Red Wings Player Grades: Assessing Detroit’s Veterans

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MAY 01: Danny DeKeyser #65 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena on May 01, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MAY 01: Danny DeKeyser #65 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Little Caesars Arena on May 01, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Sam Gagner

2021 Statline

Games Played: 42

Goals: 7

Assists: 8

+/-: -4

Preseason Projection

Middle/Bottom Pairing Winger or Center

2021 Season in a Nutshell

The hockey metrics agree: Sam Gagner was quietly solid throughout the year. The highlight of his first full year in Detroit was the hat trick against Nashville Predators in February, but other than that flash-in-the-pan, most of Gagner’s contributions to the time were under-the-radar.

Gagner finished the season with a 48.4 CF% and tied for the most points among Red Wings players over 30. While he didn’t light up the scoresheet, Gagner was a great fit for Jeff Blashill’s scheme: defensively sound and occasionally effective offensively. He did all the “little things” right, winning puck battles and making smart, safe passes to drive the offense.

They Said It

“If you look at most of the underlying statistics that we keep, generally, he wins his shifts. His expected goals for when he’s on the ice is better than expected goals against on a consistent basis, night in and night out. Wherever he’s playing in the lineup he’s done an excellent job, both in his play and his example.”

-Jeff Blashill via the Detroit News

Final Grade

Detroit Red Wings. SAM GAGNER. B+. Sam Gagner is not a game changer. On a great team, he’d likely slot in to the fourth line. However, on a rebuilding team in need of depth, Gagner was a great fit. There was not a point in the year where he was a top tier forward on the team, but he was also never bottom tier. Gagner quietly provided that perfect fourth line balance of great defense and competent offense, driving play when needed and shutting down opposing play when needed. In terms of a veteran presence, Gagner is exactly what a team can reasonably expect. Gagner shouldn’t receive a Jakub Vrana-like grade, but of the veterans on the team, he was one of the best.. Forward