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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Scott Gomez: Needed Now, Needed Tomorrow

Scott Gomez - Detroit Red Wings v Montreal Canadiens
As the one year anniversary approaches commemorating the last time that Scott Gomez scored a goal in the NHL, an overwhelming sense of emotion overcomes by body to think of that joyous occasion. To think, that it was just one year ago that he scored, man how time flies.

Enough of the sarcasm.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that everything is going well with this squad right now and I am certainly not going to hide my distaste towards the acquisition and retention of Scott Gomez.

It's time for the highest paid player on this team to put the puck in the net. Going one full year is just outright unacceptable for any NHL player to go without a goal, let alone one so richly paid.

Although he was a Stanley Cup champion, a Calder Trophy winner and once a point per game player, Gomez was never of elite caliber. Nonetheless, Gomez was offered a seven year contract with an annual cap hit of $7.357 million with the New York Rangers.

It was contract that defied logic but it was also a contract that followed the norms of the NHL at the time. Gomez’s contract was but one amongst the likes of Wade Redden, Chris Drury, Thomas Vanek, Adam Foote and Dustin Penner to name but a few.

Players like Gomez simply sat back and watched one GM after another offer contracts which paralleled the GDP of most African countries. When the dust settled, the highest bidder usually came out on top and the dotted line was signed.

You can argue that some of those contracts actually worked out in the end with teams like Detroit securing the likes of Pavel Dastyuk and Henrik Zetterberg or Dustin Brown signing in LA, but many of these contracts simply didn’t pan out.

In the pre-lockout NHL acquiring a big ticket player with little or no production was easy to handle. You take that seven million dollar mistake and then go out and spend another seven million on a player who can get the job done. Basically, you could cover up mistakes by essentially spending more money. The current NHL however does not allow for mistakes to be easily covered up.

An ineffective $7.4 million player ultimately means that more than 10% of possible cap space has been eaten up. Your only possibilities are to find a trading partner willing to take that contract or to demote that player to the AHL or Europe, a luxury that only the richest of NHL teams can afford.

The Rangers were lucky to have found the Montreal Canadiens to take the Gomez contract. Teams like the Oilers with Sheldon Souray, the Rangers with Wade Redden, the Blackhawks with Cristobal Huet or even the Maple Leafs with Jeff Finger were all forced to spend millions of dollars simply to save much needed cap space.

So what should the Montreal Canadiens do?

I already said that I am not going to hide my displeasure bu by that same token I am not going to simply disregard the player and toss him to the side. Scott Gomez is a valuable piece to the success of this team.

What Now?

I think that if we were to poll the entire Canadiens fan base we would see something to the effect of 45% voting to send him to Hamilton, 45% voting to buy out the contract and less than 5% voting to keep him.

Even if you are not an accountant I think it is obvious that this does not equate to 100%. The remaining 5% would prefer to remain anonymous should Gomez one day find himself to be sleeping with the fishes.

Up until recently, my personal choice would have been to buy him out at season's end, pay him his two-thirds of his salary spread out over four years and then use the cap space to acquire a player that we know can do more (i.e. pretty much anyone right?).

But I have to admit that I have had a change of philosophy.

I actually want to see Gomez live out his contract as a Hab even though he makes more than my entire lineage does on a yearly basis.

Unpopular as it may be, I firmly believe that Gomez is a crucial component to the success of this team not only because of his production but primarily because of the presence in the locker room.

Production

There is no denying that Gomez had a horrendous year in 2010-11. 38 points for any player playing on the top two lines is unacceptable. When you figure in his salary, it even further compounds the problem.

I question however whether the 2010-11 season was a blip on the radar?

Despite never living up to his salary Gomez has always produced at the 50 points per year pace if not more. This pattern was further demonstrated in his first year as a Hab when Gomez netted 59 points in the regular season and another 14 points in 19 games in the playoffs.

Given his production history, is this not the type of player that we can come to expect?

I will take it one step further and argue that when Gomez produces, the Habs generally have success as a whole. 

As a matter of fact, if you take a look at the team's past with 15 games with Gomez in the line-up, the sqaud went 8-4-3. In the eight wins Gomez has seven assists and is a +8.

Not bad for a guy who has seen the bulk of those minutes playing on the fourth line.

Chemistry

If the departure of Mike Cammalleri should tell us one thing, perhaps it is that chemistry is the most important factor in the success of a team.

A team like the Boston Bruins stick up for one another. The players are selfless, and that mindset makes it hard to defeat them.

The perception of Cammalleri, on the other hand, was that he was a selfish player who put himself ahead of his teammates. This sentiment, however, has never been expressed with regards to Gomez. If anything the complete opposite is what you see from number 11.

Whether we are talking about the Pacioretty-Chara incident, or a scrum behind the net, Gomez is always there for his teammates. I am not going to sit here and argue that is a tough player, who will drop the gloves when needed but by that same token he is not afraid to get his nose dirty and he doesn’t seem back away from chirping back at any player in this league.

From what I can see, he has the respect of his team and that is sometimes more importance than any other factor you can name.

I fear that if the Habs were to part ways with their benign center in conjunction with the loss of Jaroslav Spacek and potential loss of Travis Moen, and Hal Gill that we are going to see a team with a loss of focus, and misdirected vision.

We have often heard that the strength of this team is the locker room and Gomez is certainly a major component of that leadership.

Let’s not make a mistake now. What sort of message does it send to the team and what sort of message does it say to the rest of the league when management simply disregards the personnel and tosses them to the side when they are no longer needed.

For a team void of organizational leadership, it is important to show strength.

