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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Over fifty games into the Canadiens season and Scott Gomez once again finds himself at the centre of attention in our forums. This week in ATB, we look beyond his sizable salary and contemplate his value to the team from a pure hockey standpoint.

Predictably, many of our members feel that he has had an utterly disappointing campaign for the Canadiens. The Chicoutimi Cucumber levies some of the harshest criticism on the Alaskan native “Other than a hot December, and with all due respect to his unquestioned ability to at least move the puck effectively through the neutral zone, he has more-or-less (stunk) all season – surely one of the least effective second-line C in the NHL”. Conversely, Chris feels that Gomez is a proven winner and playoff performer who can chip in 50-70 points a year: “Why all the hate on Gomez? […] Gomez is a proven playoff guy, not necessarily points but winning, which is what I care about”.

Now, let’s look at those two main arguments individually. First of all, is Gomez truly one of the weaker top-2 centers in the league? A quick look at NHL statistics suggests that he is. Amongst fellow centers, he currently sits 55th in points, 88th in goals, 43rd in powerplay points, 44th in faceoff percentage and 215th in plus-minus. Looking at those numbers, it is fairly evident that Gomez is, as The Chicoutimi Cucumber said, one of the worst second-line centers in the circuit.

But, what of his reputation has a solid playoff performer, is that justified? It is hard to argue that it is not. Gomez’s point-per-game ratio in the post-season has generally increased as he has gotten older and, last season, posted a more than respectable 14 points in 19 contests. Overall, in his career, he has 95 points in 133 playoff matches. And, of course, his name is on the Stanley Cup.

Perhaps the problem with Gomez this season is not something that can be quantified with statistics. Whereas last year, even when he was not scoring, he could be a factor defensively and on the penalty kill. This year Gomez’s use shorthanded has dipped significantly, he often seems to be gliding as opposed to moving his feet, and, as a result, looks less involved in the play at both ends of the ice.

Canadiens fans, and Scott Gomez, will certainly hope he redeems himself in post-season. As Corvina puts it: “I think the time to throw the towel is once the playoffs are over (if he stinks in them)”. At this point, one must wonder if Pierre Gauthier feels the same way.

That’s all for this week’s instalment of ATB. Until next week, see you on the boards.

Louis Moustakas can be reached for comments, questions, cross-checks and, of course, fan-mail at [email protected] or by using the comment box below