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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Habs by the Numbers: Why is Scott Gomez Still Playing?

Scott Gomez - Detroit Red Wings v Montreal Canadiens 
Greetings HabsAddicts!

I have decided to tackle a dangerous task today.

That task is trying to explain the logic of the Montreal Canadiens' coaching staff regarding Scott Gomez's presence in the lineup.

As best as I can remember, since Gomez arrived in Montreal, he has never once been a healthy scratch.

Naturally, this has infuriated more than a few fans. After all, the one better known as "Gomer" has a mere two goals in his last 67 regular season games, and a total of only 20 assists in the same time frame!

The only Canadiens in history to come close to such poor numbers — in terms of goal production — were Darren Langdon's zero goals in 64 games in 2003-04, and Tom Pyatt's two goals in 61 games last year. This isn't the kind of company Gomez was expected to be among.
So, then, why on earth are they playing Gomez every single game? Is it because he's everyone's friend in the room?

The answer

The answer, I believe, lies in some rather simple stats. Simple enough that, if you're the coach or General Manager of this team, you cannot logically afford to NOT dress everyone's favorite Alaskan centerman.

The first and most shocking stat goes as follows: in the last 20 in which Gomez has collected at least one point, the Canadiens record is an astonishing 19-0-1 (.975).

I now hear the question from here: that's all fine and dandy, but about the other games besides those last 20? It does get a bit worse. But does it, really?

When Gomez scores at least one point, the Habs' record is 38-14-4 (.714). That's the equivalent of a 117 point season. Not too shabby.

Finally, when the Mexican-Alaskan forward collects one or more powerplay point, Montreal's record is 27-8-7 (.726).

What was Gainey thinking?

I often hear people complain, reasonably enough, about the Gomez trade. After all, Montreal gave up, in Ryan McDonagh alone, a solid 2 way defensman who gives plays over 20 minutes per game and is currently second in the league — right behind Josh Gorges — in blocked shots.

In that deal, the Rangers also acquired Pavel Valentenko, who should be with the Rangers next year, Chris Higgins and Doug Janik That's a hefty price to pay for Gomez.

But, to Gainey's defense, when he acquired Gomez, he was the seventh centermen with  the most points in the ten previous seasons:



Back in the summer of 2009, this was a pretty nice list of names to be mentionned with. And I remember that most columnists and reporters were asking Gomez if he was willing to learn French, in order to validate the potential they saw in him of possibly being the next Hab captain.

What to do now?

This is where I stop. I'll leave this to people who can assess talent much better than I.

But hopefully, this short analysis will have helped answer the "why are they always playing this guy" question.

Are you surprised by these numbers? What's your take?

---
Frank Dumais is a freelance writer, currently contributing to HabsAddict.com “Habs By the numbers” weekly column. He writes on current Habs topics, but with a “numbers twist”.

Follow Frank on Twitter

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America)

24 comments:

Wow, excellent piece Francois!

"19-0-1" in the last 20 games that Gomez has a point. Wow. I don't even know what to say to that.

I knew that the Habs record was good when Gomez got a point, but I didn't realize it was THAT good.

It never ceases to amaze me the kind of info you can find when you dig a little. As much as fans despise Gomez and his hefty price tag, your piece at least shows that there is a reason to try and get him going!

I had sort of defended that trade along the same lines at the time. (Yeah, mea culpa)

Still, McDonagh was too much to give away...

That stat would be really meaningful if Gomez actually scored some points. With his whopping 11 points this year, I guess that's about 10-0-1. Lovely. Except it's an 82 game schedule.

McDonagh was too much to give up. Gainey was desperate after the centennial schmazel. But we all know no one could have anticipated Gomez would fail so badly.

It's time to let go of the fact that it was a bad trade, and focus on the remedy from here. Perhaps he can be respectfully bought out in the new CBA. My current fear is that a concussion may hinder that. Perhaps he will sit out for the next 2 years with a concussion and won't kill our cap. Whatever we do, it's time to abandon the Scott Gomez project.

I'm with @Anonymous and @Lyse: There is NO way to justify the trade that brought Gomez to Montreal.

None.

But what I think the numbers show is logic that, perhaps, Silent Bob et al. used in acquiring Gomez.

But, to me honest, I agree with @Anonymous in that Gainey was desperate. He put all his eggs in the Vincent Lecavalier basket (gawd am I glad the Habs didn't get him!), and when that deal fell through he had no plan B.

