Scott Gomez looks close to returning to build on his 4 point effort this season. No longer a member of my hockey pool roster, I can watch his play once again with simple appreciation -- without asking for tangible results.
Thinking about his return got me thinking about how his absence has been a blessing in a way, perhaps not for the team, but definitely for the GM.
Here are some reasons I think Gauthier should be thanking Gomez:
1) It has allowed the team to lose
More people have been accepting of the recent losses than we'd have previously thought possible. Another injury and the new salary floor model Canadiens shouldn't have been expected to do anymore. or so the story is evolving. The notion that the team would have made the playoffs without injuries is fully untested now and so the GM's team building will always be considered next to the couplet "considering injuries"
2) Proving some worth
At this stage of his career, it seems Gomez is better at proving his worth by absence than presence. It's hard to ignore how this has affected Tomas Plekanec, usually the Canadiens best player. Whether we like it or not, other teams dedicate effort to guarding against Gomez. Without that distraction, Plekanec is withering und3r the brights.
3) Desharnais is establishing a permanent niche
Without any real competition at centre, Desharnais has been getting plenty of minutes and all the top wingers. During the process, he's proving that he can handle that. Whether this ends up benefiting the Canadiens with a long-term player or a fruitful trade, it's not something that was guaranteed had Desharnais been subject to the reality of a four-way competition for centre minutes.
4) Eller may finally be emerging
When Eller first came, the flashes of offensive confidence were very rare indeed. It probably didn't help he was toiling next to lesser passing options. With Gomez out, Eller has had chances now and again to get top billing and has taken that as a vote of confidence, it seems.
5) Money in Molson pocket
Want to know what pleases owners as much as wins: money. Gomez's injury compensation has probably provided as much revenue for the Molsons as a short playoff run, and without the need to cancel the April trip to the best golf resorts in the Carolinas. An owner in a good mood is an owner more likely to be lenient about that other business objective.
It's been my opinion from the start that this Habs team was on the bubble. In the summer, I noted some very important assumptions that people were making about Price, Subban and Plekanec among others that would have to align for the expectations to really come to fruition.
I wrote this about Gomez, but I could have written it about Markov. The notion is that injuries, whoever has been affected, have affected our ability to judge this team properly. There is sufficient doubt now that what we saw is what we could have seen, and so the evaluation of the GM's work is not realistic.
I don't mean to pass judgment on the GM myself or any of his isolated decisions. I merely wished to highlight how in this case an injury has worked out quite nicely for the guy.