There’s no way you can sugar-coat it. The answer is “yes”!
It’s appalling even before you factor into the argument the eight million dollars they paid him. (cap hit 7.357 million dollars) And, if you really in the mood to beat yourself up, his paycheck worked out to $39,555 for each of the 180 days of the regular season. Generally a team reserves Gomez-type money to players who can elevate the performance of those around him. Gomez has shown none of that His contract may have kickstarted the Alaskan economy but his seven goals, thirty-one assists and a minus-15 rating did nothing but earn the disdain of the vast majority of the Canadiens fans and it’s attending media. .
He is an enigma of the Kovalev dimension. For the most part he seems to work hard, but in the end Gomez accomplishes little. Like Alexei Kovalav, he is at his best negotiating his way through the minefield of today’s NHL neutral zone and entering the zone. He does that as well as anyone. It’s when he crosses the blueline that his game has fallen apart.
Gomez’ history tells us that he has to have the right type of linemate to be effective. The New York Rangers gave Gomez that big contract after a three year stretch with the Devils in which he scored 214 points in 234 games. The most productive of those times came when he centered Brian Gionta and Patrick Elias. Elias was the key.
In his two years with the Rangers and his first year with the Canadiens Gomez was never permitted the luxury of an Elias and his performance has tanked even as Gionta has soldiered on with 57 goals in his two seasons with the Canadiens.
Then along came Max Pacioretty. When he was called up from Hamilton in mid December, Pacioretty was leading the American Hockey League in goals. He was immediately fitted into the Gomez line. For 35 games, until the Pacioretty’s injury on March 8th, the line scored 29 goals. Twenty eight of the 29 goals came from Pacioretty (14) and Gionta (14). Gomez had only a goal and 10 assists.
Still, it sounded promising. The missing piece had finally arrived.
The fly in that ointment was Gomez’ minus 12 rating over those 35 games. When Pacioretty joined his line on December 15th, Gomez had a minus-2 rating. In the 35 games he played with Pacioretty he was minus-12. In the fifteen games after the Pacioretty injury he was minus-1. Adding fuel to the “chemistry” argument is the fact that both Gionta and Pacioretty were each only minus-1 over those 35 games.
I don’t know what to think of this. For almost half a season, while playing with Pacioretty, Gomez was minus-12. In the 45 games when either Mathieu Darche, Travis Moen, Andrei Kostitsyn or Michael Cammalleri were on his left wing, Gomez was minus-3. What’s with that?
Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier is stuck with Gomez. With 17.5 million dollars owing on the final three years of his contract, the oft-mentioned solution of simply dumping his contract on the Hamilton Bulldogs, a la Wade Redden or Sheldon Souray, is really bad business no matter how rich the Canadiens franchise and a decison that would never get past Geoff Molson and the shareholders.
So, Gomez goes home to Alaska for the summer to process what has gone wrong with his game. And Canadiens GM, Pierre Gauthier tries to figure out how to get at least five million dollars value out of Bob Gainey’s 7.3 million dollar folly. Gauthier has been good at solving roster problems. This may be the greatest challenge of his twenty year administrative career.