From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading the 2008-09 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2009-10. Next up, Boyd Gordon.
#15 / Center / Washington Capitals
Oct 19, 1983
Arbitration eligible RFA; qualifying offer of $761,250 needed to retain rights. Contract of $725,000 in '08-'09
Key Stat: Gordon was third-best on the club in FO% (56.1% of 667 draws), behind the two forwards you would expect: David Steckel (57.9% of 886 draws); and Sergei Fedorov (56.2% of 665).
Interesting Stat: Here are two: (i) Gordon's giveaway-to-takeaway ratio was second-best on the team (2.29); and (ii) he was tied for fourth-best in PA/60 -- penalties committed by the Caps per 60 minutes (4.1).
The Good: If his work ethic over the summer is any indication, Gordon brings it most every game, plain and simple. Of course, with David Steckel, a forward in a similar mold, having just signed a two-year deal that summer, he had a little something to prove to the organization - that he was a unique and vital part of the team, rather than an interchangeable pair of skates and hands.
It's incredible to recall that Gordon made his NHL debut, many painful seasons ago, on the top line alongside Jaromir Jagr. And even as recently as the fall of 2007, Gordo was "one to watch" in the Eastern Conference as possibly on the verge of a "break out" season.
But let's be honest: what separates Gordon from the rest of his grinder-line ilk, the essence of his value, is contained in his PK abilities and in his ability to win draws. And those two elements separate into our Rink Wrap quite elegantly.
In the regular season, Gordon's 56.1 FO% was good for ninth-best in the league amongst forwards who took that many draws. He was third on the team in draws taken, behind Nicklas Backstrom (48.7% of 1171) and Stecks.
That faceoff prowess even improved in the playoffs to his winning 63.3% of 120 draws. That rate remains at just about the top of FO% amongst participants in this spring's post-season.
You'll also recall that Gordon was adept during the season at a key skill of checking forwards that is somewhat difficult to track: shifting play, and ensuing face-offs, from the defensive end to the offensive end.
The Bad: We should temper this point, but Gordon's GA/60 at 4-on-5 (7.61) was the worst of any forward not named Donald Brashear, Chris Clark, or Tomas Fleischmann. Three gents, at least this past season, that might have made you wince to see out there killing a penalty. And in his 14 playoff games, that ratio remained steady (7.64). He also was tied, with Brooks Laich, for the most total PP goals against (27) while on ice at 5-on-4.
But Gordon was on PK duty for more TOI/G than any forward other than Steckel, so it's disingenuous to compare this ratio to those of Cap forwards who didn't log the same grueling minutes. Who knows how any other forward would perform under a similar strain. In fact, Gordon logged the sixth most PK time per game amongst forwards in the League.
So, comparing this season to his own past performance, Gordon allowed only 6.57 GA/60 at 4-on-5 in 2007-08, in a similar amount of TOI/G. His rate of shot blocking on the PK declined a bit from 2007-08 to 2008-09 as well, from 24.9 shots blocked per 60 minutes at 4-on-5 to 23.4.
And comparing Gordon to other PK forward workhorses league-wide -- an elite group of fifteen who logged at least 3:00 TOI/G at 4-on-5 and played in a minimum of 40 games (which group includes Steckel) -- Gordon's GA/60 was the 5th worst ratio of the group. Yeah, I'm harsh. But it's tough love.
The Vote: Rate Gordon below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1..
The Discussion: Does Gordon's limited, but crucially important, skill set make him "indispensible"? And if so, up to what price? And what will it take for him to earn a 10 next season?