Wednesday, December 17, 2008

In praise of Josh Gorges

When Bob the builder traded Craig Rivet to the San Jose Sharks for Josh Gorges and a 1st round pick, many were left scratching their heads. Why trade a veteran clubhouse leader and top-four dman for someone who was in and out of an inexperienced SJ blueline corps?

It turns out Bob saw more than most. Gorges in essence is Mike Komisarek without the bulk. Sure, he won't have as many thumping hits or intimidate many forwards -- the traits that most observers associate with Big K. But Gorges plays excellent defense, and makes smart, precise passes out of the defensive zone -- just like Big K.

It was no wonder that Carbo chose Gorges to pair up with Markov, who tends to wander into the offensive zone to create scoring chances. Gorges can be counted to not only stay at home, but to be exactly where he should be if the rush comes the other way.

And there may be no single greater measure of the success of this experiment than looking at Gorges' plus/minus: +12, enough to lead the team. And this after playing significant minutes, mostly against the opposition's top scorers. His TOI is now third on the team, and might even surpass Hamrlik's had he not been stuck on the third pairing for so long.

But now that Komisarek is coming back, what to do with Gorges? He's certainly too valuable to be relegated to the third pairing again. He will probably end up paired with Roman Hamrlik, except this time on his more natural left side. Hamrlik usually plays the left side, but has a pretty good backhand.

Brisebois will slide down to the third pairing, a more appropriate place for his limited defensive abilities. Limited not because of his skills, but simply because he gets pushed around far too easily. As the 6th dman, he can have limited 5-on-5 play, but get trotted out for the PP where his offensive skills can best be put to use.

Not that any of this will instantly cure the Habs' goal scoring woes. But great teams are built from the goalie out. The Habs have maybe the best goalie tandem in the league, and with the emergence of Gorges, a pretty solid blueline as well.