Monday, May 25, 2009

The 2008-2009 season, by the "tens" -- Centers: Boyd Gordon

Boyd Gordon

Theme: “If only they were all Tampa Bay”

Boyd Gordon scored his last regular season point on Valentine’s Day, an assist in a 5-1 win over Tampa Bay. He scored his last goal of the regular season on New Year’s Day in a 7-4 win over Tampa Bay. He had his only multi-point game of the season in that New Year's Day game against Tampa Bay. He had more points against Tampa Bay (1-2-3 in three games) than against any team he faced this year. In three full seasons he has not in any of those seasons scored more against another team than he has against Tampa Bay. In 19 career games against Tampa Bay, he is 4-6-10, +8. Against the rest of the league he is 16-40-56, -10 in 248 career games.

Unfortunately, they’re not all Tampa Bay. And this is a problem. We didn’t project Gordon to have a big offensive year, but for the second straight season, Gordon’s numbers have dropped since setting his career bests in 2006-2007 (71 games, 7-22-29, +10). And for the second straight year, he played in fewer games (63) than he did in that 2006-2007 season (71). After scoring that last point of the regular season on February 14th, Gordon went 0-0-0, -5, in 16 games before missing the last ten games of the regular season. After that last regular season goal on New Year’s Day, Gordon was 0-2-2, -5 in 27 games and twice missed at least five games to injury. He did return to play in all 14 playoff games, but he was 0-3-3, -1 (0-1-1, -3 in seven games against Pittsburgh). His ten-game segments for this season did not look all that productive…

It was not an especially memorable year for Gordon. However, he was still second best among the team’s centers in goals scored against, on ice-per-60 minutes at even strength and was virtually indistinguishable from the Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk – a Selke Trophy finalist – in that measure in four-on-five situations. And he did finish 13th in the NHL among players in faceoffs (minimum: 500 draws), but even here it is a bit misleading. He was fourth on the team (behind David Steckel, Sergei Fedorov, and Brooks Laich) in faceoff winning percentage in shorthanded situations (50.5 percent).

Looking at Gordon’s ten-game segments, there is nothing there that is particularly distinguishing – not surprising for a “defensive” forward, these numbers being primarily offense-oriented. But there lies the problem, too. While Gordon is not expected to be a scoring forward, he is one of the players one might be looking at during those times when folks lament the Caps’ inability to get some contribution – any contribution – from the bottom two lines of the forward squad.

Gordon is a defensive specialist. And it is worth noting that in the Pittsburgh series, the Penguins scored 27 goals. Eight of them were scored with Gordon on the ice. In only one game (Game 4) did the Penguins not score at least one goal with Gordon on the ice, and two games winners (both in overtime) were scored with Gordon on the ice. Certainly the Caps had their problems defensively in the second round series, and Gordon cannot be held singularly accountable for those goals scored while he was on the ice. Still, this is not the sort of outcome one might expect from a forward who is expected to be of the shut-down sort, especially when he is bringing little offense to the table (one assist in the seven game series against the Penguins).

Was the broken finger he had that ended his regular season a bother? Were the back spasms that interrupted his regular season a problem? Maybe, but he also won the majority of his draws in six of the seven games of the Penguin series (four times over 75 percent), four of the seven games in the Ranger series.

Gordon finished 139th among centers in scoring in the regular season. Brian Sutherby outscored him (8-7-15 in 59 games). Jeff Halpern outscored him (7-9-16 in 52 games). Glen Metropolit outscored him (6-11-17 in 76 games). You see a theme here? If you do, you might wonder if Gordon is going to be joining that group… former Caps centers. He is a restricted free agent and wouldn’t seem likely to command more than the $725,000 he earned in 2008-2009, especially with David Steckel set to earn that amount next year having had an arguably better regular and post season than Gordon had.

Grade: C

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