Tuesday, March 9, 2010

That's what $8 million should get you

I hate perpetuating what has become an extremely tiresome knock on Scott Gomez, but his contract remains the single most defining characteristic of his game, at least when he's not producing.

But when he's producing like he did in Tuesday's 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, or for the entire second half of the season, suddenly that gargantuan contract of his is a bit less of a topic of conversation.

Whenever I hear someone complain about Gomez's salary, wondering how he could loaf through games when he's paid that much, I start to wonder things myself. Like does Gomez ever regret signing that ridiculous offer Glen Sather made him? Does he even care what people are saying about him? Is he aware of it?

Frankly, I don't think so. And his production of late has been so strong at the most important time of year, that I'm also starting to think that what Gomez might need is a reason to compete. That's not necessarily a good thing, because the points you lose in November hurt just as much as those lost in March. But having a guy who turns his game up a notch when the importance is heightened has never been viewed as a bad thing in Montreal. How else can you explain Alex Kovalev's wild popularity here?

So maybe we have yet to see the best of what Gomez has to offer. And if that's the case, then what's to come could be scary good.

Try this on for size: over a four-game point streak, Gomez now has two goals and six assists. In his last 11 games, he has five goals and 10 assists. In his last 33 games, it's 32 points. Basically, Gomez began his season on Dec. 1.

Gomez was asked over and over again after his three-point performance against Tampa why it is that he's playing so well now, and he saw right through that question to spin it another way.

“Maybe I just played so bad in the beginning that this looks a little different," he said. "This is a fun time of year, every game means something, but I give the credit to Brian(Gionta) and Benny (Pouliot). I’m just giving them the puck.”

Fact is, he was that bad at the beginning of the season, with 11 points in his first 23 games. So to get this kind of production from someone who was such dead weight through the first quarter of the season is mildly surprising.

But this is where I give Jacques Martin some credit, because he always stuck with Gomez. He kept sending him out in important situations, and he always insisted Gomez was playing well in spite of the zeros he was putting up night after night. Now he's reaping the rewards for his patience, even though that patience was borne out of necessity.

"For a while, when Gionta was hurt and we didn't have Pouliot, we didn't have any finishers for him," Martin said, "and his biggest skill is as a playmaker."

We saw that skill on full display Tuesday night, flying into the offensive zone to put the Tampa defence on its heels before setting up Glen Metropolit for the opening goal of the game. Then setting Pouliot up with a brilliant feed in front that Gomez called "a terrible pass" to re-establish Montreal's two-goal margin.

In between, he snuck in a goal for good measure, his 12th of the year.

Gomez doesn't particularly like talking about his own performance, usually relying on humour to avoid honestly answering questions about it (a prime example: "At the beginning of the year they just weren’t going in. Brian finally pulled his head out of his ass and started putting some in. So I blame him for my first half.") But where Gomez starts to get interesting is when he talks about what the team's mentality should be around this time of year, and you start to understand why Bob Gainey wanted him and Gionta in that dressing room.

When talking about the playoff race and how dependent Montreal is on other teams losing, Gomez quickly disagreed.

“Growing up with Mr. Lamiorello, you learn that it doesn’t matter what anyone else does," he said, talking about Devils GM Lou. "It’s what you do in here. Teams change for you, you don’t change for teams. Everyone’s worried about what this team does or that team does, but all that matters is winning. Winning will take care of itself. Don’t worry about any other team, just worry about what’s here. That’s the mentality we’re starting to have. We don’t want to be in this position, this is the time you want to be fine tuning. But we’re in it. You look up at scores, it’s just human nature. But you can’t be worried about what other teams are doing.”

This run of four wins in five games coming out of the Olympic break has allowed the Habs to think that way, because now one could have predicted this would be where they sit after a treacherous four-game road trip.

"This win really allows us to control our own destiny," Martin said. "Especially when it comes to Atlanta and Tampa (both losers Tuesday). If both of them would have won, we'd still be ahead, but we'd be in a critical situation because of the games in hand."

Now, neither Atlanta nor Tampa could catch the Habs even if they were to win all three games in hand they still have. The Rangers can't catch them even if they win their two games in hand. Basically, for the first time this season, Montreal is legitimately in a playoff spot.

It seems like this team is coming together at the perfect time, and with Mike Cammalleri and Marc-Andre Bergeron both skating, it could get even better.

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but with Jaroslav Halak winning games and with a healthy lineup on the horizon, could it be that this team will peak just in time for the playoffs? I'm not saying that's what will wind up happening, but if it does, the Canadiens would be a very tough playoff out.

First, though, they have to make it to the dance. And Tuesday's win was a big step in that direction.


patience is a virtue said...

I love how even the "tank the season" naysayers are coming around to the bandwagon.

sure, the addition of pouliot and now moore have been added bonuses, but this is the team we had at the beginning, thanks to bob. it was a team that thoughtful analysis revealed as much improved over last season's, in terms of skill, work ethic and playoff potential.

now that the chemistry is developing and we are getting healthy, we'll see what bob's boldness leads to.

hopefully pleks and our #1 goalie to be will be kind on the salary cap :)

Olivier said...

It's not exactly the same team. Most notably, Gui!, Laraque, Pacioretty and D'Agostini are gone.

D'Agostini was a depth RW and is replaced by SKost, a net plus. Gui! and Pacioretty are being replaced by Pouliot and whomever happens to be up from Hamilton while MAB is hurt. I'll call it a plus too. Then, you have Moore who pushed Métro on the 4th line (Lapierre's spot), and Métro pushed Lapierre on the RW, Laraque's spot. That's a freakish improvement right there.

