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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Boyd Gordon's Past and Future

Washington Capitals checking forward Boyd Gordon is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.  He made $761,250 last season.  In order to retain his services, the Capitals will have to tender him at least a 1-year qualifying offer of 110% of his 2009-10 salary, which equates to $837,375.  Judging by his history and his recent season, all indications point to him accepting his qualifying offer. 

#15 Boyd Gordon
Gordon's Background
Boyd Gordon, who will be 27 next season, is a 6'1, 200 pound right-handed checking center and winger from Unity, Saskatchewan.  He was a first round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2002, 17th overall, only a few spots after the Caps took Alexander Semin and Steve Eminger.  More of a scorer in junior, Boyd Gordon posted solid offensive numbers for the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.  He combined that with high +/- and low penalty totals to be a remarkably effective player under coach Brent Sutter.  Gordon had solid seasons as a youngster, posting 10 goals and 36 points, a +5 and only 24 PIM in 66 games as a WHL rookie in 1999-00.  In 2000-01, Gordon's Rebels won the WHL title and the Memorial Cup championship as the best team in all Canadian Major Junior Hockey.  Gordon posted 12 goals, 39 points and a +22 in 72 games along with only 39 PIM on a team that had 9 players with 100+ PIM.  In 22 playoff games, he posted 3 goals and 9 points along with only 2 PIM.  Gordon is the only Capital on the roster with a Memorial Cup win. 

In Gordon's draft year of 2001-02, he stepped up his offense, finishing fourth in Rebels scoring with 22 goals and 51 points in 66 games.  He recorded a +20 rating and only 19 PIM.  In the playoffs, the Rebels went deep again and Gordon flashed his offensive side, leading the team in assists and finishing tied for 2nd on the team with 22 points.  He only took 8 penalty minutes in 23 playoff games as the Rebels lost int the WHL final.  The next season was Gordon-centric in Red Deer, Alberta.  He finished second on the team in all offensive categories with 33 goals, 48 assists, and 81 points in only 56 games as a 19-year old, good enough to make the WHL East 1st All-Star Team.  He led the team with a +37, and his 28 penalty minutes attracted attention as Gordon won the Brad Hornung Trophy as the most sportsmanlike player in the WHL.  Gordon led the Rebels in playoff scoring with 8 goals and 20 points in 23 games as they lost in the WHL final again.

Gordon represented Canada at the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championships held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with future teammate Brooks Laich and returned home with the Silver Medal, losing in the final game to Russia and some kid named Alexander Ovechkin

In 2003-04, Gordon split his first pro season between the Capitals and the AHL Portland Pirates.  He played 41 NHL games and posted 1 goal and 6 points, a -9 rating, and only 8 PIM as the Capitals stumbled to a lottery pick that fetched them that Russian kid.  Gordon had an assist in his first NHL game and then a two-point night (goal, assist) playing center for Jaromir Jagr two nights later.  After posting 3 points in his first 2 NHL games he cooled off quite a bit.  On the season, Gordon won 43% of his 328 faceoffs and averaged 2:41 per night on the penalty kill, the most among all NHL rookie forwards, just 5 seconds more per game than fellow rookie Brooks Laich who only played 5 games.  In Portland, Gordon played 43 games and posted 5 goals and 22 points along with 16 PIM in his first pro action with teammates Brooks Laich and Shaone Morrisonn.  He also appeared in 7 Calder Cup playoff games and posted 2 goals and 3 points.  The 2004-05 season was a lost season for the NHL, so Gordon plied his trade in Portland once again, building on his rookie pro season with 17 goals, 3rd on the team, and 39 points in 80 games, with 35 PIM and a -20 rating as Portland missed the playoffs.  This was also his first pro action with Tomas Fleischmann

When the lockout ended, Gordon again found himself split between the AHL and the NHL for the 2005-06 season.  He appeared in 25 NHL games and recorded just 1 assist.  His 5:06 of average penalty kill time was second on the team only to defenseman Brendan Witt and second among league forwards only to Pittsburgh's Guillaume Lefebvre (5:07), who only played 9 games.  Gordon also won 46.3% of his 216 faceoffs and blocked 21 shots.  Back in the AHL with the Hershey Bears, Gordon played in 58 regular season games for Bruce Boudreau and posted 16 goals and 38 points, a +9 and 23 PIM.  He was a key contributor to the Calder Cup winning team as he posted 3 goals and 8 points in 21 playoff games, a +3 rating, and 10 PIM.  

