Tuesday, July 5, 2011

With Elite Center To Play With Pressure On Gaborik To Produce Will Only Rise

Following a 42 goals, 44 assist opening act on Broadway, Marian Gaborik went into the 2010-11 season with a huge amount of expectations in how he was going to carry the New York Rangers offense.  Through the combination of injuries, revolving lines and his own change in aggressiveness he could not repeat his performance last season finishing with 22 goals and 26 assists while playing in 62 games.  The biggest defense of Gaborik that was lobbied throughout the year was the lack of a first line center to pair with him to allow him to produce as he is capable.  With the signing of Brad Richards that excuse is now gone as he has one of the elite playmakers in the game to play with next year.  

There has been a lot of talk about Richards handling the pressure of New York since signing his massive new deal on Saturday, but Andrew Gross of the Bergen Record shines the light back on Gaborik and what this means for him.
And while Richards surely will deal with the pressure and microscopic scrutiny given his mega-deal — believed to be the longest in Rangers history — the initial focus will be on his new linemate.

Because Richards is a playmaker. Gaborik is a pure scorer.

So, barring injuries, there can be no excuses this season for Gaborik. His production simply has to rival his first season with the Rangers.
That's his responsibility.
Gross is absolutely right here that Gaborik has to take full advantage of playing with Richards and produce in a similar fashion to his first season in New York or the level of blame and dissatisfaction with him will only rise this year.  Gaborik has never played with a center of Richards’ quality and that should make things much easier for the Rangers’ sniper to be a dominant scorer again.  That said, he will also have to correct the issues he had last season with drifting and being content along the wall in order for Richards playmaking to really help him get on the score at the level he is capable of.  Being in the spotlight in New York can be difficult and a lot of pressure for any person, but now Gaborik and Richards have each other and both will be expected to produce at an elite level.