I wrote about it (shameless plug, I know, but it's relevant), but to summarize: Laraque was on the ice for 281 shots attempts this season and was -99. That means Laraque was on ice for 91 shots attempted by the habs and 190 shots by the opposition. That's craptacular.

Then you have Metro and Lapierre, who were getting killed on the road in general (Metro because he couldn't be sheltered as much, Lapierre because he isn't that good and had to drag Laraque around). Enter Moore, all of a sudden Metro can be sheltered and deployed when effective and Lapierre gets to do what he's better suited to do. Two birds with one stone.

It doesn't look like much when you look at any one of these moves individualy, but they add up. When you have decent workhorses like Gomez and Pleks, those things add up.

Arpon Basu said...

Also, you can't just qualify the addition of Pouliot as a bonus. He has brought Gomez to life and made the team far more dangerous at even strength. The trickle down effect Olivier refers to with Moore is equally significant here, perhaps even more so.

Olivier said...

I'm quite curious to see how things will shake down once Cammalleri's back. It's almost two weeks from now, but between him and Lapierre, there won't be any other AHLers to bump once MAB's ready, other than Darche, who quite useful.

Decisions, decisions.

Arpon Basu said...

I think Lapierre may find himself in the press box when both Cammalleri and Bergeron are back.

patience is a virtue said...


Perhaps it is Gomez who has potentiated Pouliot, or maybe it was just the change of scenery :)

While I agree with all of Olivier's nuancing, the point stands the letting last year's gang go and signing Cam, Gio and Gomez was brilliant, and a huge improvement.

There are those of us who have been saying this since the beginning, and others who have begged to differ and even called for tanking the season.

May our team continue to come together and vindicate Bob for many years to come...

pfhabs said...


-$8 million will get you a Nic Backstrom, a Parise, a Staal, a Sedin, a Getzlaf not an inconsistent 2nd line centre

-let's be clear it’s not about Gomez the player who has been playing well of late but has been inconsistent over the year...it’s about the contract.

-in the reality of a cap world, not the fantasy land that some fans seem to live in, you cannot pay a second line centre on pace for 64 points an average of $7.37 million for 5 years including this one

-in a cap world the Gomez contract is lunacy and affects the type of team you can build including affecting the Plekanec, Price and Halak contracts

-further given the scoring pace of both players Gomez will get about 15 points more than Koivu this year for a mere $4.107 million more than Saku

-that is a cap hit you cannot afford and a transaction that should have never been consummated

-add the fact that we haven’t even talked about McDonagh and his future vs that of Spacek and Gill and it was not a moment of great enlightenment to acquire Gomez

-reduce the $8 by $4 and now we're talking

patience is a virtue said...

We are already talking. About a healthy team and a playoff birth, hopefully, and then, who knows...

We can also talk about the fact that signing Gomez made possible the signing of Cam and Gio.

Enlightenment? No, this is just hockey. Clever UFA maneuvering by a calm yet bold GM. Yes. Bob was willing to pay the price he had to pay to bring three hard working talented leaders to the beautiful island city. OK, I called it "brilliant", which is also probably going a bit far :)

Time will tell. But some of us have been very pleased since early July, and patiently waiting for a much improved team to gel. Others seem to have been looking for the negative non-stop.

Well, perhaps the next couple of months will put the muzzle one that kinda talkin'.

pfhabs said...


-amazing how a realistic approach is seen by osterichs as negative

-check the standings they are a bubble team..if you wish to believe this only only a factor of injuries fine it's not it's a factor of better built teams doing better w their own injuries to manage

-as for Cammalleri and Gionta it was the money that brought them to MTL...both have debunked this fantasy that they came to play w Scott Gomez

-as for the July moves I guess if you like an older and slower defense and a contract that will prevent you from doing a lot for the next 4 years your prayers were answered

-as for getting in and 'then who knows' Vegas was built on those type of pipe dreams...occurred in 1993 and you'll have a long wait until the seas part again via serendipity

-being a fan is easy being realistic takes a lot more

patience is a virtue said...

Our differing assessments of "realistic" and "osterich" will only be settled by the results to come this season and the next few.

Until then, you have no more right to claim such high ground than I, my fine feathered fellow Habs fan.

My advantage is that I believe this team is the best we have had since the mid-1990s and you do not. If we continue to win (even playing as terribly as we did tonight!) our way into the second or third round this year, I am happy. You?

If we lose, I am wrong, and you are right.

For my part, I bet this "bubble team" is a contender for the next three seasons.

PS. I had not heard that Cam and Gio debunked the fantasy that Gomez's signing was a key factor in their decision to come to Mtl. I seem to recall them being quoted as saying that it was a prerequisite. I would like to read about the other version of this story if you could direct me appropriately - thank you!

pfhabs said...


-you are right you're not an osterich you're delusional. unless something has changed in the playoff format you have them in the Conference finals---good luck

1. they won tonight in a shootout against the worst team in the league...there are no shootouts in the playoffs and they will not be playing the likes of the Oilers

2. they play like they did tonight in the playoffs (assuming they make it) they'll be 4 and done

3. the best since the mid 90s is easy seeing as they've never made it past the second round in the last 5 nor been a Cup contender since 93. better than the Corey, Houle days wow what an accomplishment. mediocrity is the new panacea for the masses

4. as for the 2 amigos pining to play next to the 2nd line centre it was via TV interviews not an article. amazing what guaranteed$30 & $25 million will do to the playing destination of pro athletes but then again the glory of playing with an overpaid 2nd line centre is a much greater draw.

5. as for BG he failed in his objective to make the team a Cup contender

-btw the way your sentiments and writing style are quite reminescent of V another polyanna fan.