Theme: “The back bone connected to the neck bone, the neck bone connected to the head bone…Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk aroun', Oh, hear the word of the Lord.”
A traditional spiritual song and hockey might not seem to go together, but Boyd Gordon’s back didn’t seem to get along much with hockey this season, either. Gordon missed 41 games in three different stints due to back injuries. It was very unfortunate for Gordon, for not only did he never really get much traction in cementing a place in the lineup, the statistics he did put up put him on a pace for one of, if not his best offensive season. His ten-game segments went like this…
…and what one can see is that he closed relatively strongly. Those fifth, sixth, and seventh segments were especially strong for him. Over that stretch he played 26 games and went 4-4-8, plus-7. That’s not a pace that is going to challenge for a Ross Trophy, but it would be a pace for a 13-13-26, plus-22 season. His best offensive season prior to this was his 7-22-29, plus-10 season in 2006-2007 in which he played 71 games.
And it is the last part that was the problem. Gordon managed to dress for only 36 games this season, only eight in the 2009 portion of the season. He did not manage his first goal of the season until getting the first one in a 5-2 win over Ottawa on January 7th, the Caps’ 43rd game but only the tenth for Gordon on the year. All four of the goals he would score came in wins, and all four came in situations when the Caps were tied, behind one goal, or up one goal.
The frustrating part is that Gordon showed up in some odd, or what might strike Caps fans as odd for him, places. Looking at the numbers put together at behindthenet.ca, Gordon had a “goals against on ice per 60 minutes” number (2.01) that was roughly comparable to that of Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk (2.06). Yes, Datsyuk does play against better competition (.036 to -.069), but Datsyuk is the two-time defending Selke Trophy winner, too.
Gordon’s “plus-minus on ice per 60 minutes” was seventh best among all centers playing in at least 30 games. OK, there is that quality of competition thing, again, but Gordon still managed to hold his own in the situations in which he played…well, to a point.
Although he had that seventh-best plus/minus number, he one of only two centers in the top 24 to have a lower plus/minus number on ice than off ice (and that assumes that Brooks Laich was a “center,” which for most of the season he was not).
Gordon continued to be something of a wizard in the faceoff circle. He did not qualify for inclusion among the league’s faceoff leaders for the season, but his 61.0 percent would have led the league over a full season (Scott Nichol led the league at 60.6 percent). In fact, in only eight of the 36 games that Gordon played did he finish below 50 percent on draws. But… he was only 35-34 on draws while shorthanded.
Gordon had some odd splits in his abbreviated season. He played 18 games against teams that made the playoffs this spring, and he finished 3-3-6, +4 in those games. He was a “minus” player against only one of those 11 playoff teams he faced (minus-2 against Philadelphia in two games). But then there was his finish against also-rans Carolina, St. Louis, Florida, Toronto, and the Islanders – 0-0-0, minus-6 in eight games.
He ended up dressing for six of the seven games against Montreal in the opening round of the playoffs, and the six games mirrored his season. One goal, the first one in a 5-1 Capitals win in Game 3. Five times in six games he finished 50 percent or better on draws (67.9 overall), although he was only 8-for-15 in shorthanded situations. He had no giveaways in 66 minutes of total ice time. He was eighth on the team in hits, which might not sound like much (he was credited with eight overall), but it was more than Jason Chimera had.
Gordon is at something of a crossroads. At 26, he has – in theory – a fair number of hockey years ahead of him. But over the last five years he has lost 83 games to injury. He is a good defensive player, to a point (he had the best goals-against on ice per 60 minutes on the penalty kill for Caps centers, but he still ranked 37th highest among 160 centers in that statistic), an efficient faceoff man. But he has provided little offense, and there is the uncomfortable feeling that Gordon may have come as far as he is going to go. And, there is the lingering issue of his durability. He is not likely to command a large contract (he is a restricted free agent), but with David Steckel’s $1.1 million contract over each of the next three years about to kick in, there might not be a spot for Gordon on this club.