Theme: “The superior man is slow in his words and earnest in his conduct.”
Confucius said that. No… really. And if there was a player who gave the impression of being earnest, it would be Boyd Gordon. It’s hard to believe that Gordon is still only 25 years old (he’ll turn 26 in October); it seems as if he’s been here since the first time the Caps wore red, white, and blue. A player of some offensive achievement in juniors (33 goals in 56 games in his last year at Red Deer), he has been a checking/defensive forward in his five seasons with the Caps.
Last year, Gordon was one of two centers for the Caps (David Steckel being the other) whose goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 on the ice was better than his comparable number when off the ice (+0.05, according to behindthenet.ca). His faceoff winning percentage has increased in each of his five seasons (43.0, 46.3, 52.1, 55.8, 56.1).
In keeping with the puck possession theme, Gordon had by far the fewest giveaways of any forward for the Caps playing in at least 50 games (14). Only 15 centers in the entire league had fewer giveaways (50 games minimum). And, his takeaway-to-giveaway ratio of 2.29:1 was second among all Caps forwards (Eric Fehr led the club).
And if you are of a mind that you have to have those guys on the bottom half of the forward line combinations to succeed as a team, Gordon has another interesting set of numbers. In each of the last three seasons, the Caps winning percentage has been better (counting extra time losses as losses) with Gordon in the lineup than with him sitting out.
Fearless: That’s an interesting thing about Gordon’s giveaways and takeaways. Over the last three seasons, he’s only coughed up the puck a total of 46 times. That number was exceeded by five Caps forwards last year. And if you’re going to be a defensive forward relied upon to kill penalties, you probably don’t want to be a guy going to the box to often yourself to leave others to kill your penalty. Gordon was second among Caps forwards (to David Steckel) in average penalty-killing time on ice last year. He only took eight minor penalties all year. He’s taken only 21 minors in the last three years – five Caps forwards took more than that last season.
Cheerless: Uh, cuz? Gordon was second to Steckel in faceoff winning percentage. He was second to Steckel in penalty killing time. Steckel had a better goals against on/off number than Gordon. Steckel’s bigger and probably has a better offensive upside. Do you need two of these guys?
In the end:
If there is an intuitive parallel to Gordon in Caps history, it might be Kelly Miller (although the former Cap was a winger). Both were/are little undersized for their respective eras (Miller was 5’11”, 185; Gordon is 6’, 201) and primarily defensive specialists. But while Miller averaged 14-22-36 over his 15 year career and did not score fewer than 30 points in any of his first nine full seasons in the NHL, Gordon has yet to have a 30-point season in any of his three full seasons with the club. Keeping with that “seasons combined” idea, Gordon has had only 30 points combined in the last two seasons.
But on a team that has such firepower on the top two forward lines, having a couple of centers who can play against another team’s top lines and kill penalties is hardly a liability. We’ve wondered in the past if Gordon has an offensive potential that hasn’t been tapped. But it’s not as if his own goalies have feared his awesome shot in the past. While there might be some upside left in his offense, expecting him to finish on the north side of ten goals or 25 points might be a stretch.
However, if Gordon can keep improving in his ability to win draws, play solid defense, and help a Capitals penalty killing squad improve (it really needs to improve on a 17th place finish last year), he’ll earn his keep. Teams than win have guys like him doing the other things -- giving an earnest effort -- that a club needs to have done.
72 games, 7-11-18, even