Much Ado About Scott Gomez
We probably don't need to tell you that it took Montreal Canadiens forward Scott Gomez a year and three days -- or 56 games -- to score the goal he did on Thursday night against the New York Islanders. It has been the subject of many jokes, including bars offering free shots for when he scores, countdown (or up) sites, and even Facebook events celebrating last weekend's no-goal-a-Gomez-iversary.
Here's the magical moment from Thursday's game:
It may seem a little anti-climatic that Gomez would finally get the monkey off his back and score a goal three days after the anniversary while the game was already 2-0 in favor of the Canadiens, but that's probably how the Alaska native wanted it. I'm sure he's had enough with all the fanfare and attention surrounding his ridiculous goalless drought. Gomez said it himself over the course of the last week; no one wants him to score more than he does. It's embarrassing. It's frustrating. And for Gomez, it's probably infuriating. It's sad to see defensive defensemen like Hal Gill or Chris Phillips go similarly long stretches of games without scoring, imagine what it feels like for someone's who's job it is to create offense, regardless of whether or not he's supposed to be a goalscorer?
We got our fair share of laughs out of the situation. It was funny, as were the sites like Did Gomez Score. But now that the goal has finally been scored, and the pressure has been relieved, it's time to ask ourselves a few questions about Scott Gomez. Should we feel bad for him and his quest to score a goal? Moreover, what do you do with someone who's your highest paid player, and who has proven nothing other than his ability to be a disappointment?
When Scott Gomez came to Montreal in 2009, as part of a trade with the New York Rangers, most fans and pundits were outraged with the Habs' willingness to take on his albatross of a contract, giving up a roster player and a highly-touted prospect in the process. But they were also willing to accept that Gomez was a good offensive forward with experience in a defensive system and two Stanley cup rings on his fingers. His first season with Montreal was actually decent, as he would put up 12 goals and 58 points in 78 games, along with an impressive 14 points in the Canadiens' run to the Eastern Conference final that same year. But Gomez would go on to have one of the worst single-seasons I've ever seen from a player of his caliber. In 2010-11, Gomez would only be able to muster 2 goals and 38 points, with a -15 rating in 80 games. Add that to his injury-riddled and goalless 2011-12 (so far), and most people were left wondering what the Hell the Canadiens could do with Scott Gomez.
Even when he wasn't putting up points, Gomez wasn't necessarily playing bad. He's good in his own zone and was the prototypical player for everything that was actually good about the Jacques Martin coaching system. He was also a good quarterback, moving the puck out of the defensive zone, something that's been hard to find on the Canadiens in the absence of Andrei Markov, although it's an odd role for a supposedly offensive forward. Regardless of the fact that he didn't often find himself on the scoresheet, Gomez was contributing. The problem, of course, lies with the $8 million dollars that go out of the Canadiens' bank account with his name on it this season, a figure that's normally attributed to players who, you know, can actually score.
But this begs another question. Should we judge Scott Gomez based on the money Glen Sather was stupid enough to pay him in 2007? After all, the man isn't exactly known for his frugality, and there's absolutely no way you can blame Gomez for accepting money that he probably didn't deserve. If your boss walked up to you right now, and offered to double your salary, would you accept, or would you decline because you spend your time reading The Checking Line and surfing Reddit all day instead? Unless you're a moron, you take the money. It's not Scott Gomez's fault he's not a player worth $8 million. It's not his fault that the Rangers were stupid enough to give him that money, and it's certainly not his fault Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier were stupid enough to trade for him, even after he had quite clearly proven he was overpaid.
But this drought, this lack of performance goes well beyond his salary. It's not about the dollars Gomez is making versus his production. At this point, we're willing to accept that he's just not an elite player and will never live up to what his salary should yield. It's not even about the expectations set upon him when he arrived in Montreal -- the proclamations that he was a top five skater in the league and that the trade facilitated the acquisitions of Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri, for example. It's simply about playing good hockey, as opposed to playing bad hockey. And regardless of the fact that Gomez still managed to contribute defensively and coming out of his own zone or whatever, more often than not, he was playing bad hockey.
It's often said that if you can't score a goal in the NHL as a forward, you probably shouldn't be playing in the NHL. We're starting to question whether Gomez can score a goal at this level. Let's be honest, the goal he scored against the Islanders wasn't exactly a beauty. It was more like the stars and moons aligning and him being at the right spot at the right time. The shot was even sort of terrible, a wobbler that was lucky to hit the net. If I had to make a bet, I'd say the odds are likely that he won't be scoring another one anytime soon in a Canadiens uniform.
But I don't feel bad for him. Regardless of the fact that he didn't do anything wrong accepting ill-gotten gains or being traded, he's still someone who should be capable of being an NHL player, and capable of contributing regularly to an NHL team. Instead, he's become a freak show and a distraction, and one that the Canadiens won't be able to get rid of as easily as they did Mike Cammalleri. Putting aside the money argument, he still brought all of this unto himself when he decided to not score for 56 games. And if you want to bring up the "he's not a goal scorer" argument, then take a gander in the assist column and get back to me. As an offensive player, Gomez is a complete and utter failure, and that's something that this team's management needs to deal with before the start of next season.
Of course, that's easier said than done. While his salary will drop to $5.5M next season, and $4.5M the year after that, that's still $9 million over two seasons, and his $7.35 million cap hit will remain unchanged. Add that to the uncertainty of this summer's pending CBA negotiations, and it's very unlikely that the Canadiens will find a trading partner around the league. That leaves us with four options:
4. Put a gun to his head and force him to retire?
No matter what option the Canadiens choose, if any, there will be a backlash. But there will also be a benefit. It's not only about getting Gomez off the team, but it's about giving someone else a chance. While he's been playing on the third and fourth lines as of late, I doubt that's going to last forever. And who suffers if they decide to move him back up? Tomas Plekanec, but more than likely good young centers like David Desharnais, Lars Eller, and Louis Leblanc. The Canadiens oddly have an influx of talent at the center spot, and Gomez is in a position to ruin it all if he stays with the team.
Scott Gomez has finally scored his goal. Hopefully, this means he'll no longer be the center of attention and the subject that continues to make a mockery of this organization. It's time we stopped feeling bad for him, and started facing reality. This is someone who needs to be booted from the team, before he does any more damage. The options may not be glamorous, but they're there, and they're plentiful and varied. This team already admitted it made a mistake in Mike Cammalleri, it's time they did the same with Scott Gomez, and before it's too late.