Sunday, January 2, 2011

Time For Rangers To Consider Trading Marian Gaborik?

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Marian Gaborik is the New York Rangers most skilled offensive player without question.  The problem for the team right now is they have a player who seems unwilling to consistently do what is necessary to have those talents make a true difference for his team.  Instead what you have is player with star talent who is playing enigmatic hockey where he will show up for certain games, but then go invisible on other nights.  Worse than that fact though is the fact that a team which is built on an identity of toughness and grit, with a next man up mentality has their most skilled offensive player not fit that mold. 

The beauty of this Rangers team has been the idea that everyone plays for the name on the front and not the one on the back; that all guys get what they earn, but when it comes to Gaborik the same rules need not apply.  We change lines regularly to get him going.  There is no other player on the team we try so hard to accommodate in this way.  We hear excuses for why he might be playing poorly whether they be injuries, confidence or lack of quality with him.  No other player is given this level of excuse and when anyone else struggles it is a statement on them and their quality as opposed to everyone else.

The Rangers got everything they could have hoped for out of Gaborik last season when he posted a phenomenal statistical with 42 goals and 44 assists in 76 games.  The season that Gabby put up last year led a lot of fans to expect he could repeat it year in and year out or even exceed it coming into this season.  Personally I thought that was the best they were going to get from Gaborik and maybe just maybe the best way to improve the overall team was to move Gaborik while his value was at its highest point.  Back in July with the combination of young assets and seeming desperation to acquire a big name scorer I suggested looking into moving Gaborik to the Kings for a package that at the time consisted of Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and maybe Jonathan Bernier.  Today I want reexamine the idea of moving Gaborik, not just as an exercise in trading him, but in other areas.

The Rangers have preached about how this team is all about the young guys and the core and whatever other way they want to phrase the same concept.  To that point, how about we really turn the club over to the likes of Dubinsky, Stepan, Anisimov, Boyle and when he comes back Callahan.  Make this their team and take away any excuses they might mentally have in waiting for Gaborik to save the day.  Let them do what they have done all year and win collectively as a team while taking added individual responsibilities that will only help the franchise down the road.

I am well aware that the Rangers as a whole lack elite talent and skill so taking away their most talented offensive player seems counterintuitive and maybe even counterproductive.  The Rangers will not get a single talent back in a deal that today can be the same NHL player that Gaborik can be at his best, but then again the Rangers are where they are without Gaborik playing near his best.  This team is where it is not because of the efforts of Gaborik.  If anything they have gotten where they are because some of them learned that without him in the lineup they have the ability to step into bigger roles and help carry the team.  Other than against the Isles at their place, and maybe last night cause he was one to score late, I cannot think of one game that this team definitely loses without Gaborik.  For guys like Boyle, Dubinsky, and Callahan I can immediately think of 3-4 games where their play alone helped this team win a game.

Gaborik’s fantasy stats do look pretty good on paper since he has put up 11 goals, 11 assists in 25 games played this season.  However as I have written about in a few different ways so far this season those numbers for Gaborik ring hollow as 7 of his goals and 3 of his assists have come in 3 games against the Islanders and Oilers.  The only other multi-point game came against Ottawa who is not exactly one of the leagues powerhouse teams.  Take away those 4 games and now Gaborik’s numbers look a lot less desirable as he has 4 goals and 6 assists in the other 21 games this season.

If Gabby wants to get with the rest of the team philosophy and put in the work to be physical and attack then we can stop the discussion and I will take his skill as a top 10 scorer in the league.  Right now I see no signs he wants to do that on a consistent basis and for my money I can think of at least 30 players in the league who are better than him.  Personally I am just tired of the way the rest of the team is flipped upside down trying to get Gaborik to be where as a star player he is supposed to be able to get on his own.  We juggle lines, we make excuses, and we ignore games where he was invisible because of what could possibly happen if he gets right. 

The only consistent thing Marian “the magician” has done this year is disappear.  This includes last night and I know the unfound presence for the first 59 minutes is excused for some because he scored the goal, but even on the goal itself it was not something special done by but rather for Gaborik.  All the hard, difficult work to create the goal was done by everyone around Gabby.  Dan Girardi makes three different excellent plays, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky both play a critical role all to give Gaborik the puck where he could do something.  For me it is the epitome of the difference between a scorer and a great player.  No doubt it was a huge goal for the team, but the team also could have used him as a threat the other 59 minutes.

Yes it is unfair to pick on Gaborik for what he is for the salary he is paid when he produces so much more than Drury for predominantly similar amounts, but the difference is Gaborik has value around the league and can be moved while Drury is not going anywhere.  I am not suggesting you just look to dump Gaborik for whatever you can get, but if you take a team like the Kings who are still seeking that sniper type player and get some of their vast young talents I make the move.  The kind of package I am talking about is something that brings the Rangers back a prospect the caliber of Brayden Schenn, an upside defender in Viatcheslav Voynov / Derek Forbort, with the possibility of winger and Toffoli/Moller. 

To get that kind of package would be tremendous and frankly right now I doubt LA would do that with those guys all playing at extremely high levels at the moment, but if they did I take it because you get tremendous amounts of talent and huge cap savings.  Schenn for me is the key and if you get him anything else is negotiable in the deal.  I watch him even before his breakout at the WJC this past week (7G, 7A in 4 games) and I see a clone of Mike Richards.  I know I am supposed to hate Richards for his personality, but that does not mean I cannot love the all-around game he has.  Voynov and Forbort are both potential PP QB's on defense with Voynov being closer and Forbort probably having more overall upside.  Toffoli and Moller are both wingers that just have a knack for putting up points despite not having the greatest measureables.  Toffoli was someone I really wanted at the draft this year, but we took Christian Thomas in the second instead.  While Thomas is having a great year Toffoli is on another level with 34G, 32A in 38GP including a five goal game the other night. Obviously the Kings are not the only team who would have interest if Gabby were made available just an example, though I have a couple others in mind.

The other thing you get by making the move is what I talked about above where you officially turn the team over to the young core and let them take full ownership of what happens.  For some the idea of dealing Gaborik will undoubtedly mean I am advocating throwing in the towel on the season, but I do not believe that for a second or I would not be advocating doing it.  For me it is a move that aids our young players now, brings in more young talent, saves money and looks to the future where Gaborik’s health and production will likely only decline over the last 3 ½ years of his deal.  The team gets to cement its identity and I believe they rally around it.

Maybe the whole idea is crazy, but right now I think it is one that should be at least considered.  Tell me if you think the Rangers should think about moving him; what you would want to move him for (no restrictions, just please try to keep it realistic).