But hey that's my $.02. I am sure you all think differently so let me have it.

On a personal note

For those who follow me on Twitter I have been tweeting quite a bit recently about the recent commitment that my wife has made.

In 2012, she decided that rather than to simply write a cheque to the numerous charities that we endorse that she would take it to a whole new level by singing up to run a Marathon with all proceeds going to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada.

Cancer has had it’s victims in both her family and my own. It is a subject and cause with personal meaning to us both. If anyone out there has a few dollars to spend on a really great cause then I invite you to make a taxable donation for her personal cause.

Thank you all for any and all support that you can provide.


---
Bryan is a Marketer by day, writer for HabsAddict.com by night and full time fan of the game. Follow me on twitter @BryanWilley78 but don't bother looking for me on Facebook, I'm just too old for that now!


(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

12 comments:

SO basically Gomez is a $7 mil. cheerleader lol

I don't agree with Bryan's argument, but I understand it.

Between the potential for 50-60 points, good playoff performance and good chemistry, Gomez has the potential to be an asset. And if he is an asset, than those positives outweigh the costs (in actual money or cap space) of a buy out or demotion.

Having said that, I doubt he will live up to that potential...


Time for him to go. His cap space can be used elsehwere (Price, Subban, etc.)

I wouldn't mind Gomez if he was producing at a .60 PPG clip or something, but he only has 7 assists in 20 games and is not contributing in other aspects of the game. The Habs will get rid of him after the season, one way or another!

Hey guys,

I still think that this team is better without Gomez but my worry is the way in which he is removed and how it effects the team.

Even if you play in a garage league, the locker room is such an interest dynamic. We went from a locker room that was divided to one that had resolve and was strong with little cracks and now we are parting ways with guys who either are or did keep that room together.

Discarding Gomez in a buyout or sending him to the minors when he has such a huge role with the team may actually have a negative effect.

Now if for some reason Gomez can be dealt then I think the impact is much less. it's all about how the players are treated.

So if by some miracle Gomez can be dealt then I say you have no chance but if it's a means of buying him out or sending him to the AHL......then it's not something I think worth doing.

problem is, the canadiens just don't have the depth to find linemates for all their centres. aside from the desharnais line and the eller line, there aren't enough quality wingers to play with pleakanec and/or gomez. so for now, regardless of how well gomez potentially could play, there isn't enough talent to put on the ice to facilitate it.

I actually predicted at least a 65 point season from Gomez at the start of the season. He had good chemistry with Gionta and Pacioretty last year leading up to the Chara hit so I figured it would carry into this year. Needless to say that didn't pan out. The whole locker room argument makes sense to a point but I just feel his cap hit is way too high to keep him around unless he can produce more on the ice, maybe if he collected a few million less I could accept his presence at a high cost but 7 millions is just too much.

@Rob121

Good argument. At some point, you need to invest in having a quality first line as opposed to icing three second / third lines.

@Sean

Agreed. In addition, he is useless at both ends of the ice. We forget that, in his first season in MTL, he was an impactful defensive player as well, averaging over 2 mins on the P.K per game. That, along with 59 points and a good presence in the room made the money easier to swallow.

@ Rob.......well put and to be honest something I did not consider. I guess it is kind of the chicken egg scenario.

Is Gomez not performing because he has poor line mates or are the line mates playing poorly because Gomez is the center.

Do we try to figure this out by acquiring a top winger and then make a decision?

I feel it's just too early to decide.

Issue I am having with this article is that Gomez was an issue in the locker room last season. While JM certainly did have his work cut out for him, it didn't help when Gorges, Gill and the rest of the team was trying their hardest to tow the line, Gomez often argued the counterpoint of Offence over Defence.... is this the leadership you speak of??

Stats guys will look at his offensive zone starts, the fact that he can carry the puck, sometimes make a pass and turn that into him being such a good asset that they believe that Desharnais and Eller should be bumped out of their spots most nights for Gomez, who according to them "creates more opportunities". Gomez is a rich man's Russ Courtnall... not because he plays better than Russ ... simply because he won the lottery when he signed in NY.

The Enigma that is Gomez would be a nice thing not to have to worry about. He can't unlearn sticking himself in the corner, trying to force feed passes and shots from bad angles.... the young guys at least can be coached into better players.

The good and the bad of Gomez.

The Good.

1. Sticks up for teammates. (see chara/paccioretty)
2. Actually digs for pucks behind the net. (and wins)
3. Great in the locker room.
4. Great offensive "potential"
5. Can carry the puck with speed.
6. Knows how to bust through a trap.
7. Still likes playing in Montreal, despite the treatment he has received.

The Bad.

1. Has a ridiculous contract.
2. Hasn't scored in a year.
3. Hasn't scored in a year.
4. Hasn't scored in a year.
5. Hasn't scored in a year.
6. Hasn't scored in a year.

Even with beating that point to death, as the media has been, the goods still outweigh the bads 7-6. I'm with you Bryan!

Now, Scott? JUST PUT THE DAMN PUCK IN THE NET ALREADY!!!!!

Man, I remember watching Scotty tromping to the neighborhood ice skating rink each morning, to practice and I'm sure dreaming of skating in the NHL someday. I know how all you guys feel about his contract and poor performance this season but dang he was dedicated back then and hopefully will find that enthusiasm again and kick ass in Vancouver on the 10th!

From the old Anchorage neighborhood.

@debbie s: You know, the thing with Gomez is that I don't think he's dogging it out there. I think he is actually trying. But, for whatever reason, he has just completely lost his ability to be anything more than a third or fourth liner.

Sad, for a guy who once won the Calder trophy, but true...

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