Among all the numerous sports headlines last week (the birth of “Linsanity”, the ongoing Peyton saga, the record setting home victory streak by the Red Wings), it was easy to miss Montreal’s Scott Gomez and his game winning goal against the New York Islanders. It wasn’t particularly flashy, nor did it seal a particularly important game. What it did do, however, was snap Gomez’s calendar year long goal drought, which began on February 5, 2011.
Scoring funks are nothing new to the NHL, but Gomez’s had become quite the talk among Canadiens fans as this season progressed. The Gomez saga became so big that fans even made a website to track the ever-growing absence of Gomez on the score sheet (and I am sure to taunt him), titled simple “Did Scott Gomez Score Last Game?”. The page contains a simple red background, the word “NO” in large font reminiscent of the Canadiens’ logo, and an ever growing timer next to it letting everyone know how long it’s been. That in itself may not have been that bad; the fact 18,000 people liked it on Facebook and another 3453 Tweeted it, however, might be.
The thing is, however, that Scott Gomez has never been much of a scorer, finding his role on the ice through steady assists, and even then he’s only been an All Star twice in his over a decade of play in the NHL. He’s only ever eclipsed 20 goals once (a 33 goal season with the Devils), and in fairness he’s only played in half of Montreal’s games this season. So why did his ongoing lack of goals draw such interest and ire in Montreal?
A big part of it is money. Gomez signed a $51 million contract in 2007 with the Rangers, which carried over with him when he was traded to Montreal. According to Capgeek.com, Gomez’s salary over the past two seasons has been $15.5 million. For comparison, last year’s top goal scorer Corey Perry’s salary sits around $11 million, while league stalwarts Malkin, Crosby, and Ovechkin are each at $18 million over the same seasons. If this was a fourth line player on a year scoring drought, I doubt there’d have been quite as much of a dust up. But Gomez is being paid an elite salary for performance that is anything but elite. They could be investing the nearly $7.5 million is top prospects and free agents, but instead they’re having their cap eaten up by a player clearly past his prime, with less and less hope that he’ll earn his keep.
Partly, too, is that when one of the traditionally most dominant hockey clubs in history starts to come apart at the seams, you look for scapegoats. Gomez is traditionally a set up guy, and if the Canadiens are doing well and he’s setting up goals, I don’t think many people start pointing at his performance and the salary attached to it. But they haven’t been, and when you need to start placing blame, the guy who’s making $7.5 million and only has 8 points this season is as good a place to start as any.
In the meantime, didgomezscore.com is still running, though they did honor his first goal in over a year with a picture of Will Smith captioned “I ain’t even mad though.” The pictures gone now, though, indicating maybe they are a little mad again, and the counter is back to about a week. It remains to be seen whether he’ll make the site obsolete, or whether the drought will simply start anew. For Gomez’s sake, he better find a way to hit net a few more times this season, because rumors abound that, if the ship doesn’t turn fast, the Canadiens will be heading to collective bargaining in hopes of buying out the rest of his contract.
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