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To say that Scott Gomez has a difficult year is an understatement.
Much was expected of Gomez when he was acquired by Bob Gainey. Despite the near universal acceptance that he was overpaid, many attributed his difficult years in New York to a chemistry problem. It was assumed by some that Gomez simply didn't mesh with the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Marcus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev. When he was brought into the fold in Montreal, the organization and its fans assumed that a reuniting with Brian Gionta would bring out the best in the Anchorage Alaska native.
Gomez was only able to muster 59 points last year, only one more than the previous season in New York. This year, he is on pace for only 39 points, which will be the worst offensive output of his professional career. Perhaps, more disturbing is that his defensive game has suffered as well.
At the moment, Gomez has a plus-minus of minus-15. He's blocking less shots, has lost his penalty-killing duties and is losing more faceoffs than he's winning. What makes the situation even more aggravating for Habs fans is the success of the man we gave up to acquire the Alaskan Enigma.
Ryan McDonagh, the Canadiens' first pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft, is flourishing with the Rangers. In 29 games played this season, McDonaugh is a plus-14, is averaging over 18 minutes per game and has a positive giveaway-takeaway ratio.
At this point, it would be easy to say that the Gomez acquisition has been a negative one. In fact, most people will tell you that it's been a horrible one. The reality is, it's one the Canadiens needed.
The 2008-2009 season was a disastrous one for the Canadiens. A year filled with pomp and circumstance ended with the Boston Bruins embarrassing the Habs in a 4-0 first-round sweep. The organization was in need of a culture change. Scott Gomez allowed for this.
Does anyone really believe that Brian Gionta would have signed with the Habs is Scott Gomez wasn't traded for? Does anyone believe that Mike Cammalleri would have joined a locker room run by opposing cliques? Is it any coincidence that the Montreal Canadiens, a team that has historically had difficulty attracting free agents, suddenly became one of the league's most attractive destinations? Gomez was clearly a player that was well-liked and respected around the league, capable of attracting top quality UFAs.
Gomez's positive impact isn't limited to the initial attracting of the new core. Gomez will, in the coming years, have a positive impact on the development of the team's up-and-coming centers.
One of the many criticisms that the organization has been hit with is that it has difficulty developing young talent, specifically at the center ice position. In the past 15 years, the only centers of note to come out of the organization are Saku Koivu and Thomas Plekanec. That's it.
With Gomez locked in to a long-term contract, the team won't be able to rush the likes of Lars Eller, David Desharnais and Louis Leblanc into roles they aren't ready for. These young men will be able to hone their skills in roles more suited to young players. Leblanc will have more time in the AHL, while Eller and Desharnais won't have the pressure of being the main sources of offense for the team. The Gomez contract, because of its immovable nature, will force the organization to take their time with its younger players, ensuring that they are given the best opportunity to develop.
The next time you see Brian Gionta score a game-winning goal, just think of Gomez. The next time you see Hall Gill block a shot, think of Gomez. Five years from now, if Louis Leblanc pans out, if Lars Eller is scoring in bunches and David Desharnais becomes the new St-Louis...just think of Scott Gomez.
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