In defense of Scott Gomez

Ryan Kennedy
Why hate on him when he wants to come home?  (Photo by: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Why hate on him when he wants to come home? (Photo by: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The New Jersey Devils have been a haven for veterans in the past few years and GM Lou Lamoriello has been very good about giving older players one last chance at NHL glory. Petr Sykora landed himself a spot on the 2011-12 squad after a tryout and ended up sixth in team scoring. Martin Havlat was brought in this summer to reboot a career that had stalled in San Jose, while news is trickling out that Tomas Kaberle, who played last season in the Czech Republic with Kladno, has been offered a tryout.

Oh, and Scott Gomez is getting a tryout too.

This apparently is not sitting well with some of the New Jersey faithful, given the fact Gomez departed the Devils in order to sign a huge contract with the blood rival Rangers that was ultimately fraught with peril.

Now, I have no dog in this fight. I don’t cheer for or against the Devils and I cover them about as much as I do most of the teams in the NHL. But I will say this: Gomez has always been a nice guy when I’ve interviewed him. He won a Calder Trophy as a member of the Devils and helped New Jersey win two of the franchise’s three Stanley Cups. During the past two lockouts, he has eschewed the beguiling beauty of say, Switzerland or Italy and instead suited up for his home state Alaska Aces in the ECHL.

And yes, he has that dump truck full of money. Which is a way of saying that for all the guffawing going on about Gomez and the tough sledding he has endured professionally since leaving New Jersey in 2007, I would expect 99 percent of all hockey players would envy what he has already accomplished. Keep in mind, he has more Cup rings than Marcel Dionne, Mats Sundin and Ray Bourque combined.

Now, Gomez won’t find himself in the Hall of Fame like that trio, but I’m sure that’s fine with him. The man has parlayed his skills into a pretty nice existence. Did he betray the Devils by signing with New York? Clearly Lamoriello doesn’t view it that way, even if it’s tougher for fans to swallow. Hockey is a business and it can go both ways (ie. player signs long-term contract, buys house, kids start school; team trades him).

Yes, Gomez has struggled lately and was once traded to Montreal for a young Ryan McDonagh – but he didn’t arrange that trade; Glen Sather did. If Gomez wants to keep playing in the NHL and the New Jersey Devils think he can help the team, I don’t see any reason to root against the idea. While he may have something to prove to himself on the ice, he’s already got a pretty good legacy and if he wants to be a Devil again, I say go for it.