Thursday, September 3, 2009

Hold Your Horses, Pardner

So, the great white hope for the Habs this season is that Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez will recover the chemistry they had in the first post-lockout season, 2005-06, in New Jersey.

Sure, the Canadiens need a resurgent season from Andrei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec on the second line. They need Carey Price to bounce back, and the newly re-tooled D to step up and play a tight system. They need the coaches to get the team under control and institute said system. But all of those are question marks. The Gionta/Gomez chemistry is almost taken as a given among the Habs faithful.

The thing is, it's far from a given. Those guys played together in Jersey for parts of five seasons. During that time, Gionta generally put up an average of 22 goals a year. Gomez put up about fifty assists per season. Both of them come up around sixty to sixty-five points a year on average. They had one fabulous year, in 2005-06, when Gomez went 33-51-84 and Gionta 48-41-89. That's one fabulous year out of five seasons together. And it came in the first post-lockout year, when the refs were particularly zealous about enforcing the "new NHL" rules and making life better for the smaller player. Things have settled a lot more back toward the bad old days on the reffing front since then.

I'm not saying either of them is a bad player...far from it. But they've built their reputations and their contracts on that one great season. Basically, Gionta's good for 20+ goals, and Gomez for 50 assists. They may or may not improve on that, but there's no guarantee that they'll do it together. I hope they do, but history does not prove those two are meant to be linemates.

In fact, I'd think the more natural partnership would be between Gomez, who's pretty much sure to put up his 50 assists, and Camalleri, who's pretty much sure to pop 30 goals. Gionta's settling point seems to me to be more that of a solid second-liner who can contribute his 20-25 goals in a secondary-scoring role.

Now, of course, I think the Gomez/Gionta thing is worth trying. Because you never know. Maybe it will be magical and they'll be happy and healthy and score like they're meant to be together. But I'm not really expecting it. History shows they had one great year outside their normal pattern of production, and I'm thinking they'll probably continue on that pattern.

So, if you're counting on magic from that partnership, I think you'd be better off hoping for a different rabbit coming out of Jacques Martin's hat.


Scott in Montreal said...

It's like Gwynne Dyer says of war: all the gaming and planning and placing of set-pieces aside; once the battle is engaged, there is no way to predict the outcome. But I expect Latendresse has the best chance of anyone for a break-out year, assuming the stars align for him. In any event, I can't wait to see how this team pans out this season.

DB said...

I hope Martin has a big hat cause he sure has a lot of rabbits besides Gomez/Gionta to pull out of it. He's got to:

- improve clearing the defensive zone.
- get the forwards to forecheck and go to the net effectively.
- reduce shots on goal.
- integrate the new players with the old ones.
- improve penalty killing
- restore confidence of Price and Pleks.
- restart stalled development of young players.
- get consistent performance from AK46, Lats, Hamrlik, etc
- reintroduce Laraque to the joys of beating opponents silly.
- deal effectively with the media and all of us idiot fans.
- have a good power play.
- establish the right level of discipline (don't know how much truth there was to all those stories of excess partying, but a little discipline can't hurt)
- make sure that the players who don't play know why and what they have to do to be put in the line-up.

And finally - win the cup