"Boyd Gordon can give you something. He'll win you faceoffs, [...] he'll kill a penalty, he doesn't complain, he's an excellent teammate, and guys like that, there's something to be said for why they're in the locker room." - Alan May on Japers' Rink Radio, 10/16/10
Boyd Gordon is never going to be an offensive dynamo in the NHL (although he certainly has his moments). He's rarely going to crack fifteen minutes of ice time a night, and will probably only get a shot in the shootout if the coach has exhausted all his other options. And yet when he's healthy, he's often as invaluable to this team as the guys making the big bucks and earning the big minutes.
Why? Because, to borrow an oft-used hockey cliché, he simply does the little things right, the things that don't show up on the scoresheet. Make the simple play, make (or take) a hit, work the boards, get the puck down the ice.
You only have to look as far back as his last game, Saturday's overtime comeback win against the Nashville Predators, to see Gordon's value. A quick glance at his stats for the evening wouldn't reveal anything particularly notable - just over ten minutes of ice time, a couple of shots, a couple of faceoffs, no points, a minus-one...mediocre at best and certainly nothing to write home about. But with Gordon, the stats rarely tell the whole story. His 10:30 of ice time Saturday night was efficient to say the least - almost three and a half of those minutes came shorthanded, and at least some of that time was spent bailing out his penalty-killing partner David Steckel on a failed clearing attempt. He took only eight draws but won five of them, with five of the draws coming in the defensive zone - and four of the wins.
Quintessential Gordon, to be sure.
We're often trained to look at the big, shiny numbers, the goals and assists and plus-minus, to measure a player's worth. There's no real metric for someone who does the little things right, though, because they are just that - little things. They can only be measured by how much the coaching staff trusts a player, what kind of situations he's put in and at what points in the game. And by that metric, we know Boudreau and his staff have the utmost faith in Gordon's abilities.
In the admittedly few games he's appeared in this year, Gordon's been heavily relied upon to take key defensive faceoffs, starting just a third of his shifts with a faceoff in the offensive zone. Yet despite spending so much time in his own end, Gordon has only been on the ice for one goal by an opponent - not only that, but exactly half of his shifts that started with a faceoff in the defensive zone (and stopped with a whistle) don't end there. And it's that ability to clear the zone (and sometimes turn a defensive shift into an offensive push) that has made him a stellar penalty-killer, as well. Gordon's average overall ice time may be low, but he leads all forwards in average shorthanded time and is part of the penalty-killing crew that, through six games, has yet to surrender a power play goal.
Boyd Gordon is simply one of the most dependable defensive forwards on a team that is sometimes lacking in that area. He is often the conscience of the team, the guy who will rarely make the highlight reel but who almost always makes an impact on a game. And unlike some "grinders", Gordon's skating ability makes him even more useful; the team knows his skating's going to be solid enough to match up with just about anyone in the League, both end to end and laterally, thus increasing the team's versatility.
His simple style of play and willingness to sacrifice makes him a guy the coaches can rely on in tough situations - and a great, albeit oft-overlooked, asset to a team with Cup aspirations.