Gordon's Last Four Seasons
Boyd Gordon made the NHL for good in 2006-07, posting 7 goals and 29 points in 71 games as the Caps finished last again.  Gordon proved to be an effective player, posting a +10 rating, leading the team, and only took14 PIM.  His penalty killing was excellent:  he scored 2 goals and a team leading 4 assists and 6 points while shorthanded, good enough for 4th in the league.  His 3:58 of shorthanded ice time per game was second on the team only to defenseman Shaone Morrisonn and was 4th among league forwards behind 2006-07 Selke Trophy finalist Samuel Pahlsson (4:28), 2-time Selke Trophy winner Mike Peca (4:17), and Maxime Talbot (4:03).  Gordon also led the team in faceoffs taken (1,214), wins (632) and percentage (52.0%).  The only players with a higher percentage than Gordon didn't have enough faceoffs to qualify as leaders, but they were Rico Fata (4 for 7, 57.1%) and David Steckel, (28 for 43, 65.1%). Gordon missed 10 games with lower body injuries during the season.  He also led all forwards in blocked shots with 67 and finished only behind Ovechkin and Semin in takeaways with 47 to go along with only 17 giveaways. 

The 2007-08 season marked a turnaround in the team's fortunes as Hershey coach Bruce Boudreau was promoted at Thanksgiving and the team sprinted to the playoffs.  "Gordo" played 67 games, missing time with a knee injury and a broken hand.  He matched his career high with 7 goals, including 1 shorthanded, but his overall production dipped to 16 points.  He continued his trend of solid play by posting a +5 and only 12 PIM.  He was the most relied upon Capitals skater on the penalty kill, including defensemen, playing 4 minutes per night, good for 3rd among league forwards behind Pahlsson again (4:25) and Matt Keith (4:07) who only played 3 games.  Gordon again led the team in total faceoffs taken with 904 and finished just behind Steckel in total wins (507-504) and win % (56.3% to 55.8%), with his 55.8% good enough for 9th in the league.  He finished 3rd among team forwards with 50 blocked shots behind Laich (56) and Quintin Laing (52) and he had a 28-15 Takeaway to Giveaway ratio.  In the playoffs, Gordon appeared in all 7 games and finished with no points or penalties and a -2 rating.  He again led all team forwards in PK time with 4:06 per game, behind only Tom Poti and Morrisonn, and was 5th among league forwards.  He struggled in the faceoff circle, though, only winning 36 of 76 draws (47.4%). 

The 2008-09 season saw Gordon missing even more time with injuries.  He was limited to 63 games because of back spasms.  He posted 5 goals, 14 points, a -4 rating, and a career high 16 PIM.  One of his goals came shorthanded and two more were game-winners, including a late 3rd period goal against Pittsburgh that capped a comeback from a 3-1 deficit.  He finished 3rd on the team in shorthanded ice (3:39) time behind Poti (4:22) and Steckel (3:48) and 5th among NHL forwards.  He was again excellent on faceoffs, finishing third on the team in draws taken (667) wins (374) and percentage (56.1%) of his draws. While he was 3rd on a team that featured draw gurus Sergei Fedorov (56.2%) and Steckel (57.9%), he would have been in the top 10 in the league if he had taken enough draws to qualify.   He still managed to finish 3rd among team forwards with 43 blocked shots and had a 32-14 Takeaway to Giveaway ratio.  He got healthy in time for the playoffs and played all 14 games, posting 3 assists (1 shorthanded), a -1 rating, and 4 PIM.  He played 3:31 on the PK, second to Steckel (4:00) among team forwards and 10th among league forwards.  He won 76 of his 120 faceoffs, easily leading the team at 63.3%.  He also blocked 10 shots and had 9 hits to go along with 4 giveaways and 7 takeaways. 

The 2009-10 season was like a bad dream for Gordon.  He only played 7 games before December 28 with the same back issues and missed over half the season.  He finished the season with 4 goals and 10 points in 36 games, a decent per-game scoring average that would have been nice to see extended through a full season, along with 12 PIM and a +4 rating.  He only took 205 faceoffs on the season, but he won 125 of them, 61%, which led the team and would have led the league.  His shorthanded faceoffs weren't so great, just over 50%, but take into account a center's responsibility is to not lose faceoffs cleanly in the defensive zone, winning the draw is second priority.  He saw 2:39 of shorthanded time per game, second behind Steckel and Poti, a marked decline due in large part to the Capitals being more disciplined.  He still blocked 20 shots and had 11 takeaways to only 3 giveaways on the season.

Gordon showed up for the playoffs in a big way.  After being scratched in Game 2, Gordon drove the net and potted a huge shorthanded goal in Game 3 and a shorthanded assist in Game 4.  He finished with a goal and 2 points in 6 games, a +2 rating, and no penalties.  He still leads the playoffs in shorthanded points.  He played 2:27 on the PK, 3rd among team forwards behind Laich and Eric Belanger, and he won 67.9% of his 53 faceoffs, best on the team and a better percentage than even Belanger's 66.7%.  Gordon got physical, with 8 hits in 6 games and he 2 blocked shots, but the best part was he had 2 takeaways and no giveaways. 

