Inside the Numbers: Scott Gomez for Chris Higgins+ Ryan McDonagh

Moneypuck -Contributor IAugust 1, 2009

On June 30, 2009, Bob Gainey and Glen Sather made an exchange of assets that probably took both their fanbases by shock prior to the opening of unrestricted free agency. Gainey got his No. 1 center, for which he's been on the prowl for quite some time. Sather got that gigantic salary off his cap for the upcoming UFA period, in which he signed Marian Gaborik.

The Canadiens also surrendered the recently reeling Christopher Higgins and former top prospect Ryan McDonagh as well as spare pieces Doug Janik and the rights to Pavel Valentenko (who bolted to Russia for personal reasons) and got back Tom Pyatt and Mike Busto.

What we're going to do now is go deep into the numbers to see which team truly came out on top in this swap:

The Montreal Canadiens receive

Scott Gomez, Center, 5'11", 200lbs, turns 30 on Dec. 23, 2009. Scott comes off two average seasons in New York, in 158 games he totaled 32 goals (.20 GPG) and 128 points (.81 PPG) averaging nearly twenty and a half minutes per game.

The problem though isn't those raw numbers, it's that $7.357m cap hit that makes fans shudder. The Molsons will be happy at least, as the contract was slightly backloaded and the $10 million payments are of the past. However, let's analyze this specimen to see what the Canadiens truly got.

Today's analysis involves a stat called Corsi, its like plus-minus except used for shots, it accounts for missed and blocked shots as well (the formula is essentially (Shots for on goal+ shots missed+ shots blocked while players is on the ice)- (Shots against on goal+ shots missed+ shots blocked while players is on the ice)).

While I'm not a huge fan of this for the same reasons as +-, it lessens the luck factor because of a larger sample and no goalie in the equation. Onto the analysis, apparently Scotty G was actually 17th in the league in Corsi with a +308. Here is the full list:

2008/09 Top 20 Corsi Numbers

Rank Player Team Corsi

1 Pavel Datsyuk Det +419

2 Brian Rafalski Det +410

3 Alexander Ovechkin Was +399

4 Niklas Kronwall Det +391

5 Nicklas Lidstrom Det +390

6 Johan Franzen Det +365

7 Marian Hossa Det +360

7 Henrik Zetterberg Det +360

9 Mike Green Was +354

10 David Moss Cgy +343

11 Ryan Getzlaf Ana +342

12 Brian Campbell Chi +326

13 Zach Parise NJD +317

14 Mikael Samuelsson Det +315

15 Nicklas Backstrom Was +314

16 Corey Perry Ana +311

17 Scott Gomez NYR +308

18 Jonathan Toews Chi +304

19 Duncan Keith Chi +303

20 Dan Boyle SJS +300

Nevertheless, that is an impressive set of names to be accompanied with, statistical analyst PuckStopsHere says his take on this:

Most of the players on the list are players one might expect on a list like this. The two biggest surprises are David Moss of Calgary and Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers. Moss is an underrated Calgary grinder, but is he really this valuable? Scott Gomez is a good set up man, who was lost with the Rangers because they had nobody who could score on the chances he created. He was traded to Montreal because of his large contract, but I think he will do quite well in Montreal (better than many predict) if he finds a top sniper to play with.

This is true in a sense, the Rangers had nobody who broke 25 goals all year and the year before 25 goals was their highest goal total (Jagr and Drury). Their team as a whole scored 2.44 GPG shootout-removed, that was good for 28th in the NHL. In '07-'08, that number was 2.50, 25th in the NHL.

However, Gomez also recieved a lot of ice time in New York. Playing 21:04 this year (despit injuries) and 19:04 in '07-'08. Lets adjust his Corsi over 60 minutes as a rate and see what happens.

At even strength amongst centers with at least 10 min of TOI/60, Scotty G was eighth in the NHL amongst centers in Corsi/60 with significant games played. Ahead was Federov, Helm, Datsyuk, Hudler, Getzlaf, Toews, and Brassard. Behind were the likes of Craig Conroy, Nicklas Backstrom, Viktor Kozlov and Eric Staal.

On the PP, under the same conditions, except with a TOI/60 of two minutes, Gomez was way down the Richter scale. Since the PP is a mainly offensive time for a team, being on an offensively challenged team may have hindered Gomez and doesn't let him flash his defensive brilliance.

Was this a fluke year for Scotty G? Going to '07-'08, well his Corsi amongst centers at ES under the same condition in '07-'08 was 11th in the league. Names in front were the likes of Datsyuk, Hudler, Thorton, Aucoin, Backstrom, Kozlov, Filppula, Bergeron and Dubinsky.

