Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rangers Change Lines Again: Is Gaborik The Problem?

It is another day so that must mean another new set of lines for the New York Rangers.  I would at least feign shock over this development but at this point I have become as numb to this as Joan Rivers face to just about anything.  Yes I know they failed to generate anything on Sunday against the Senators, but how many times can we reshuffle the deck before we ask if either the cards are bad or the dealer doesn’t know what the heck he is doing?  I am going to skip the talent on the roster question and the Tortorella clueless one as well to ask a different one; Is Marian Gaborik the problem?

I know that might sound like a strange question to ask about the most talented offensive player the teams has, but think about how little the lines were juggled in Gaborik’s absence and how much they have been juggled since he came back.  Sure there were changes in the bottom two lines in Gaborik’s absence but now we are having wild swings just about every game in all the lines, playing time for certain players and the roles guys are being asked to play.  Maybe it is me but it also strikes me that the inconsistency within games in the Rangers level has increased as the increased inconsistency in lines has come.  That might be more of a chicken or the egg type argument as you can easily argue that when they struggle Torts pulls the panic button trying to get them going and thus changing the lines.  Presumably all the changes or at least a large swath of them are in an attempt to get Gaborik going and have him produce more consistently.  It is natural to want to get the most out of your best player, but at some point does the responsibility for that not come back on the player himself?

For the last four or five games that Gaborik has played he has been getting plenty of ice and other than he first game against the Islanders and Florida (no scoring) he has had very little impact on the game itself.  Look at the other superstars in the league whether it be Ovechkin, Crosby, Stamkos, Sedin twins it does not matter who you stick on the line with them they find a way to produce every night.  Yes Ovechkin plays with Backstrom, Stamkos with St. Louis and the Sedin’s with each other but Ovie produced before Backstrom showed up, Henrik won an MVP by how he stepped up with Daniel hurt and Crosby really does not play with great players on his wings other than when they add Malkin to his line.  To take it a step further the obsession for fans and maybe management is getting Gaborik a number 1 center and possibly dealing away key future assets to get a guy like Richards.  The point is not to bash Gaborik but maybe to ask if he really classifies as the star that we pay him to be or that we thought he might be last season.  Let me know what you think.

Lines from practice per Andrew Gross: