Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Impressions of, and questions concerning--D, Josh Gorges

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Defenseman--Josh Gorges
DOB:  August 14, 1984 (age, 31)
Draft:  Undrafted free agent signed by San Jose' Sharks, 2002
How acquired:  Trade with Montreal, July 1, 2014
Last contract signed:  2012, 6yr./$23.4M
Final year of contract:  2017-18

2015-16 Stats:  77 games, 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points, -7

What we wrote preseason:  The trade to Buffalo, while shunning Toronto was "a decision that weighed heavily on him last season, especially with his first child on the way (born four days after the trade,) and it affected his play as he found himself in unfamiliar territory on a team barreling towards the bottom of the league.

"Last year he was shelved for the last 26 games after playing on a bad knee that got worse as the season progressed. As one of the few left-handed defensemen on the roster right now, Gorges looks to have a spot in the top-four amidst a major roster overhaul that has occurred in the last six months. A healthy Gorges (in both mind and body) will be a big boost to the Sabres blueline. He's accustomed to big, shutdown minutes and being sound in his own end no matter who he's paired with. This year, especially, he may see a multitude of d-partners as the team tries to figure out where everybody fits in. And it will be his job, along with others, to lead by example most notably by doing what they do best in whatever role they're in."

What we wrote mid-season:  "has been playing an underrated, shutdown game for the Sabres while being on the top-pairing with Ristolainen. Gorges had some injury problems last season which affected his game and ultimately affected how he was perceived by those in Sabreland. Although he doesn't look out of place next to a stud like Ristolainen, a second-pairing spot where he can be a shutdown force may be in the cards for him sometime in the near future. Should Buffalo find that top-pairing, left-handed d-man (and who knows, it may end up possibly being McCabe) then having Gorges on the second-pairing with top-PK duties would be a great thing for the defense.

Impressions on his play this year:  Steady defensive play, minimal offensive production. For a player who ranked third on the team in even-strength average time on ice/game (18:07) and second amongst defensemen in ATOI on the penalty kill (2:16,) a $3.9M cap-hit is quite the value. He also lead the team in blocked shots with an average of 2.2/game and lead the team in hits with 143 which only adds to his value.

Gorges was playing a notch above his skill-level on the top-pairing, but still managed to come away with a minus-7 rating as he meshed quite well with top d-man, Rasmus Ristolainen. Having a true pro like Gorges was beneficial to Ristolainen as he progressed nicely putting up career numbers while leading the team in ATOI. Gorges also wore the 'A' again last season.

Questions moving forward:  What you see is what you get, so how much more can the Sabres get out of Gorges should he in fact end up on the second pair with first pk-unit responsibilities? He's reaching that age where a more rugged defenseman's body will start to give way. Will health issues start to creep into the equation? Can he be a long-term fixture on the back end?

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