Will the Anaheim Ducks Sign Scott Gomez?

Scott Gomez Canadiens

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Does Scott Gomez Make Sense for the Anaheim Ducks?

On Thursday January 17th, at 4:01 PM PST, TSN Insider Bob McKenzie tweeted the following:

Scott Gomez, the veteran playmaking center-cum-butt of scoring (or lack thereof) jokes, has just been bought out by the Montreal Canadiens. After initially being told to go home for the season, ostensibly to avoid injury while waiting to be bought out through the handy new amnesty (or: “compliance”) buyout provision, Gomez was rescued by the NHLPA, which stepped in and asked the NHL to amend the new provision, thereby allowing players like Gomez and Wade Redden to be bought out immediately rather than at the end of this season.

Aside from freeing two players from the shackles of regrettable contracts only further weighed down by subpar performances, this new wrinkle to the compliance buyout, which allows a team to buy a player out without that contract affecting the team cap going forward, also makes for fascinating story lines as we rapidly approach the first puck drop of the 2013 season.

While Redden is a relatively safe signing, the same cannot be said for Gomez. The good-natured Alaskan became somewhat of a league-wide joke last season, and while as Cam Charron has pointed out, Gomez still drives puck possession, one can’t help but to wonder how desperate a team must be to take a chance on the player who infamously didn’t score a goal for an entire calendar year (a year in which he was being paid between $8 and $7M, mind you) and not only had a website dedicated to the question, “Did Scott Gomez Score Last Game?” but also caused a Montreal bar to offer free shots if/when Gomez finally found the twine.

Does Gomez in Anaheim make any kind of sense?

Weighing the Pros and Cons

It’s no secret that the Ducks are in desperate need of a legitimate second line center to play between Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan. Throughout training camp Bruce Boudreau has been trying young Nick Bonino between the two snipers, but Bonino has hardly been an offensive stud during his brief stint in the NHL and it might be unreasonable to expect much from him. Meanwhile, although Saku Koivu can still put up some points, the fact is, he’s more suited to a 3rd line shut down role at this point in his career. Andrew Cogliano may be listed as a center, but he’s far more suited to play the wing.

Does Scott Gomez fill that need? There’s no doubt that Gomez can dish the puck, consistently having put up seasons of 40+ assists from 2002 through 2010, but his career has been in rapid decline since then. In 2010-11 Gomez appeared in 80 contests but only managed 38 points (7G, 31A), and he scored a paltry eleven points in 2011-12 (2G, 9A) in 38 games in 2011-12. Compare that stat line to that of, say, Saku Koivu, and you’ll see that there’s not much of a difference in production. Koivu was good for 45 points in 75 GP in 2010-11 (15G, 30A) and 38 points in 74 GP in 2011-12 (11G, 27A).

To simplify: Over the last two seasons, Scott Gomez has clicked at a 0.415 PPG average while Saku Koivu has skated to a 0.557 PPG average. Gomez may be younger, but Koivu has statistically had the better last few seasons, and is far more responsible defensively.

Speaking of age, the Ducks have a young center in Peter Holland who seems to have made the squad out of the abbreviated training camp, and has the skill set to be a top six forward in the NHL. Selected in the first round (15th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Holland has spent the lockout playing for Norfolk of the AHL and has scored at almost a point per game pace (31 points in 34 games), which is even more impressive when considering that the first half of this AHL season can best be described as NHL Lite, what with the glut of young NHL-caliber players forced to play for their parent club’s farm team during the lockout.

Holland just turned 23-years-old, and the time is now to give him an extended taste of NHL action. He’s a big, mobile forward with smooth hands and a solid release. Under a coach like Bruce Boudreau, Holland should really shine, and it’s only fair to give him a fair shot. He figures to start the season on the 4th line centering one of either Matt Belesky, Devante Smith-Pelly, Brad Staubitz, or Rickard Rakell, but it’s not too much of a stretch to see him fitting in awfully nicely between Ryan and Selanne.

Scott Gomez represents tempting fruit, no doubt. The talent and pedigree is obviously there, and one must wonder whether it simply wasn’t a good fit for the laid-back Gomez in pressure-packed Montreal. There’s every chance that he could flourish in a new environment, especially one as sunny and non-invasive as Southern California, but conversely, there’s also every chance that his ship has sailed. Any deal he signs will likely be limited to a one-year term and maybe $1M, but the small market Ducks can ill afford that kind of experiment. The Anaheim brass know, to varying degrees, what they have in Peter Holland, Saku Koivu, Nick Bonino, and Andrew Cogliano. Let another team take a risk/reward proposition on Gomez.

Collin Insley
As a lifelong hockey fan and resident of Southern California, he recently started a blog called SoCal Puck, which aims to explore all things hockey in Southern California. He grew up playing roller and ice hockey in the Orange County area and currently plays on several beer league teams. Collin also contributes at Sunbelt Hockey Journal.
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