Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Brief Introduction: Brian Gionta

The Reputation: Brian Gionta, he one short dude. He played his whole career heretofore with the Devils, within whose dull, disciplined ranks he won the Cup in 2003. And he’s kinda small. He’s a natural scorer, so they say, fast as hell and ingenious in the o-zone, tougher than he looks. Also, he’s like 5’7”. Prone to streakiness, but fuck, show me a ‘natural scorer’ who ain’t. But 5’7”… That’s pretty short. Doesn’t that seem kinda short to you? For a hockey player? I mean, on the first line?

The Evidence: Good, maybe not good enough for the money. 2005-2006 he got 89 points, but hasn’t gotten close since then- 45, 53, 60 over the past three seasons. Last year he played relatively neutral competition with relatively good teammates, and came out +10 raw and +10.9 in Corsi, so he’s not shit defensively, but he’s getting played in favorable circumstances. Possible good news: his even-strength P/60 went up from 1.45 in 2007-8 to 2.42 in 2008-2009, even though his shooting percentage decreased marginally. If that improvement holds and the luck swings back to center and he shoots over 8%, it might make for a noticeable improvement. Might.

Highest Hopes: Gionta and Gomez had a few orgasm-worthy years together in Jersey. Could be we’ll see a couple more somewhere in the next five. Certainly he shot better in Jersey when Gomez was there…

Reasonable Expectations: Oh, I’m gonna say, 62 points, intermittently delivered, not a one of which will make Habistanis happy, because dude will still be short and still be making $5 million.

Risks: Mid-November, he’ll finally realize he’s too small to play in the NHL and run home crying like a little girl.

Conclusion: It’s Gainey’s cruelest joke that, after all the talk about the Habs needing to get bigger up front, they went out and acquired one of League’s most prominent diminutive forwards. For years now, the refrain when the team struggles has come back to this question of size, and I’m assuming that if Gionta fucks up out of the gate, he’ll be instantly vilified merely for being small. On behalf of short people everywhere, I rather hope he’ll hit 80 again just to quiet the bulk-fetishists in the audience. The contract is probably too much, but it’s wearying and pointless to dwell on that. These days, the contract is always too damn much, yet most of them have proven movable anyway. It all depends on how you play it: we’ve got the guy until he’s 35, there’s a good chance there’ll be some decline in there. The trick may be to move him at the point when that decline, to a wishful-thinking GM, looks like ‘needs a change of scenery’. But until that point, all I want is for him and Gomez to spend some quality time together. If I don’t see pictures of them fishing and hot-tub-ing by the end of the preseason, I’ll consider it a lack of commitment to the team.


Olivier said...

Here is an alternate take:

Young guys, however promising and talented, generally sucks on the powerplay. They get pretty good at it in the second half of their 20's and then keep it up for quite some time.

The way I see it, a guy starts really fading around 32-34; 25-32 is ThePeak™, where he'll have most of his best seasons, and after that, a more or less rapid decline. Butthe thing is, TheDecline™ mostly occurs on Even Strength play; PP prowess remains for quite some time (see Kovalev, Alex). My guess is Bob is betting on his new trio's abilities at 5-on-5 for the next 2 years, after which they'll pass the ES mantle to the Kostitsyn, Lapierre, Latendresse and whatnot (Pacioretty?), while keeping it up on the PP. The exception being, of course, Cammmmmalllllerriiiii (too lazy to spellcheck), who is signed trough his years 27-32 and thus expected to carry the load.

Points wise, I don't think we have much to worry; Gionta will have plenty of PP time with Camm... Squid, Gomez, Spacek and Markov. If he can be a factor at ES against tough comp for at least 3 years of his contract, we will see him the way we see Hamrlik today.

Ian said...

Another positive way of looking at it is Gionta will give in points about what Kovalev gives--60+ points. The difference is Gionta is a more responsible two-way player, doesn't fake wrist injuries and say goofy things every few months. I think Gainey is tired of whining, high-maintence guys. In the long run, getting some guys who are a little less flashy but as talented, may be good for cohesion.