Through two games in the playoffs, which have consisted of almost seven periods because of Overtime, the Rangers have scored one goal. One goal from our 7th defenseman. That is a problem for sure, and the number one target on everyone’s scapegoat list has been Marian Gaborik. Now, let’s get this out of the way. Marian Gaborik had a sub-par season. He had too many games where he didn’t have enough of an impact, let alone score. He’s being paid like an elite player, and he has shown the NHL that he is an elite player, just not this season. If there is anyone on this roster that can and should be relied on to score, it’s Gaborik. Still, the reaction he’s gotten from the fanbase is absolutely ridiculous. He’s been the only forward to consistently apply offensive pressure. Gaborik has eight shots in two games so far. Gaborik averaged 3.58 shots per game last season and averaged only 3.09 during the regular season. If you’re looking for a maj0r reason why his production was lower this year, well there you go. However, that can’t be applied to the playoffs (averaging 4 shots per game). He’s made the extra effort to take shots, and find himself in quality shooting areas. Pucks aren’t going in, and that’s unfortunate, but the effort and mindset are there.
Backstrom hasn’t created any offense this series, yet Captials fans aren’t complaining about him. Stamkos is goalless for the Lightning, yet Tampa fans aren’t complaining about him. Marleau hasn’t put the puck in for San Jose, but the Sharks aren’t complaining about him. Why? Because other players are putting the puck in. There are 20 players on the Rangers roster, 20 skaters on the Rangers roster, and 19 of them haven’t scored a single goal. If Dubinsky, or Boyle, or Prospal, or Christensen, or Staal, or anyone else was putting the puck in then we wouldn’t be complaining about how Gaborik’s played. The idea that we haven’t scored so therefore Gaborik is at fault is flawed logic. If your team is dependent on one guy scoring the goals then you’re asking for failure, especially in the playoffs. Gaborik hasn’t scored, and that’s not okay, but neither has anyone else aside from Gilroy. Complain about the offense as a whole, not a single individual, especially the only individual who has consistently put the puck on net this series. Let’s take a look how some other snipers around the league did this season:
Alexander Ovechkin- 32 goals (.405 goals per game)
Dany Heatley- 26 goals in 80 games (.325 goals per game)
Ilya Kovalchuk- 31 goals in 81 games (.383 goals per game)
Michael Cammalleri- 19 goals in 67 games (.284 goals per game)
Rick Nash- 32 goals in 75 games (.427 goals per game)
Shane Doan- 20 goals in 72 games (.278 goals per game)
Daniel Alfredsson- 14 goals in 54ames (.259 goals per game)
Evegeni Malkin- 15 goals in 43 games (.349 goals per game)
Marian Gaborik- 22 goals in 62 games (.355 goals per game)
So look at that. Every single one of those players listed had a significant downgrade in production this year compared to their usual numbers. Every single one of those players is a player ever Rangers fan dreams about acquiring. And every single player there struggled even more than Gaborik did this season aside from Alexander Ovechkin, who is arguably the best player in the NHL, Rick Nash, who has led the NHL in goals before, and Ilya Kovalchuk, who is arguably a top 5 player in the league. Thus, I have a few points:
A) Marian Gaborik is far from the only goal scorer to struggle this year.
B) This was the worst year of Gaborik’s career and yet he still produced better than a good number of the league’s best scorers.
C) Bad seasons happen. Get over it.
The demands that Sather trade Gaborik are absolutely hilarious. Please find me a forward in his prime who has averaged over 36 goals per season during his career and can be had without giving up anything significant. If you can find one of those then I’ll start to entertain the thoughts of moving Gaborik. Until then, shut up about replacing him, because we can’t. In the mean time, let’s look at a few reasons why Gaborik’s production might have been down this year.
Less Shots- As I highlighted earlier, Gaborik had a significant drop in the number of shots he took this year. Like Gretzky said, 100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in. Gaborik is a guy whose shot can go in from any spot in the offensive zone. For whatever reason he was reluctant to shoot this year, or he didn’t find himself in areas to get the puck. Those aren’t unfixable problems. Sometimes players for whatever reason, even unconsciously, start doing things differently. Even the best hitters in baseball sometimes start doing something differently with their stance without them even noticing, and it takes a coach sitting down with them looking at video for them to realize it. Gaborik will have the whole offseason to reflect on what he was doing differently this season and what needs to be corrected.
Injuries- We know he missed time with some knee issues earlier in the year, and we know he was having “concussion-like symptoms” as well. I think it’s very likely that Gaborik’s been playing hurt. Especially at this time of the year teams don’t disclose injuries, and we saw that with Tortorella’s refusal to inform the media what was wrong with Staal late in the season. I think we’re going to find out once the season’s over that Gaborik was playing hurt.
Linemates- Who the hell do we have helping him out? Teams know to focus on Gaborik, and they can afford to do it because nobody else on his line is going to make the other team pay. Vinny Prospal was a key contributor last year and had incredible chemistry with Gaborik. Prospal was out for half of the year, and even now that he’s returned he’s not nearly the same player he once was. His legs are shot. He can’t make plays and set Gaborik up anymore. Del Zotto made numerous passes to Gaborik last year, but was completely lost this year. There are very few players in the NHL who can create offense by themself. Ovechkin and Crosby are two of them. Rick Nash is another. Pavel Datsyuk is the fourth. That’s it. Gaborik can’t be expected to carry the offense, he’s not that kind of player. When the Rangers signed him Gaborik described himself as a guy who doesn’t score by “dangling through the defense” but by “sneaking into openings, getting the puck on his stick, and quickly putting the puck on goal.” Well, who has been feeding him pucks into openings this year? Christensen? Girardi? Come on.
The “what have you done for me lately” mentality has to stop. Rangers fans have complained about Sather changing things every year. We’ve complained about him making knee-jerk decisions. That’s what is so incredibly ironic about all of this. The old Sather would have listened to what the Rangers fanbase is currently crying about, and he’d get rid of Gaborik. He would do that and bring in someone else who probably more unreliable than Gaborik. All because of one bad season despite numerous great ones in the past. Glen Sather has learned to be patient. He’s learned to trust his players and his coach, and that it takes time to work everything out. Glen Sather has learned all of that. When will the rest of you?