As such, he had no choice but to scramble and take pretty much whatever was offered, because he felt he couldn't go to market without a No. 1 center.

Man would this team ever have been better just sticking with Koivu!

What I find so puzzling is the background noise. The deal for Lecavalier to come to Montreal which was apparently done then nixed by the NHL.

The trade of Gomez to Florida last off-season which fell through When Richard decided to go to NYC.

The supposed Gomez to Islanders deal at the trade deadline this season.

I get the impression that the management knows they made a huge huge mistake and now are trying everything in their power to correct it.

Question now is whether we part with Gomez and a prospect to get him out of the organization, send him to the hammer, buy him out and go another 2 seasons.

Unfortunately, the situation is a lot more simple when you consider Gomez hasn't scored any points at all in 74% of his games this year and 60% last year.

When you trade for a player, your trading for future potential, not past results they warm you about when picking stocks. The signs were everywhere that Gomez was beginning to fade and trades like that used to be Sam Pollock's bread and butter.

As for why he plays, there are 7.36 Million reasons why those in the front office want/need Gomez to play but his 0.00 give a damn quotient has been an anchor.

@Habswatch

I think I disagree with your last statement. Gomez looks like he is playing hard. He is skating, back checking, throwing some hits but unfortunately your first argument is the reason why there are no results.

He's trying just so badly on the decline.

Where I find optimism is that Gionta scored 29 goals last season playing on his line so just imagine what he'll do with a center who actually produces.

@Bryan,

What made Gomez successful was his ability to carry the puck from the D zone into the O zone, maintain possession, shoot (low percentage shooters need volume) and drive the net. He now longer does any of it with regularity.

Going to the dirty areas where goals are scored from and creating rebound opportunities for linemates used to be his forte so there comes a time when can't gets confused with won't.

One glance at Desharnais paying the price presents stark contrast to what Gomez was once willing to do.

Hi all, and thank you for reading.

I have to say that comments/arguments brought forward so far are, in my opinion, all valid. Gomez's production in terms of points has been dipping, no contest. We all agree on that.

The fact that he's paid too much - again, no contest.

All I wanted to bring to light was possible reasons/explanations as to why they keep on playing Gomez, regardless of his disappearance from the score sheet on most nights.

Far from me the idea of trying to justifiy his salary or even his still being on the team. But I have to admit that I better understand the reasons why they play every night.

And that is: if only we can get a point from Gomer, we'll win. In almost 72% of the cases, that is what happened.

But granted, it happened way to seldom ...

Do we know what the Habs goal against were in the games they won and where Gomez got a point? I'm willing to bet that they occured in games where Price was having one of his better nights.

I've never understood how a team's record when a player scores a point is supposed to be meaningful. Are we to understand that when Gomez scores, the team's unbeatable -- that he puts games in a lockdown? Or that Gomez only scores games so one-sided the team can't lose? Both interpretations seem equally valid on the surface.

There was absolutely no justification for trading for scott gomez no matter what stats you want to dig up. Trading ryan mcdonagh for a 30 year old small declining centerman is stupid enough but throwing in chris higgins and another prospect and taking on the remaining 5 years of his contract with the 7 mil+ cap hit is totally ludicrous. Anybody associated with that trade should never be allowed near a hockey team again.

@anonymous - let's not forget that that management team went out and brought in another bad contract in Tomas Kaberle. Sounds like the problem may go even higher than the GM's chair...

@kyle - You're right, not to mention Gauthier trading Cammalleri to the first team that he spoke too. No point shopping him around and trying to make the best deal possible, he acquires another underachiever on the wrong side of thirty. Gauthier has to be shown the door by the time the draft and free agency begin. We don't need him screwing this up even more. And yes problems do go higher, a president that has some hockey knowledge to oversee things is a must have too.

@Anonymous and @Kyle: This whole thing is a mess right now. With rumours ranging from PG already having been pushed aside to Carriere running the team to Molson making decisions, this thing is ugly...no matter which way you slice it.

I'm thinking (hoping?) that all of this washes out this summer because, imo, Gauthier should have been shown the door at the same time as Jacques Martin.

That he was still on board to preside over the trade deadline was a farce.

Molson has this summer, and this summer alone, to put his money where his mouth is...and show the fans that he truly wants a winner, and not just to line his pockets.

@KP

a simple question, Why?

Why does Molson have to do anything? Will the fans stop buying jerseys, hats, scarves, poster, photos and tickets to the game. Will the 10's of thousands of fans on the more than 10 year waiting list for season tickets all of a sudden boycott the team?

