Archive for July, 2011

July 12, 2011

Scott Gomez is Not a Topic of Discussion

by Jacob Saltiel

Scott Gomez isn’t a punching bag… and you aren’t George St-Pierre.

Everyone’s Favourite Tricolore: Scott Gomez
Uh, after this post, I mean.

Since it’s going to come up, consider this post a hard and fast rule about all discussions of Scott Gomez on this blog.

He is to discussions about the Canadiens what Andrei Kostitsyn is on the rush; offsides.

You may ask: “Fucking why?! I love bashing Scott Gomez! I hate him more than anyone, especially those faker Habs fans that don’t hate him and I have a dart board with his face on it and a sign I made saying ‘7.245 million reasons to try harder next year’* and… and… and… etc…”

Of course you do.

And that’s exactly why it’s boring to bring him up again and again as the guilty party for undoing the efforts of the every other player on the team these last two years, not to mention his role in political repression in the Middle East and North Africa, being directly responsible for the bacteria weakening antibiotics, punching children and dolphins and crying every time he sees Love Actually. Listen, I get it that he’s both the league’s first player of Mexican descent, but that’s no good reason to treat him like a pinata.

Talking about it won’t make it any better that we traded away McDonagh to get him, or that he kills Gauthier’s cap space, or that he forces younger players (Eller, Desharnais, are you two awake?) down the depth chart or that he makes Cammalleri sulk or that he was supposed to be the MexiAlaskan Adam Oates. Those things aren’t going to change, and everyone who kills Bob Gainey for the trade is absolutely right for pointing out how much of a shitnami the trade’s turned out to be for the Canadiens, but this ignores a key point about why he made that trade in the first place.

Let me take you on a magical journey back in time to the land of strife and turmoil that was the Montreal Canadiens’ dressing room in the spring of ’09…

How we got here

The team followed a season in which it finished 1st in the conference by getting eliminated by their biggest rivals, the Bruins, in a sweep after a regular season marred by allegations of drugs infiltrating the team, some legendary moodiness from its most skilled player, disturbing regression from the team’s young players (the brother’s ‘Titsyn, Plekanec, Price), an emasculating injury to the fan-favourite defenceman some thought could be a future captain of the franchise in a dismaying beatdown from Milan Lucic and, the punchline to all of this, the estrangement and expulsion of the goofy, vegan and pacifist goon, Georges Laraque who was supposed to protect the Canadiens players from the NHL’s habitual thuggery.

Friends, this was not the happiest of times, and Bob Gainey looked so concentrated in press conferences and behind the bench that spring it looked like he was trying squeeze diamonds out of his furrowed brow. Reports that he set Sergei Kostitsyn on fire by glaring at him were exaggerated, but I understand that he did make Guillaume Latendresse cry by banning Cheetos and grease stains from team flights.

We all know what happened next: Gainey went Old Testament Episode 3, Noah’s Ark, on the Canadiens, dumping most of the veterans including Saku Koivu, demanding that Tomas Plekanec sue for mercy by building a massive ark to his specific dimensions so that he could collect all of the young players with potential two-by-two to ride out the tidal flood of rage, and bringing in a whole new first line and defence corps through trades and signings.

As evidenced by the street celebrations throughout the first two victorious rounds of the playoffs that year, the fans loved it when Cammalleri caught fire in the playoffs with future captain Brian Gionta scoring big goals in front of Halak and a heart-stoppingly defensive team lead by big Harold Priestly Gill, heretofore referred to as Hal MacInnis.

It’s easy to forget that Cammalleri and Gionta would not be here if not for the trade that brought in Gomez.

The team’s best centre under contract was Tomas Plekanec, whose 20 goal, 17 assist season was not attractive to potential goal scoring wingers. No, as Cammalleri clearly stated upon arriving in Montreal, he looked forward to playing with pass-happy Scott Gomez, and given Gomez’s pre-existing bromance with Brian Gionta and their sweet music together in Jersey a couple of seasons before, Gionta was likely swayed to sign with Montreal too.

