Sergei Gonchar, D, Contract: 5.5/13 (UFA) FA 2010 (Murray)
6’2, Shoots L, YOB 1974, Chelyabinsk, Rus
2008-09 NHL Pittsburgh 25-6-13-19 (ppg 0.76) +6 26pim TOI 25:11
2009-10 NHL Pittsburgh 62-11-39-50 (ppg 0.80) -4 49pim TOI 24:23
2010-11 NHL Ottawa 67-7-20-27 (ppg 0.40) -15 20pim TOI 23:11
2011-12 NHL Ottawa 74-5-32-37 (ppg 0.50) -4 55pim TOI 22:15
Sergei Gonchar was Ottawa’s big free agent signing in 2010. He was the player the Sens targeted and most believed it was a great signing at the time. His tenure thus far has been less than hoped for, but the criticism has occasionally verged on the ridiculous.
His first season as a Senator did not go as planned. Up through mid-December he struggled defensively (34-4-12-16 -19), and while his defensive play improved afterwards his offensive totals slipped (33-3-8-11 +4). He ended his season with a concussion in March, so he finished the year with his worst plus/minus since 2003-04 (-20), combined with his worst season offensively (in terms of points-per-game) since 1997-98. Despite all the negativity, he was second on the team in powerplay points with 20 (Erik Karlsson beat him with 21 in 8 more games). His reduced powerplay production was blamed in part on Cory Clouston who rarely played him on his preferred point position on the powerplay.
There was talk of trading Gonchar, but there was no market for an older player coming off a terrible season. While I understand the frustration, I believed he deserved a pass on his struggles and this past season justified my judgement (I’d slotted him for 40 points over a full season). While Gonchar won’t produce like he did in Pittsburgh, his totals were solid (23rd in the league) and his plus/minus returned to normal. This upcoming season he will be a little older, but with the departure of Filip Kuba he’ll be given more offensive responsibility and assuming he can stay healthy should produce similar numbers.
Here’s the press conference with Murray and Gonchar after he was signed; here’s an interview with Gonchar early in the 2010-11 season; here’s Gonchar scoring; here he gives up on a back check (I couldn’t find video of Sens fans booing him during player introductions for the season, something no one should be proud of).