Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Were Del Zotto Struggles Key Component of Gaborik Down Season?

In a season of pleasant surprises for the New York Rangers, Michael Del Zotto and Marian Gaborik stand out as the two most disappointing players from the 2010-11 season.  Maybe then it should come as no surprise that Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark draws a link between the struggles of one and the down season for the other.  According to Andrew Gross over at Ranger Rants that is exactly what Clark did in previewing the upcoming NHL draft.
“I clearly think it hurt Gaborik. This was the guy hitting him for a lot of those breakaway passes. Gabby never got into tip-top shape. And when he came back, Michael was not into the groove of his game.”
The idea of Del Zotto not being able to connect with and spring Gaborik for breakaways is something that cannot be discounted in the struggles of the Rangers sniper.  There were certainly issues with the way Gaborik skated last season in allowing himself to be checked easier by staying to the outside, but this has merit as well.  The reason for the merit is not just the potential goals that Gaborik could have gotten from the passes if they connected, but the confidence that comes with putting the puck in the net more consistently.  For Gaborik the lack of results became a confidence problem and only furthered the lack of results in terms of goal scoring.  It became a cycle within itself and had a large impact on why he had a disappointing second season on Broadway.  This view from Clark is yet another reason it is too early to throw in the towel on Del Zotto because of how important a skilled puck-moving defender can be everyone around him.

In terms of Del Zotto himself, Clark was optimistic in how he will respond to the struggles of his second season with the Rangers.
“It seems he got in a little bit of a rut,” Clark said. “Going to the minors is never a bad idea. I know players don’t like it. He clearly would have been back up (to the NHL) but, two or three games in (the second time Del Zotto was sent to Connecticut), he breaks his thumb. The games he did play down there, he was a dominant player in the AHL. He’ll come back. He’s a competitive kid. When you can find a guy who can move a puck like that, there’s always a job in the NHL.”
That is great to hear especially with the rumors and questions about Del Zotto’s conditioning and work ethic that have swirled around.  The competitive nature of a person is tested most in the struggles and if Del Zotto uses the struggles of his second season as motivation to prove all the doubters wrong, then the Rangers are going to get a heck of a turnaround year from an immensely talented defender.  The person who might benefit most from that is Marian Gaborik.

Be sure to check out Ranger Rants to see what Gordie Clark had to say in previewing this year's draft.Del Zotto