Canadiens Watch: Gomez must assume offensive leadership role

Right now, Scott Gomez is the Montreal Canadiens’ No. 1 center in name only.

Tomas Plekanec has been by far the team’s most valued man up the middle, despite a constant string of unproductive wingers shuffling through his line.

Gomez, meanwhile, isn’t producing at nearly the rate he needs to for Montreal to have any chance at success.

After Saturday night’s 2-0 shutout loss to the Nashville Predators, the Habs ranked 27th in the league with just 2.30 goals per game.
A big reason for that is the fact Gomez has just two goals and nine 11 points in 20 games, putting him on pace for a meagre 44-point campaign. He hasn’t been on the scoresheet in three games and his last goal came almost a month ago, on Oct. 22 against the New York Islanders.

Obviously, those are not the kind of numbers Bob Gainey envisioned when he acquired the 29-year-old from the New York Rangers last summer. Many people immediately questioned whether Gomez was fit to be a team’s true No. 1 pivot, but it’s fair to say far more was expected of him than this. Really, the Habs are getting more mileage out of third-line center Glen Metropolit, who’s scoring at a 0.71 points-per-game clip, compared to a 0.55 mark for Gomez.

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Interestingly, Gomez’s struggles have not been mirrored by his high-profile linemates Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri, who are tied for the team lead with eight goals apiece.

The fact Montreal’s power play has struggled so far is no doubt contributing to a lack of production for Gomez. He’s the kind of player known for creating plays with vision and passes, something that’s tougher to do when a team is out of sorts on the man advantage.

Still, the onus is on a veteran like Gomez to get things jump-started in the absence of power play quarterback Andrei Markov and he simply hasn’t done enough to help get things clicking.

Gomez has shown some ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone with speed, an essential part of creating offense. But until he restores Montreal’s pivot pecking order by racking up some more points, goals will continue to be few and far between for this team.

This article also appeared in the Montreal Metro newspaper.