On the PP in '07-'08, Gomez's Corsi was actually respectable under the 2 min TOI/60, as he approached the top 10 in the league category.

Maybe...just isn't so far-fetched that if you stick Scotty G with quality linemates and scorers, that he can show flashes of a top-end center.

There are obvious imperfections to this analysis, like with +-, adjusting for teammates and other factors is usually best. But because no Ranger was in the upper-echelon of Corsi (like how Det is such a great team that a lot of their players are crammed together), and Gomez was basically an outlier, which made his case interesting.

However, I stress to take this analysis lightly, and I prefer scoring rates/60 as more concrete analysis, with icetime and linemates taken into account, this is just another perspective.

His likely linemates for the upcoming season are Mike Cammalerri and Brian Gionta instead of Ryan Callahan, Markus Naslund, or whoever else Scott lined up with in New York.

If the Habs can maintain their GPG from last year of 2.95, which should be entirely possible, as they're substituting Camalleri (.40 Goals Created/Game last year, .31 career) for Alex Kovalev (.32 GC/G last year .31 career) Brian Gionta ( .26 GC/G last year, 26 career) for Alex Tanguay (.31 last year, .31 career) and ultimately Scott Gomez (.25 GC/G last year in which he was hurt, .28 the year before and .27 carer) for Sake Koivu ( .28 GC/G last year and .28 career).

Note: Goals Created is a way of balancing out goals and assists, because under points, we assume 1 goal=1 assist, which is not true because more assists is given out than goals. This is a way of balancing it out. The equation is:

(Goals + 0.5 * Assists) * (Team goals / (Teams goals + 0.5 * Team assists))

The team part is to take into equation poor team scoring, such as the Rangers. The 0.5 is a debatable number and its probably closer to .45, but Hockey Reference does the calculations under 0.5 and its where I pull my numbers off.


In conclusion

I am optimistic that the Gomez acquisition will benefit Montreal. While the scoring rates per minute are a tad frightening, hes a good defensive player, and he can create offense, on a good offensive team with quality linemates the Habs faithful should expect solid contribution from Mr. Gomez.

I'm not mentioning Pyatt or Busto for reasons of insignificance.


The New York Rangers receive

Chris Higgins, Left Wing, 6'0", 199lbs, 27 on June 2, 2010.

Chris had a pretty brutal season last year, posting career low in goal rates (.21 GPG) scoring rates (.40 PPG) and creation rates (.17 GC/G) and shooting percentage (7.9, career 12.0).

There's one thing we know about Chris Higgins, hes not that bad (although the steadily declining shooting percentage is a concern, 15.5 in 06, 13.8 in '07, 11.2 in '08) but maybe hes not the forty goal scorer he claimed he once was. Chris though is an exceptional defensive player with a tireless work ethic.

If given 17 minutes per game, based on career averages, I can cautiously predict a 18-20 goal year and 40 points from Chris this year. The problem for the Rangers now is he's a UFA following this League Year.

The Rangers also received formerly highly-touted defense prospect Ryan McDonagh from Montreal, ranked 42nd in my prospect rankings.

Ryan is a very gifted player, known for his smooth strides and great speed from the backend, Ryan struggled in his second year at Wisconsin.

Barely topping his freshman scoring totals of 5 goals and 12 points in 40 games with merely 5 goals and 16 points in 36 games, he was the fourth highest scoring defenseman on his team, behind Hurricanes prospect James McBain ('06 class) Detroit's Brendan Smith ('07 class) and Anaheim's Jake Gardiner ('08 class) and barely outscored a more defensive-type player in Columbus's Cody Goloubef ('08 class).

While he isn't great defensivly, hes responsible, a word otherwise used to describe decent or alrite. He was drafted to make his money on the offensive side of the puck and right now hes struggled to show he can do that. He has all the potential in the world, but he has yet to really show it, its a gamble on New York's part.


In actual conclusion

The trade seems to be a big risk for both teams, Montreal is banking of Scott excelling on a better offensive team while New York is hoping desperately Ryan puts his "tools" to good use. Nevertheless New York got Gabroik also by clearing Gomez, who is a huge risk in himself.

In my personal opinoin, I declare Montreal the winner in the trade, Higgins going to UFA next year isn't helping New York's case.

Both teams accomplished what they wanted to do, but in terms of who will probably get the most reward with the least risk, it has to be Montreal.