Fans often become frustrated with Montreal’s perceived inability to sign star players in free agency, attributing the teams alleged failures either to lackadaisical management or cheap ownership or the emotion-bruising fans at the Bell Centre (Hell Centre for Gomez these days).

The Bigger Problem

More practically, stars probably consider the following three things, with 1) and 2) interchangeable:

1)  # of $’s
2) Climate of Team’s City
3) Quality of players on prospective team.

Montreal has a natural handicap for 1) and 2) because of high taxes in Quebec and because this city gets cold as balls and wolf infested from December-March while other players hang out in Arizona and Florida with tans and old people.

Number 3) has also been kind of problem in recent years, as the team has not been able to win consistently from season to season since they took home the Stanley Cup in ’93. That recent 1st place finish was an aberration. How come? The Montreal Canadiens only elite player who can be considered top 5 at his position in the past decade has been Andrei Markov (when healthy). Can you really blame players such as Marian Hossa for choosing between playing with Lidstrom/Zetterberg/Datsyuk or Crosby/Malkin/Stall without considering coming to Montreal? I say no unless you’ve been passing the peace pipe to yourself while angrily complaining about how every player in the league should burn with desire to come get booed by 21,273 itchy-booing-trigger-finger fucks. Is there going to be a sweeter city to win in than Montreal? I can’t say, but it’ll certainly be a great memory for whichever lucky souls eventually bring home the cup, but that doesn’t address immediate practicalities.

When Gainey wanted to bring in Cammalleri and Gionta, he must have known that he needed to show the two of them that he had a plan to surround them with out good players, and that included bringing in a centre would could play the first line. Saku Koivu, god bless him, is rightly adored in these parts but was never better than a 2nd line centre, and you don’t have to look at his stats more than once to know this to be true.

That’s why the trade was necessary at the time, and that’s why the team is stuck with him until his contract runs out, and griping about it endlessly only takes away from the contributions of the rest of the players on the team, blaming one guy for the successes or failures of a team- and make no mistake, hockey is a team sport whose outcomes are as unlikely to be decided beneficially by one player’s efforts** as they are to dashed by another’s. It’s too simple to pick on one player or another, particularly one whose faults are pretty obvious to anyone with functioning eyeballs.

Now what?

Rather than offer absurd suggestions for how to make Gomez a better player***, let’s just accept what he’s always been; not an elite centre, but a good one if he’s got good linemates. This is not to say that Gomez is better than he looks or better than his stats indicate. This isn’t even to say that Gauthier shouldn’t do everything possible to East River his ass at the first opportunity, but until such time that this happens- don’t get your hopes up for that- let’s just enjoy the players who are producing and discuss more interesting topics, such as Subban’s potential or Gauthier’s manipulation of the salary cap or the possibility of Zdeno Chara getting injured by a Ryan White lowblow this coming season.

“Can we agree to this?


Great. Deal.

I’m glad we came to this agreement, you look good.

Yes, yes I have lost weight in fact.

No, must be the new glasses.”

That’s it. That’s the only thing I care to say about Gomez until we have a good riddance party for him. I’m serious. This is the last time I’ll bring up how shitty he is. And on that note and regardless of what his mom/wife/kids tell him at night, I’d like to reiterate that he is a sack of shit on skates.

Will that do? It’d better.

Till next time…

*Nice one.

** Caveat: Patrick Roy

*** Clearly whoever wrote this plays more NHL 2010 than actual- get this- ice hockey in the real world, since you’d have to be completely oblivious to the decades of training that turned Gomez succesful and also how rare it is for players to completely reinvent themselves. In the few cases that players do seem to change their games, it’s usually to focus on defense rather than to suddenly turn into elite physical centres- unless of course you can go into player generator and just make up a new Scott Gomez and change the statistics so that he plays more like Ryan Getzlaf, but unfortunately this is the real world where, at best, Gomez can tweak his game slightly to adapt his alleged skills (passing, skating, defence) to the increasing limitations of his age or to his new linemates.