Thursday, 19 July 2012

Futures present: Scott Gomez

"Time. Patience. Faith."

That's what Brian Wilde of CTV sports wrote recently in his excellent blog posting of the same title.
In his article (which I encourage you to read here) Brian explains that with many contracts set to expire after the 2013-2014 season, timing will be ripe in September 2014 for many of the Habs young prospects to start venturing into the big leagues.

Players like Tinordi, Ellis, Beaulieu, Kristo, Collberg, and Bournival will be ripe. "What does that mean now"? you may ask."Does that mean we get Gallagher, Galchenyuck and Leblanc now?" no. No it doesn't mean you get them now.

Look at recent examples in L.A, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Those teams became dominant by allowing their players to develop together. However, in all three cases there came much losing in the NHL together, and by the time those teams won the cup, they had to start shedding players who coming up on UFA or RFA status. What if I told you it didn't have to be that way? What if I told you there was a better way?

If I am Marc Bergevin, I let the players develop at the Junior level, or in the American hockey league. I let those players dominate at those levels - and then I bring them in to the NHL. I bring them in not when the fans want them, but when they are ready. That way I don't burn up their NHL time.

"Time. Patience. Faith."

Alex Galchenyuck was injured much of last year. His hockey development will not be hindered in the slightest by playing Junior hockey this year. After that he can spend 1 season in Hamilton, and then we get to Sept.2014.

Brendan Gallagher has yet to play at the American hockey league level. Why must we have him here now? We have Brian Gionta. Brian Gionta is still a top 6 forward at the NHL level. Do we need to see Brendan Gallagher get 4th line minutes at the NHL level? Let him get top 6 minutes in Hamilton and dominate there.

Rick Springhetti of McKeen's Hockey supports the theory that Bergevin is looking towards the future"(Bergevin) has a great amateur scouting staff and wants to give them more of an opportunity to do their thing."

Now that we've gone over idea of giving time to the youngsters, you're again going to ask:"What does that mean for the Habs now"? It means more of the same.

Yes. You read me right. That means, that for better or worse Scott Gomez, Rene Bourque, Tomas Kaberle and Andrei Markov will be in Montreal this season.

Following up on his Blog posting, Brian Wilde exclusively told "The breakdown" that fans can expect a lean season. "Not as lean as last year but lean. (Former General Manager) Pierre Gauthier acquired some awful assets." Wilde continued "Normally it would be wrong to ride it out with those crap assets and let them play out the string but nothing is happening now on this big transformation to greatness, so this season is always going to be limited."

Should Hab fans be worried? Maybe. Is it possible some of those awful assets will continue to be awful? or is it possible that they may be viable NHLers with bad contracts?

If I am Marc Bergevin, my attitude is simple. I am going to ride those assets till the end of their contracts. If they perform, and the team does well - fantastic, maybe they earn themselves a new deal. If they don't perform, then the team can end up with more high draft picks leading up 2014 - the beginning of the future.

Springhetti believes that in the short term "the plan for Bergevin was to sign a few players that can begin to shape a new identity for Montreal as a team that will have some bite to their play and will have the courage to impose their system instead of passively reacting to what their opponents are doing." 

"Time. Patience. Faith".

Today we will begin looking at some of the "awful assets" and discuss what we can expect. Today, we discuss Scott Gomez.

Scott Gomez is overpaid. There's no nice way to say it. There were two teams however - New York and Montreal - that saw some value in him. New York gave him the contract to start, and later the Habs picked it up. Whether Canadiens' brass at the time felt he was overpaid or not could be up for debate. What cannot be debated however, is that Canadiens brass felt that Scott Gomez could be their number 1 Center to replace Saku Koivu.

Scott Gomez came to the National Hockey league just in time for the 1999-2000 season. With 19 goals and 51 assists, Gomez was named an all-star and eventually won the Rookie of the year. His numbers tailed off in the playoffs that season where he notched 10 points en route to his first of two Stanley Cups with the Devils. In 2003-2004, Gomez tied for the league lead in assists with 56.