Gordon's Competition
Boyd Gordon is competing for a roster spot this offseason, and the best thing he can do is to make himself affordable if he wants to stay in DC.  As Clint Eastwood said, "If money is an issue, tell them you'll work for free."  He can elect for arbitration, but since he only played 36 games last season, it wouldn't do him much good.  His real competition is among the rest of the Capitals forwards and the prospects in the minor leagues for a roster spot on the lower two lines.

Boyd Gordon has played 303 Games with 24 Goals, 52 Assists, 76 Points, is a career +2, and has 66 PIM.  He doesn't hit much, he only has 107 hits in 262 games since the lockout, but that's to be expected from a gentlemanly player like Gordon.  He is very responsible with the puck and he is willing to sacrifice his body by blocking shots.  He also elevates his physical game in the playoffs: 21 hits and 16 blocked shots in 27 games.  His only playoff goal came shorthanded, as have half of his 4 assists.  

The competition is among players signed to the team right now in David Steckel, Matt Bradley, and Jason Chimera; restricted free agents Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr; and unrestricted free agents Eric Belanger and Quintin Laing

Chimera ($1.875 million per year through 2011-12), Steckel ($1.1 million per year through 2012-13) and Bradley ($1 million in 2010-11) are assured of roster spots.  Gordon's main issue is that he competes with Steckel for the 4th line center spot and they both bring a lot of the same traits in penalty killing and faceoff prowess, and Steckel is a monster at 6'5, 230.  Gordon is helped by his ability to play winger, too, and he's faster then Steckel.  Neither Chimera or Bradley take faceoffs regularly. 
Fehr and Fleischmann are issues not because they are similar players, but because they are scoring forwards not good enough to make the top 2 lines. If the Capitals decide to keep both of them, it means less room for checking forwards, which was a major reason for the weak penalty kill this year.  Fleischmann may price himself off the team this year, though.  He is purely a scoring winger and he was worth keeping in a 3rd line role because he was making $725,000, but should he command a $2.5 million dollar salary, he could command it somewhere else.  Flash also can't do faceoffs too well. 

Quintin Laing really doesn't compare with Boyd Gordon as an overall player.  Gordon was a first round draft pick, he's younger, and he has a heck of a lot more versatility than Laing.  Laing is all about sacrifice, and is a much more physical player.  Laing brings a couple things Gordon does not, but it is interesting to note that Gordon and Laing both played 36 games this year and blocked 20 shots each.  Overall, an $840,000 Gordon is worth a lot more than a $500,000 Laing. 

Pending unrestricted free agent Eric Belanger is probably the biggest threat to Gordon staying on the roster, though he may get a decent offer from another team.  Belanger is similar to Gordon in that they are both excellent faceoff men, though Belanger is 6 years older and has more experience, not to mention a consistent offensive presence, 7 straight seasons of at least 33 points, and 41 this year, not to mention he hasn't had injury issues like Gordon.  The big issue is that Belanger makes twice the money at $1.75 million and would likely command more after a 41 point season.  That would be a big reason if Belanger isn't re-signed, that and Gordon can actually kill penalties and hasn't scored any of his points on the powerplay, not that Belanger scored on the powerplay with the Caps, either. 

Gordon actually outperformed Belanger this year in just about every category in the playoffs, but most notably Gordon actually scored a goal and did it shorthanded while Belanger did diddly with his chance to center Alexander Semin.  Gordon also takes half the penalties.  Over the course of the regular season, Gordon scored at even strength at a higher rate per 60 minutes of ice time than Belanger did, in goals (.88 to .79), assists (1.33 to 1.32) and points (2.21 to 2.11), an advantage that bears out for both players after the trade deadline, too.  Belanger hasn't done any more offensively than Gordon has in the playoffs, 2 goals and 7 points in 37 playoffs games are not exactly impressive numbers. 

Bottom Line
Gordon's salary may get rounded out to $900,000 after a strong playoff showing, but he won't get more than that, or more than one year, not until his back allows him to play at least 75 games in a season.  He is a valuable player and a career Capital, though a solid foot-soldier, more solid than most checking forwards around the league.  He keeps his mouth shut and will play anywhere in the lineup.  He also has some offensive upside, but is rarely asked to show it, nor is he often deployed with offensive-minded teammates.  With his versatility, good hands, a quick mind, a willingness to sacrifice his body, and good speed, he is quite possibly the most dependable player on the roster.  If only his body would cooperate, he'd be looking at a deal like David Steckel's.  If George McPhee thinks Gordon can stay healthy and continue to do the things he's been doing, he may see that deal yet, but that would be the upper limit of his salary range. 

1 comment:

  1. Gordon is all too often overlooked by many fans. His accomplishments usually are not flashy (except shorthanded goals), but he is a great faceoff man and penalty killer. Faster than Steckel (who wasn't all that good this year) and a better PK'er, almost as good on the faceoffs. If I was the GM, I'd look to trade Steckel (he has very good value) and kjeep Gordo.