This might sound like an outtake from a Dan Ellis(notes) "mo' money, mo' problems" social media rant, but the fact is that NHL players who make a rather large annual salary will be criticized with the intensity of a thousand burning suns if they don't "live up to" that financial figure.
So Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) isn't just a disappointment for the New Jersey Devils; he's a $100-million disappointment. Chris Drury(notes) of the New York Rangers has his annual production broken down by cost-per-point (see No. 419).
Last spring, Gomez's salary was a non-issue. He had 14 points in 19 games for the Habs, although he played to a minus-6. Overall, since coming to the Habs, he's earned notes like this one from Steven Hindle of The Hockey Writers back in October:
Scott Gomez is and has been a terrific addition to the Montreal Canadiens. He has not under-performed nor exceeded expectations. His presence has broadened Montreal's lure and bolstered their talent level, yet as year 2 of his tenure in La Belle Province slowly approaches, the veil of shock that enveloped the city during 2009-10 has been pulled away.
The ensuing months haven't been kind to Gomez. He has 28 points in 52 games and is a minus-10. He's been accused of taking "selfish" penalties, including a misconduct in Sunday's loss to the Devils.
That penalty was the last straw for Jack Todd of the Montreal Gazette, who unleashed a scathing tirade today that targets Gomez's attitude, production ... and, of course, how much he's earning this season.
Is it fair to judge a player based on the salary given to him?
Scott Gomez acting like a petulant, spoiled child, getting himself tossed at the end of the game for no reason at all -except that he decided to run around the ice behaving like a chump. I dunno. Maybe I'm crazy. But you expect more from a guy getting paid $8 million a year.
More goals. More assists. More playmaking. More hustle. More effort. More back-checking. And something a little more mature than a bunch of childish garbage at the end of the game.
Yeah, Gomez likes to run his mouth. He likes to play the part of the big veteran superstar and talk about how P.K. Subban(notes) ought to behave. First of all, it would be nice if he played about half as well as Subban. Then he might stop acting like Subban's spoiled younger brother.
"If you can't play, you can at least act like an adult," Todd later writes. Yowch.
Gomez is one of those players who takes more crap than he should because of his bankroll. When one says they expect more from a player making $8 million this season ... well, what then? For him to be within $700,000 of Sidney Crosby's(notes) stats, however that's computed?
The grief taken by players like Gomez, whose primary sin was signing a preposterous contract handed to him by Glen Sather (and he's far from being alone in that confessional) is fascinating when you consider the handful of players who have played out of that level of accusatory hell.
Here's a player that was considered one of the most overpaid athletes in the NHL as recently as 2009. He's making $7.8 million in base salary this season; and with 150 points in his last 133 games, he could make even more on the open market next summer.
The lesson from Brad Richards: Look beyond the salary and be patient. His points per game average has exploded in the last two seasons thanks to a successful partnership with Loui Eriksson(notes), but it never dipped below 0.84 PPG at any point during his contract. In the playoffs under that deal, he has 23 points in 24 games.
It's taken all-star love and free-agent buzz to eclipse criticism of Richards' salary. That's not going to happen for Gomez, but a second-half resurgence and a strong playoff showing could have the same effect.