NHL clubs.

Complementary Players

A complementary player is not “Everyone else who isnt Impact.” A complementary player is a very good NHLer who may not himself be able to change the game but can play at a very high level and produce when playing with Impact Players and ultimately will help bring out the best in their Impact teammates.

For some reason people will often use “complementary player” as a derogatory term. As if it is a bad thing that X player is a complementary player. If we can all agree that only a select few talents are indeed “Impact Players” then how on Earth did being in the category right below that become a bad thing?

Having complementary players is essential to maximize the high end talent that you have accumulated. And some damned fine players in the NHL were/are Complementary.

Complementary Players in the NHL include: (Present) Kunitz, Backstrom, Burrows, Marleau, Semin, and Seabrook. (Past) Oates, Glen Anderson, Tanguay, Craig Conroy, Matvichuk.

On the Oilers I think Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle are their top two complementary players. Most people would probably agree about Gagner, but Eberle’s name will rankle a few feathers. I dont think Eberle is an impact player in the NHL. He is not the straw that stirs the drink, but he is a complementary player the way Glen Anderson was a complement to Messier.

The Point

Here’s the point. Some excellent, even Hall of Fame worthy, players are/were complementary players. It is not a slight or attack on Sam Gagner when I say that he is one. It still takes a great deal of skill and a high hockey IQ to be a good complementary player.

The Oilers have potentially 3 Impact players and if they want to spread the offense around they will need excellent complementary talent to round out the top 6. We know how difficult it is to find good complimentary players having watched Hemsky die on the vine without someone who meshes with his game. Down the highway we watched the Flames suffer to find a Center for Iginla after Craig Conroy left town.

Gagner had somewhat of a breakout season last year playing with some quality players. This year the talent that surrounds him looks to be even better. If young 89 can help get the most out of Yakupov and Perron then he’s worth his weight (or height if you want to save money) in gold.


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