This is the first in a new weekly series where I will take the role of Marc Bergevin and produce an open letter to somebody involved with the Montreal Canadiens organization, in order to outline how I would deal with a situation involving that (those) person (people).
Dear Scott Gomez,
I hope summer in Alaska is treating you well and that you’re training hard for the upcoming hockey season. I write you today to discuss our intentions for the upcoming 2012-’13 season, and where you fit in the team’s plans. Though I’m sure you try to ignore it, you’ve no doubt heard lots of speculation and discussion coming from the media and our fan base, so it’s time we set the record straight.
It is no secret that your past two seasons have been a disappointment for everybody; for the team, for management, for fans, and certainly for you yourself as well. Still, as I told you before you left, buying your contract out at this stage isn’t a viable option for this organization, so you remain a part of the team. As a part of the team, we are committed to helping you out in any way we can to ensure you have the best possible coming season while we also do whatever is necessary to ensure the team is performing up to its potential.
This is where we get to our options. I mean no disrespect in saying that, with your contract, giving you a fresh start with another NHL team isn’t a viable option – no one is willing to take on your final two years. This means we will continue to pay you the last $10 million of the contract Glenn Sather signed you to in New York. Where you spend that time, however, remains unclear.
Have you ever traveled Europe, Scott? Have you given it any thought? While many players went over there to play during the NHL lockout, you chose to return to Alaska, so I’m asking you to give it consideration now. Marc Crawford might love to add you to his squad in Zurich. Playing up north in Sweden or Norway might closer remind you of home. The Finnish league might be a good fit where you can play a responsible two-way game. Or if you want to play hockey at a very competitive level, perhaps give the KHL a look. Scott, you’re only going to be 34 when your current contract ends, meaning you should have a few hockey-playing years left in you. If you want to earn an NHL contract somewhere after this deal expires, you’re better off dominating a European league than struggling in North America.
I’m sure you can understand from the team’s perspective how you playing in Europe would alleviate salary cap concerns we may have with our younger players like Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais needing new deals next summer. But I also understand how at age 32, you might not want to pack up shop in North America and head overseas indefinitely.
So here’s what I can tell you should you opt to report to training camp in Montreal this fall instead:
We’ll give you a chance. We’ve got a new coach in place in Michel Therrien bringing in a new system. We’re trying to give the team a tougher look and feel, which might help to open up more ice for you. Maybe our changes, combined with a better year of health from you, will succeed in revamping your career at least a little. You understand that we have Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, and Lars Eller down the middle, but we do have an opening on left wing, so perhaps taking away some of the two-way responsibilities of a center and letting you focus on your bread-and-butter puck-carrying and playmaking will simplify things for you. Perhaps we’ll give you a shot with Plekanec and your buddy Brian Gionta. Or with Eller and our new addition Colby Armstrong. We’ll give you a couple of looks and try to find the right situation to allow you to contribute to making this team better on the ice.
But I have to warn you, there are no guarantees. As much as we love what you bring in leadership and see you as a good teammate, you’re going to need to work very hard and show up in tip-top shape to stay in Michel’s line-up. If you want to be here, you need to show it, and if things don’t work out, we’ll have no choice but to sit you to give some younger players – guys we’re happy to start in Hamilton – a shot instead. Once you’ve been passed in the depth chart like that, we start talking about your $7,357,143 cap hit and where else we might be able to spend it to improve our club. If and when we find players who we feel will help our team more, we’ll have no choice but to place you on waivers, and when you clear, assign you to the American Hockey League.
That’s the deal I have for you, Scott. Consider Europe, where a more open and less physical game might let you put up big numbers and receive NHL offers once your current contract is up. But if you choose to return to the Canadiens, we’ll also give you a shot. If you take it and run with it, we’ve got a mutually beneficial situation on our hands. If you struggle, there may be bus trips in your near future.
Give all of this some thought. But not too much thought, as you’ll want to be spending your time hitting the gym a lot this summer. I watched both of our development camps last month, and you’re going to be facing some pretty stiff competition from some young kids before very long.