Monday, February 7, 2011

Gaborik Must Rise To the Occasion or Rangers Will Fall

Paul J. Bereswill
The struggles of Marian Gaborik have been well chronicled over the past few months.  The New York Rangers sniper has been AWOL far too often this season and that must change if the Rangers are to break out of this slump they are currently mired in.  The current four game winless streak (0-3-1), is the team’s longest drought this year and their best offensive player needs to step to the forefront immediately or the team will soon find itself in danger of falling out of the playoffs completely.   These are the moments where the teams stars are needed the most, and we will find out what Marian Gaborik is made of in this stretch.

The overall numbers for Gaborik still look reasonable as he as a line of 16-17-33 in his 41 games this season.  The problem is still a consistency and impact issue.  Despite the fact that he has 16 goals on the season, Gaborik’s name has absent from the list of goal scorers a whopping 32 times in those 41 contests; including 14 of the last 16.  That simply is not good enough. 

Delving deeper into the numbers for Gaborik the results you find make the cause for concern and the lackluster nature of his totals even more startling.  One expects that players might produce at a slower rate against better competition, but Marian Gaborik has only managed to tally five goals against teams that are currently in the playoffs.  Compare that with how he has done against non-playoff teams and specifically the worst five teams in the current standings and you see just how disappointing the production is.  The statistical breakdown is as follows:

vs. Playoff Teams
vs. Non-Playoff Teams
vs. Bot-5 Teams

Based on those facts saying that Gaborik’s totals are inflated would be a gross understatement.  Those numbers have to change and change now because seven of the Rangers next nine games are against teams currently in the playoffs.

Throughout the season there have been excuse makers and apologists trying to come up with reasons why the Gaborik of last season has not shown up on a consistent basis for this Rangers’ team.  The notion was more than understandable given the season that he had and wanting to give him the benefit of the down.  At this point it is getting tougher and tougher for those people to keep going.  All of the excuses are gone. 

There has been no talk and there is no reason to believe there is any sort of injury to Gaborik.  Vinny Prospal whose absence was pointed to as a missing piece for Marian to get going again is back.  Prospal is playing like he has not missed a step despite missing so much time and battling back from knee issues, while Gaborik no matter what they try cannot seem to find his.  There may not be a combination of lines that the Rangers have yet to try to get Gaborik going and yet the results are what they have been.

The Rangers were always going to be a team that was going to struggle to consistently find offense, but Gaborik was supposed to be the one constant figure.  With many of the guys when they struggle to score you notice the effort and other things they do on the ice, but not with Gaborik.  There are many points in games where it appears the desire is just not there for him.  Maybe that is not a fair criticism because he is a goal scorer and not a grinder type, but I do not mean it in terms of hitting or failing to block shots, but a desire to go to the tough areas; take the hits necessary to make plays and score goals.  Too many times you see Gaborik content to play along the wall or pull up for the shot instead of drive the net.  There is no explosion to his stride or belief in his shot and those things have to change.

There is nothing else the coaching staff or the team can do for Gaborik that they have not tried already. The results and the burden for them are on Gaborik’s shoulders.  The level of consistency that is necessary is also with him.  Whether he can handle that burden and turn things around is yet to be known.  What is known though is if Gaborik cannot turn himself around, for more than a game here or there, any hope for this Rangers team to make a legitimate run this year disappears with their AWOL sniper.