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Gagner’s goal in Arizona: prove people wrong

Frank Corrado, Sam Gagner.

This Sept. 21, 2013 photo shows Edmonton Oilers Sam Gagner, right, in Edmonton. Gagner was traded twice within 90 minutes Sunday night, first from the Edmonton Oilers to Tampa Bay and then from the Lightning to the Arizona Coyotes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)


In what amounted to a three-team trade, the rumors finally came true, as Sam Gagner was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to (eventually) the Arizona Coyotes. It’s actually kind of hard to believe Gagner is only 24, as it seems like he’s been criticized - and dangled in hypothetical trades - for years.

The Arizona Republic reports that those criticisms serve as a driving force for Gagner:

“It’s not about what people say or what I say about my game,” Gagner said. “It’s about going out there and proving it on a consistent basis. I’m excited to prove some people wrong next year, and I feel like I have a great opportunity to do that in Phoenix and it should be a lot of fun.”

Coyotes GM Don Maloney didn’t really spurn or encourage Gagner’s critics. If anything, he indicated that the franchise believes they (or maybe more precisely, renowned head coach Dave Tippett) can “fix” his problems.

“Really, if you ask me how is he on his defensive-zone coverage, don’t ask me,” Maloney said. “We got him for his offensive instincts and creativity. Players can learn to play better defense. It’s very difficult to learn to be more intelligent and more creative.”

The Coyotes can certainly use that creativity after losing Radim Vrbata to free agency and buying out Mike Ribeiro.

After years of being lost in the shuffle with all the No. 1 picks in Edmonton, Gagner is now one of the most explosive offensive players on the Coyotes roster. From the sound of things, Arizona will give him every chance to prove his critics wrong next season.

Follow James O’Brien @cyclelikesedins