Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How Marian Gaborik Responds To Benching Will Answer Rangers Questions

Rangers could really do for a goal celebration

The questions and scrutiny surrounding Marian Gaborik were bound to come when the first pronounced slump for the Rangers’ offense met a bump in the road for the team’s record.  That point has come and from all the articles talking about how it was just a bump in the road it has become like he will never score another goal as long as he lives.  To set the record straight Marian Gaborik will score again and he will score many more goals in his career.  Beyond those there are the articles that seek to explain Gaborik’s struggles in the realm of all these other snipers who are having down seasons: Ovechkin, Semin, Kane, Kovalchuk.  While talking about the slumps those guys are in can ease some of the panic over Gaborik and his struggles, I frankly do not care if those guys ever score again as they do not wear a Blueshirt sweater.
The fact that the team only has 13 goals this month or that the team lead is two (Zuccarello, Wolski) shows that it is not just Gaborik who cannot bury the puck in the ocean right now, but the others do not have the combination of his skill, salary and expectations to go with them.  Now moving beyond all those parts of it Gaborik is sitting on an eight game drought since his last goal and fair or unfair with the entire offense struggling the expectations make Gaborik the first target for the media to turn to.  On Sunday he became the target for his coach as well with his benching for much of the second and third periods against the rival Flyers. 
When asked about the benching Gaborik responded with surprise according to Andrew Gross of Ranger Rants,
“Yeah,” Gaborik said. “Obviously I haven’t produced much lately. Obviously, in these types of games, it’s a big game. I’m not giving up, I’ve just got to work harder, just try to get out of it, that’s the bottom line. Confidence is a very big part. The last few games, I felt good and we created chances. I think things were happening but it was not going in. It surprised me tonight to get benched. It’s the coach’s decision, that’s the bottom line. I have to produce and help this team win games.”
So what exactly is wrong with Marian Gaborik?  Is he still hurt?  Are Vinny Prospal and Erik Christensen really that important to Gaborik production? How will Gaborik respond to the benching?
Nobody has the real answer to the first question or they would have fixed it by now, but there is definitely a confidence issue at play by this point.  If Gaborik is hurt my money is on his shoulder more than the groin which has been his historical nemesis.  When he needs to turn it on Gaborik seems to have the ability to accelerate and hit top gear at least in straight lines.  What you do not see is Gaborik coming off the wall and attacking the net to go to the dirty areas where he scored many of his “vulture” goals last year just being around when pucks would squirt free.  For me that is about the shoulder and being afraid of contact to reinjure it and would also explain why his wrist shot does not seem to have the same snap to it this year.  If he is still hurt then he needs to sit and get healthy because while I commend him for trying to play through it he is not helping the team in either the short or long term; especially if part of the reason is so he does not have to hear about being fragile.

I keep hearing about how Gaborik does not have Prospal, Christensen is hurt and there is no number one center on the team.  With last night’s news that Prospal does not seem optimistic about a return, Christensen possibly being the odd-man out of the lineup with recent moves and the fact Brad Richards is not coming this year all of those things need to go away. 
In terms of his response to the benching the quotation above has me worried about that because there does seem to be an aura of self-pity in it and that worries me both from a lack of realization in what he is not doing this year to get those goals and the confidence issue.  As bad as it sounds you want him to be angry about being benched; you want him to tell them he knows he is going to get out of it.  A little more bravado and swagger for Gaborik would not be a bad thing right now.  How he responds will tell us everything we need to know about Marian Gaborik as a long term answer for this team.  Fair or unfair Gaborik is the highest paid player on this team and he makes that money to score so until he does this story will not go away and the Rangers hopes of doing something this year will only decrease the longer he struggles.
If anyone comes up with a solution for the problem or finds Gaborik's offense give John Tortorella a call.