“The Vancouver Canucks have no interest in Scott Gomez”

According to Sportsnet’s John Shannon, the Vancouver Canucks will not be signing Scott Gomez this season.

From the moment it became obvious that Gomez was going to be available this season (and likely at a steep discount), Vancouver was one of the most intriguing possible destinations. Ryan Kesler’s injury meant that the team had a spot open up the middle; further, the team’s salary cap situation means that dollars to address the hole are short. Gomez seemed like a strong candidate.

This decision surprises me, particularly since the other options for the job are thoroughly underwhelming. There’s something to be said for the relative ease of Vancouver’s early schedule – Patrick Johnston explicitly cited it in making the case for Jordan Schroeder to win the secondline job – but even so goofing around with a wildly underqualified forward for such a critical role is tough to defend. The New York Islanders can feel free to try every waiver-wire castoff with a pulse because they’re a budget team with no expectations; the Vancouver Canucks actually have a legitimate chance at winning the Stanley Cup.

So now they’re going to choose one of the following options:

  • Jordan Schroeder. This is Schroeder’s third AHL season. He was a 28-point guy in his first full year; he improved to a 44-point season last year. He was on pace for 48 points this year in the (admittedly tougher) AHL. I understand the argument that the Canucks should see what they have in this player, but realistically he should probably show something more than he has before being handed such a golden opportunity. 
  • Andrew Ebbett. The better of the two options, the 5’8" Ebbett has a long track record of being in the point-per-game range in the minors. He also had a nice half-season run with Anaheim in 2008-09, but he’s recorded just 26 points in 112 NHL contests since. 

Alternatively, the Canucks could have gone after Scott Gomez. Any analysis that gives Ebbett credit for his 2008-09 performance should probably note that Gomez had a 59-point season in 2009-10. He picked up 38 points in the NHL in 2010-11 (slightly worse than Jordan Schroeder’s pace in the same season, and in a much tougher league). Even last year, in what was easily the worst season of his career, Gomez’s line dominated the shot metrics but got hammered by on-ice shooting percentage (6.57% at even-strength – which is the same as saying the opposition goalies recorded a 0.934 save percentage with Gomez on the ice).

That’s not to say Gomez doesn’t have his faults – he does. He’s an imperfect player. But compared to the competition in Vancouver, he would seem to be a clear upgrade, both as a temporary fill-in while Ryan Kesler works his way back into the lineup, and then as a depth option for the team should they suffer injuries along the way.

Unless Canucks’ management has an alternate plan (suddenly declaring Kesler healthy, signing Jason Arnott, etc.) to deal with the suddenly weak centre depth chart this is a baffling decision.