It has been several years since defenceman Sergei Gonchar was considered one of the elite in the NHL. He was booted out of Pittsburgh after a dreadful playoffs in 2009-10. He spent the last three seasons with the Ottawa Senators and performed well below the offensive pace set in his glory days as a member of the Washington Capitals. But that was to be expected. Players get old.
This summer the Dallas Stars shocked many when they threw substantial money at Gonchar. The Russian puck mover was signed for a healthy $5 million per year, for two seasons. Pretty big cap hit for a 39-year old whose best playing days are well behind him. But Gonchar still brings something to the table – something the Ottawa Senators desperately miss this season. Gonchar is a great first pass. Dallas Stars salary cap courtesy of Cap Geek.
In a game-day preview posted on the Sens official team site, head coach Paul MacLean was asked if his team misses Sergei Gonchar. His response: “It would be easy to say yes. Sergei has the ability to make a good first pass. Do we miss that? Yup, but his time was done here and we have to move on.” Read full preview with Paul MacLean quotes courtesy of the Ottawa Senators official team website, here.
The Senators currently lead the league in shots against per game. They’ve allowed an average of 38.5 this season. Gonchar isn’t exactly a defensive juggernaut, nor has he ever been considered that. However, a good first passer is capable of moving play up ice toward the offensive zone, thus, relieving defensive pressure. The loss of Gonchar’s defensive presence with the puck seems to have hurt the club thus far. NHL shots allowed per game stats courtesy of ESPN.