Wednesday, September 9, 2009
THE DIRT ON: BRIAN GIONTA
I guess he can do the splits! (photo taken from slam.canoe.ca)
Yes, the Habs signed a bunch of new players this year, and yes, most are talented, but how much do we really know about them? With that question in mind, I decided to write a series of blogs profiling each of the new players. With some of the players, I’ll have tons of information, others very little, but my goal is to shine some light onto who these guys are, on and off the ice.
Name: Brian Gionta
Position: Right-winger / top six forward
Hometown: Rochester, NY, US
So who is Brian Gionta really? We all know he was one of the Devils’ big stars. We know he’s a small but lightning fast player. That’s about as far it goes. But we all know a person has more layers than that. Let’s try to dig a little deeper.
Gio, as he was nicknamed by his teammates, was Captain of his Boston College team, the Eagles, and led them to a National Championship in 2001.
He has won a plethora of awards in his junior days; from Rookie of the year, to being named a member of an All-Star team, to Player of the year, and perhaps his most prestigious, the Walker Brown Award for New England’s outstanding American-born college player, which he shared with Ty Conklin. He also won two awards while with the Devils: Rookie of the year (2001-2002) and Fan Club Player of the year (2005-2006).
Gionta was drafted 82nd overall in 1998 by the Devils (in the 3rd round). His scouting report at the time was as follows:
“Assets: Has excellent speed and acceleration. Plays with loads of feistiness and energy. Shows excellent offensive upside and two-way ability. Possesses nifty skills and instincts around an opposing net.
Flaws: Needs to continue staying in tip-top physical shape in order to withstand the rigors of the pro game because of his smallish stature. Needs to avoid big hits at center ice. Does battle inconsistency in terms of production at times.
Career Potential: top 6 winger”
It seems to be bang on. He is a top six winger, he’s feisty, can skate fast, and is a really skilled guy. Though he may be only 5’7 (second to Nathan Gerbe (who played 10 games for the Sabres) for smallest in the NHL... Although we all know Marty St. Louis is overestimating his own “official” height of apparently 5’9), he doesn’t play small.
When he started in the NHL, he was mentored by Marty Reasoner, and in his first full year with the Devils (he had spent half his time in the AHL with the Albany River Rate the year before), he won the Stanley Cup.
His best season came when he was on a line with Patrick Elias and Scott Gomez, which eventually became known as the EGG line. I think the entire city is banking on the chemistry between him and Gomez this year, and I can just imagine what will happen if this “experiment” doesn’t pan out... city-wide pandemonium!
He has a respectable 0.66 points per game efficiency rate, with 473 games played, 152 goals, 160 assists for a total of 312 points. He has played in 67 playoff games and had 19 goals, 21 assists, totalling 40 points, for a 0.60 efficiency rate, meaning that he’s pretty much able to seamlessly move from the regular season to the playoffs. Another positive is that he shoots right, and we seem to have an abundance of left wingers.
He has had 8 injuries in his career (keep in mind he has only been playing 7 years!): ankle, broken right leg, ankle, facial, groin, groin, leg and head.
He has only ever played for the Devils organization, that is, until he signed a 5-year, 25-million dollar contract with the Habs.
Well, now that you know all the details about his game, let’s lighten things up a bit with some fun and interesting facts. His nickname given to him by the media is the Rochester Rocket. His childhood idol was Pat Lafontaine. He’s close to his family, and has a brother Stephen, who plays with the Devils’ farm team. His wife’s name is Harvest and they have two kids, a son Adam and a daughter Leah. He spends his summers working at the family hardware store. His typical game day meal is chicken, pasta and vanilla ice cream.
He wore #14 in New Jersey, but since Tomas Plekanec currently owns that jersey number, he went with #21, (which funnily enough belonged to his fellow New Yorker Chris Higgins (who is still missed!) last year).
Gionta will be a big asset to the team this year. His speed and excellent +/- ratings (he’s had only 1 year in the minuses, and is +62 over his career) will really help the team defensively and he definitely has the skill to get us some points when we need them. The only question mark for me is whether he and Gomez will still play well together, something we’ll find out very shortly (Training camp starts Saturday!). We can only hope for the best.
Stay tuned for the next installment coming soon!