In just seven short days, Habs fans have been given a lot to be grateful for: the lockout came to a theoretical end and Scott Gomez was asked to spend the 2012-13 at home, far away from the Bell Center.
Many were caught off guard by the timing of this decision, but I think we’re looking too hard to find something that isn’t there. Scott Gomez, simply put, is too expensive, too unproductive and too much of a distraction for the Habs to carry around any longer. Sure, he was liked in the room, and yeah, Marc Bergevin said he’d be given a shot this season. The former has nothing to do with performance on the ice, and the latter is just PR speak intended to prevent the boat from rocking. It wouldn’t be the first time that an executive said something that was intentionally misleading to keep the truth under wraps. I suppose Bergevin could have put it differently, and in a perfect world he would have, especially if he had no intention of keeping Gomez in the first place. At the end of the day this was such a necessary move that not too many people are going to take him to task for it.
If we want to do some digging, it’s not too hard to uncover the truth, laid bare in front of us. In his press conference Bergevin went on to say that “this had nothing to do with Gomez’ game” (Video #1 above, 4:10 mark), but that his salary was just too much to deal with given that the cap is dropping for the 2013-14 season, and that if he gets hurt, he cannot be bought out. He tried to paint it as a straight business decision. Yes, Gomez will be bought out, but it was not strictly about business. During his Sunday morning press conference, Bergevin said (in French, 55 second mark of video #2) “We didn’t want to be handcuffed by this, or have to trade productive players to get under the cap.” Hmm, that’s interesting…he didn’t have to mention other “productive players”. This seemingly innocuous statement implies that Gomez is not one of his productive players, which we already knew. No shocks here. We can further back this up by pointing out that Bergevin said that “it has nothing to do with his game”, only to later state (in French,at the beginning of video #2) that “His cap hit is $7.3 million. If he was your No. 1 center, that’s fine. The decision was based on his production the last two years.” That’s odd. How can the decision to send him home not have anything to do with his game, yet be based on his production from the last two seasons? Bergevin slipped up, and with that, we can safely say that Gomez’ lack of production was the biggest cause for him being sent packing. Again, no mysteries. If Gomez was able to reproduce his production from 2009-10, he would not have been sent packing.
There are many facets to being a good, effective hockey player, and I don’t believe Gomez’ days as an NHL player are over. I do believe they are over as a top-two center relied upon for 50+ points. If you look hard enough, you can find data that will present Gomez as an unappreciated player, but that’s straight nonsense without footing in reality. The simple reality is that in a cap world, 7.4 million dollars has to deliver production on the scoreboard, period, and not some quasi-intangible number that suggests he’s actually doing something positive, when in fact he isn’t. The Canadiens don’t need him. He’s not better than Tomas Plekanec, he’s not going to disrupt the Desharnais line, and he’s not worth derailing Lars Eller’s development as at center. There was no room for him, lest we go through a season of Gomez complaining about a lack of ice time as he toils on the fourth line.
There’s no great mystery here, just a no-brainer decision to send home a player who had become superfluous, and far too expensive.