When the Rangers signed coveted free-agent Brad Richards to his new 9-year, $64 million dollar deal, expectations for the New York Rangers rose. They were able to get their man: kill 2 birds (#1 center, excellent pp guy) with one stone (Richards) and begin their climb next season to hopefully a Stanley Cup within the next few seasons.
However, most fans seem to think that the acquisition of Richards will be the cure-all to ailing sniper Marian Gaborik’s scoring issues. Go ahead an examine the annals of the Internet on Twitter, group chats, and message boards and you’re surely find that look something like this:
“…Richards and Gaborik need to click in order for the Rangers to be successful.”
“There’s no way Gaborik scores less than FIFTY goals next year…”
“We only got Richards so he can play with Gaborik.”
All of those phrases form an expectation, almost a God-given right, that a Richards-Gaborik pairing will be perfection. It’s not as automatic as you think.
Join me after the jump to find out why.
Rangers fans knew what they were getting when Marian Gaborik signed two summers ago; a pure sniper with explosive speed, a deadly shot, and the ability to score in bunches. Being the intelligent fan-base they are, they also knew Gaborik was injury-prone, perceived to be soft, and out of the lineup more than in it. In his first season on Broadway, Gaborik was able to make the naysayers silent by scoring 42 goals.
Do you remember whom he mostly played with that season? Here are few of them:
- Vinny Prospal
- Erik Christensen
- Sean Avery
- Brandon Dubinsky
Gaborik literally had a carousel of players on his line at various times yet was still able to score. Why? Because he had the CONFIDENCE in himself. It also helped that he stayed relatively healthy, too. But, it didn’t matter who was giving him the puck, Gaborik would find a way to get open, unleash his deadly shot, and score at will.
Last season was a lost year for Gaborik. A shoulder injury early on in the season derailed any chance of gaining rhythm. He returned too early and never fully recovered. When Gaborik did return, he just did not look the same. Tentatively skating through the neutral zone, barely able to find open ice. His shots lacking firepower behind them, his quick release delayed a tad. The CONFIDENCE he has the previous year escaped him all of last year.
Brad Richards coming to New York will help the Rangers immensely as they now have the #1 center they so desperately need. But does that automatically mean he plays with Gaborik next season? Richards will certainly get the first opportunity but so will others. Does that automatically mean Richards and Gaborik HAVE to click in order for the Rangers to win? No.
Ultimately, it’s up to Marian Gaborik how Marian Gaborik performs next year. Could Brad Richards be the center that brings his game back? It’s certainly possible. However, Gaborik has to re-dedicate himself to being one of the elite wingers in the game. It’s incumbent upon him – not anyone else – to forge some mental toughness and be a game-changer again for the Rangers.