Don’t Sleep On Gomez, Sharks

SAN JOSE- The San Jose Sharks finally made it official on Wednesday. Veteran center Scott Gomez, recently bought out of his contract in Montreal, joins Team Teal on a one-year pro-rated deal worth $700K. Regardless of how he ends up fitting in with the Sharks, talk about a bargain for a two-time All-Star. Not to say the Canadiens were necessarily wrong in using the new compliance buyout on the former New Jersey Devil, (after all nobody claimed him on waivers with that big money contract) but a play making center with good face-off skills and tons of international experience for Team USA, it’s well worth the chump change San Jose will be spending to kick the tires on the 33-year-old.

Gomez will be joining a Sharks squad that boasts a Stanley Cup winning goaltender in Antti Niemi, an incredibly strong and deep defense core, and a top-six forward group that can match any team in the league. The biggest question mark for San Jose was their third and fourth lines. But with Gomez added to the equation, San Jose is now much stronger down the middle with serious competition among those bottom two combinations.

The Sharks opened up the first two games of their season with convincing wins over both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers. Forward lines for the Calgary game were as follows:

Patrick Marleau—Joe Thornton—Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe—Logan Couture—Martin Havlat
T. J. Galiardi—Michal Handzus—Tommy Wingels
Frazer McLaren—Andrew Desjardins—Adam Burish

(*Only alteration for the Edmonton game was James Sheppard played instead of McLaren.)

Gomez practiced Wednesday with mostly younger players and role players as the Sharks held an optional skate. The Alaskan native and newest Shark was seen specifically working with winger Tommy Wingels on a couple of drills.

While Galiardi didn’t skate, it looks to be a safe bet that Gomez will begin his Sharks career between Galiardi and Wingels on the third line. That presumably bumps Handzus down to the fourth line creating a healthy competition amongst Sheppard, Desjardins, McLaren, and Handzus for two fourth line spots.

Even if McLaren were to be re-assigned to the AHL in the near future, the addition of Gomez does more than beef up the third line. The presence of arguably a seventh, top-six caliber forward bumps everyone down a spot meaning guys who typically aren’t used to being healthy scratches like Sheppard, Handzus, Desjardins, and Galiardi might see themselves up in the rafters if they don’t perform.

Internal competition is never a bad thing, and the Sharks now have plenty of it. This type of depth is why hockey followers shouldn’t sleep on the Sharks. While many have gotten tired of San Jose never living up to the hype in recent years and thus jumped off the bandwagon (I’m looking at you Barry Melrose) you might want to consider hopping back on.

With Brad Stuart into the fold on defense, and Gomez’s play making ability (still has a slick set of hands) added to the mix, this Sharks team on paper is better than any in previous seasons. San Jose’s most recent acquisition certainly sees the potential for big things.

“You don’t want to look too far ahead but this team’s well coached, well prepared.” commented Gomez after practice Wednesday.  “Always playing against the Sharks, they work. They’re going to bring it.”

As for how he decided on San Jose, Gomez added the following:

“Just the fact that it’s a winning organization, every guy that has played here [has had good things to say]. I’m telling you, just coming here for a couple of days you realize everything’s structured, everything is for a reason. The main thing is they want to win.”

While San Jose was bounced in the opening round of the playoffs a year ago, the two previous seasons saw them reach the conference finals. Those back-to-back deep playoff runs featured strong third lines, similar to what Gomez should help provide (whether via himself or bumping say Pavelski down) this season.

Combine that with a top-five caliber blue-line, and you’d be foolish to overlook San Jose.

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