After the NHL lockout in 04-05, Gomez came back to the Devils in 05-06 and had a career year. 

Things started pretty well for Gomez in NJ. Rookie of the year, 2 stanley cups, and a career year in 05/06. He scored 33 goals and had 51 assists, that led to an arbitrator awarding him a $5 Million salary for the 06/07 season before he went on to become a UFA following that season.

As an Unrestricted free agent, Gomez was offered a 32% increase in salary (based on AAV cap hit of $7,357,143) to jump ship to the Rangers. A lucrative offer, but not a crazy increase for a player who has 2 Stanley Cups, a rookie of the year, and at only 27 years of age and entering his prime is already considered to be one of the elite passers of the game. At the time most lauded the deal.

"It's pretty exciting." Rangers General Manager Glen Sather said at the time. "We ranked them both (Gomez & Chris Drury) as number ones, and we never expected to get both of them."

When  Canadiens General Manager Bob Gainey acquired Gomez 2 years later in Montreal he described Gomez as "an outstanding playmaker and an excellent skater. Having won the Stanley Cup twice with the New Jersey Devils, he brings our team a lot of playoff experience. Scott is an elite player who will certainly contribute to the success of our team for years to come."

So, what happened?
Colin Stephenson has been a reporter at the New Jersey Star-Ledger since December, 1997. He covered Scott Gomez during his tenure with both the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. "(Gomez) had great vision, and soft hands, and he was clever. He really was an elite playmaker. He could find people and get the puck to them. He always seemed to have a chemistry with Brian Gionta -- they were linemates on Team USA junior teams before they were on the Devils.But when he was on the Devils, it didn't seem like a strictly Gomez and Gionta thing. He made plays for everyone he played with."
"(With the Rangers) they paid him big money and put him with Jagr on the top line and that never worked, for whatever reason." 
Former Canadien Hal Gill discussed Scott Gomez with the Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs shortly after this past season. "The message (from the coaching staff) was we need to play as a team with their system. I tried to preach it but the hard part was we didn't play to guys’ strengths. With Gomez, you don’t expect him to chip it up the boards, you want him to come back and pick it up. If he can’t do that, he can’t be effective."
Stephenson seems to think that Gill's assessment is a reasonable one, echoing what the hulking defenseman had to say. "With the Devils, other guys chipped the puck out, but he was the guy who skated with it."

McKeen's Rick Springhetti believes the issues that have plagued Gomez in recent years are mental. "I think things went downhill after he signed that huge deal with the Rangers. It's as if he knew that he just couldn't justify his huge deal and started to run around the ice trying to do everything at once."

Stephenson and Springhetti's views on Gomez over an interesting contrast on Gomez the Player. When describing Gomez at his best in New Jersey, Stephenson says that Gomez "carried the puck through the neutral zone and dished off. He actually slowed the game down and found holes in the defense."

Springhetti however counters that since signing his deal with the Rangers, "everything seems rushed when he gains possession of the puck. He complicates his game by running around the ice and  with little actual results. If anything, he too often loses control of the puck especially near the opposing blue line because he is not slowing the play down looking for passing options. Also, he has become very hesitant defensively."

Springhetti's evaluation sides with the idea that under the right situation, Gomez could once again be an effective player. Stephenson agrees feeling that the Rangers gave up on him too early "when it didn't work with Jagr."

Springhetti feels that the approach with Gomez for the coming season is a simple one. "(Gomez) should simplify his game, play very good defensively and work his way up from there." He feels that playing a more simple game should allow Gomez to regain confidence, alleviate the mental pressure of his contract and allow him the freedom to get back to his greatest asset. An asset that had 3 NHL General Mangers dub him as a first line center.

As far as being a disruption in the locker room, Stephenson is pretty clear "(Gomez is) a happy guy who loves to laugh and rarely seems to take anything seriously. Most of his teammates like that."

For more from Colin Stephenson, follow him on Twitter @Ledger_Nets
For more from Rick Springhetti, follow him on Twitter @Rick1042
For more from Brian Wilde, follow him on twitter @BWildeCTV

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