You would think sitting atop the Northeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference would provide reason for great joy and optimism among fans, wouldn't you say? Wrong. Take a step back and remember what city we're talking about here. There is ALWAYS a problem in Montreal, and this time around, its a familiar face.
From the day he was acquired, Scott Gomez has had great expectations placed upon him by management and fans alike. While Pierre Gauthier will never admit it, Gomez was brought in as a way to attract free agents who, in the past, would have the tendency of telling the Habs "thanks, but no thanks" before signing on elsewhere (sometimes for less money). If Gomez in fact did have anything to do with it, we can thank him (if only partially) for the acquisitions of captain Brian Gionta and top sniper Michael Cammalleri. Gomez was also expected to pick up French, which he apparently has been doing since he's arrived in Montreal. He's even gotten involved in the community, most notably in pairing up with Brian Gionta in inviting sick children to watch Habs games from a Bell Center loge. But despite all the great things Gomez has already accomplished off the ice, its on the ice that matters most. Its on the ice where he earns his cool eight million dollar salary. He has only one goal and two assists in fourteen games. To give an example of Gomez's futility thus far, take a look at the PhD line of Pouliot, Halpern and Darche (who make a COMBINED 2.4 million $). They have 22 points already-at the snail's pace Gomez currently collecting points at, he'll have 16 points all season. As Jack Todd pointed out in this morning's Gazette, that comes out to 500,000$ per point...can you say grossly underachieving?
Gomez truly is a conundrum, a problem that Jacques Martin can't even get a vague clue on, let alone a definite solution. One might point the finger at captain Brian Gionta, but Gio has been skating hard and has been solid overall; he's been getting plenty of chances, but just hadn't been able to hit the back of the net until Saturday's game against Ottawa. Gionta currently leads the team with 54 shots. The other obvious reason for Gomez' slow start could also be the revolving door at left wing, but I personally find that excuse weak and redundant. The fact is that Gomez should be Montreal's best player-he's certainly getting paid like he is-and your best player is supposed to make the players around him better, plain and simple. Sidney Crosby has success with whoever he is playing with, be it Dupuis, Kunitz, even Fedotenko and Satan going back a few years. Alex Burrows doesn't score 20 goals with the Sedin twins, and Jonathan Cheechoo most certainly does not score 56 goals in 2005-2006 without Joe Thornton feeding him pucks all season long. Obviously, Gomez is not a player of that caliber, but 3 points in 14 games?! Somethings got to give. And its on Gomez to do something about it-not Gionta, or Pouliot, or Moen, or Eller, or Darche, or Kostitsyn...should I keep going? Gomez should be the one making all of those guys better, not the other way around. Martin has given Gomez ample opportunities to get his game back, only to receive little to no results and a noticeable lack of effort.
Against Buffalo, Gomez stopped on a breakaway (OK, maybe a partial breakaway, but still!). A night later against the Sens, Gomez looked lost and slow, giving only tantalizing images of his true self. I was at that game, and I wasn't impressed with what I saw. The tantalizing images have to turn into actual realities if Montreal is going to remain competitive throughout the year, and it has to happen soon.
In other news, Dustin Boyd was placed on waivers today. Not an press-stopping announcement, but a little surprising nonetheless. It's not like Boyd was a borderline AHLer, or an insurance free agent pick-up: Gauthier went out and traded for the guy, and although its great that he got rid of the nuisance that was Sergei Kostitsyn, you would expect something in return for a still solid young prospect like the younger Kostitsyn was. Unless Sergei never reaches his full potential, and being relieved of his babysitting duties turns Andrei Kostitsyn into a bonafide superstar, this trade will be yet another questionable one that Habs' brass will have to answer too...but hopefully that won't happen. The big question that arises from all of this is who takes Boyd spot, if anyone even does. If Martin and Gauthier do decide they want a replacement, does someone get called up from Hamilton, or do the Habs go out and get some reinforcements, perhaps in the form of powerplay specialist Marc-André Bergeron? Or does Yannick Weber get a chance to revive the Habs non-existent powerplay? Although those moves make sense for the special teams, the Habs would add to their already overflowing stable of defensemen, so unless Bergeron or Weber were to fill a fourth-line role (as we saw a bit of last year) those two options don't make much sense...perhaps opening a roster spot for the much deserving Ryan White, or big talker Max Pacioretty, who feels he can pick up the offensive slack if presented the opportunity...so what happens to Dustin Boyd during the next 24 hours could have an impact on the Canadiens roster going forward.
A big test this week for the Habs as they welcome the mighty Canucks tomorrow night, then fly to Boston the face the big bad Bruins for the first time this year, and end the week with a visit from the resurgent Carolina Hurricanes. This week should give a good indication as to how good the Habs really are, as they have been carried thus far this season by the strong play of Carey Price, good defensive play, and a relatively lenient schedule against middle-of-the-pack opponents and lots of time off.
Until the next time, GO HABS GO! And if you see Scott Gomez, get him a nice XL cup of Timmy's and tell him to wake the f**k up! :)