When Scott Gomez was invited to New Jersey Devils training camp as an unsigned tryout, the fan reaction was fairly negative. To many of us who have been watching the team for years, this seemed like another loyalty move from general manager Lou Lamoriello; Gomez arrived months shy of his 35th birthday, and fans seemed to unanimously groan as an already old hockey club got even older. After his truncated seasons and disappointing stats with Florida and San Jose, most fans also seemed to assume that Gomer was done.
After a so-so preseason, Gomez remained unsigned due to the number of contracts the Devils had at the time. He stuck around and continued to skate with the team, biding his team, waiting for an opportunity. It finally came on December 1st; with the Devils battling a number of injuries (including centers Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique), the team signed Gomez to help bolster a center-depleted lineup.
His first three games with the team were fairly uneventful, and the Devils dropped two of said three. Gomez would come alive in his fourth game against the Carolina Hurricanes; with the Devils trailing 1-0, Gomez would intercept a pass as Carolina tried to work the puck out of their zone. With Martin Havlat trailing nearby, Gomez instead would rifle a beauty of a pass to Jaromir Jagr who would slam the puck into the net before the Hurricanes even knew what him them.
Gomez's good fortune on that night would continue as he would pick up a secondary assist on Adam Henrique's power play (and eventually game winning) goal just before the end of period number two. From that point on, Gomez would add 14 more points in only 19 games; this is including a 5 game streak of no points wedged in the middle as well. Wait a minute though; isn't this the same Scott Gomez that had a website mocking his lack of goal scoring ability in Montreal? Where's the Scott Gomez that only tallied 12 points in 46 appearances with the Panthers last season? Explanation one would be that Gomez has an evil clone that played for Our Hated Rivals, Montreal, San Jose and Florida while Lou kept the real Gomez locked away. Explanation two (the more plausible one) is just that Gomez should have never left New Jersey in the first place.
As much as I love hockey, I sadly don't have unlimited time to study the entire league, every player in it, or every system that each team employs. Due to this fact, I can't say why Gomez didn't pan out playing for other teams the same way he always seems to pan out for us. I will be somewhat cautious in what I say after this point, as the possibility always exists that his play could fall off of a cliff after the All Star Break, however I think the reason Scott succeeds here is because he exemplifies Devils hockey.
Gomez has shown some swift hands on offense since he has returned to the team; he's made some nifty passes that have led to quite a few goals, as one did in the Jagr video above. Just from watching games, it's easy to see that Scott still has a pretty good set of wheels under him as well; for a 35 year old, he's putting some of the younger guys to shame. He still plays solid defense as well, and this is what makes him perfect for our system. Scott is still very good at reading plays and he's made a number of key interceptions to turn the tide back in our favor. He's not a perfect hockey player, but who is after they've passed their prime in this league?
I also noticed that Gomez really seems to be thankful for getting this opportunity; he comes ready to leave it all on the ice every night, which can't be said for every player on this roster. For as much praise as he gets on this site, Jaromir Jagr has taken more than one night off (I specifically remember him dogging it during the Winter
All-Star Game Classic; the only player skating hard on his line by the end of that abomination was Travis Zajac) when a game has gotten bad for us; Jagr isn't the only player, but we've discussed all of the others to death already. If he continues to play strong, and good things continue to happen for him, I wouldn't mind Gomer back again next season, especially if we lose the McEichel Sweepstakes, which barring a miracle of us winning another draft lottery, we will.
Scott Gomez is smart, creative two-way hockey player; while his skill set diminished under other teams, he has flourished again after coming home to New Jersey. As I said earlier right now the sample size is small, but if Gomez continues to do good things, who's to say he doesn't hang around a little while longer and provide a strong veteran presence for us.
What do you think of Scott Gomez's return to New Jersey? Has it been less than, more than, or exactly what you were expecting? Do you think he will be re-signed for next season given the number of contracts coming off of the books? Does the fact that his faceoff percentage is greater than Patrik Elias' and Stephen Gionta's make you want to keep him around? Should we form a new EGG line (the answer is no, but I figured the question would be fun to toss out there) with the lesser Gionta? Leave any and all comments below, and as always, thank you for reading!