This team will make millions a year regardless of whether they are good or not.

Then there is the argument of playoff revenue. They say the team makes a $2 million profit every game. So what motivation does Molson have to dump Kaberle or Gomez and to fire Cunneyworth or Gauthier?

The Gomez salary alone is the revenue of the entire first
Round. Add Gauthier and Martin and Cunneyworth and there goes the revenue of the second round.

We all want change but why does Molson have to do anything. This is a business and Molson rightfully is in this to make money. Why simply dump $10 million that he has
No need for?

@Bryan: Well he doesn't HAVE to do anything. I'm not saying he does. What I'm saying is that, when taking over the team, he claimed to be a fan and to want to bring back the glory.

IMO, he has this summer to make moves in that direction and, if he doesn't, we'll know he cares more about his pocketbook.

I honestly expect very little. I think to regain the glory will take years. What he needs to do is take baby steps. Let the mess sort itself itself out but get a GM. Allow the GM to make subtle changes to slowly build this team.

Make his profit but bring a little more excitement to the fan base but to expect wholesale changes just won't happen IMO

@Bryan: I agree. What I mean is that his front office choices this off season, will be very telling as to what his thinking is.

Mostly, his choice of GM (assuming PG gets the boot), being paramount. If he picks the right GM, there are enough interesting pieces in place that they should be able to turn this ship around within a few seasons.

Statistics can be fun, and even informative... they can also be misleading. I get where the author is going, but I wouldn't accept it as a defense for management's handling of Gomez.

If you asked me to bet on whether or not Gomez was going to score on any given night, I would choose the latter option every time. Knowing that the Habs win 72% of the time that Gomez scores is almost irrelevant given his utter lack of production.. if anything, I'm interested in seeing some numbers from other players in the Habs lineup to see how things stack up.

Gomez is indeed low in stats this year, but what about the wings he was playing with ?

Frank, I read an article a while back (can't remember which website) that showed that the habs puck possession percentage was significantly higher with Gomez in the lineup versus without. And they also showed that in NHL there is a significant correlation between puck possession percentage and wins.

To me that was the most clear explanation for why Gomez has been left in the lineup. He helps keep the puck away from the other team. On even strength situations this mostly results in neither his line or the other team's scoring a goal for 20 mins a game. Before this year, this was great because the habs did most of their scoring on the PP. Once they had a lead, his line and Plekanec's line could then play the bulk of the mins and protect the lead. But this year, with a poor PP, poor defensive play from Plekanec (-20), Gomez's frequent injuries, and the lack of skilled linemates for Gomez to pass the puck around with, the strategy has pretty much imploded.

Bourque/Moen/Eller could really be a strong 3rd line and our 4th can be made up of Leblanc, Palushaj, Geoffrion(a player that will stand out soon enough based on his progression stats slow but steady point gains, good shot pct and +/-) we could use a strong top 6 power forward to fill gomers shoes since any 6 ft 2 215 centre could battle those dirty areas better than gomer but our D core isnt bad Emelin leads D-men in hits Gorges leads D-men in shot blocks Markov is a premiere Offensive D-man when healthy and Subban is a speedy/unpredictable/high endurance minute cruncher....i think our lost injury time drained us we offloaded the lazy kostitsyn(wish gomez could be kicked to the curb) signing Price to 5 Mill will be the only justifiable amount if not less or else let him test the waters and take a hit and go with Budaj for 1/4 of a season to get a real price worth on the bundle of nerves goalie that is Price, his SO record DOES justify his lack of self worth yet i know he is capable of being a solid goalie with the players mentioned heading up the core of this team...like i said dont underestimate Leblanc, Palushaj and Geoffrion they will be strong in a full season....Kaberle is a wash but give him 10 min a game with Diaz and Weber and our 1st round pick might fill a line and we might just be a good team next year(*cough*without gomer*cough*) since a fake stat like this one in the article doesnt prove anything i mean everytime Cole drinks gatorade he gets a point in a game lol dont tell me gatorade had anything to do with that just like gomer didnt motivate the team rather the team was probably psyched to win that game already and so during the blowout gomer rode the coattails of his skilled teammates and managed a point

@Tharsan Sivapatham : yes, i've read that one too. the fact is that Montreal is supposed to be looking for a big centre. but they have several players on that position (maybe not a top 5 in the league, and maybe all suited for a second line role...), while they miss good wingers to fill at least their 2 first lines...

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