For his opening act on Broadway Marian Gaborik wowed audiences by scoring a career high-tying 42 goals as a first year Ranger. Not bad whatsoever. Unfortunately for the slick skating Slovak (say that drunk) his second year was a complete contrast to his first season’s performance as he consistently failed to penetrate defences playing on the perimeter, picked on the weak (Isles, Leafs, Oilers…) and almost no one else and came well short of matching his impressive first year.
Luckily for the Rangers the winger has a history of consistency when it comes to goals so a bounce back season can be reasonably expected. With a new elite center (enter stage right, Mr Brad Richards) Gaborik has the chance to not only replicate but even eclipse his first year in New York. All of a sudden with a platform to succeed, and no excuses it all comes back to one thing with Gaborik; health. So let’s do something very dangerous and assume Gaborik is healthy this coming season. What are reasonable expectations for the winger? Besting last year’s 22 goals and 48 points goes without saying.
Never before has Gaborik benefited from playing with a playmaker like Brad Richards. Richards does three things that should benefit Gaborik directly. First of all Richards gives Gaborik that truly elite line mate he’s never had, secondly the mere presence of Richards should boost the power play but perhaps most importantly Richards arrival should allow coach Tortorella the opportunity (if he wants it…) to play a more puck possession type game, at least with his top line. Less dump and chase – thanks to more skill and ability on the puck throughout the line up – should benefit Gaborik. After all, if he hasn’t got the puck, he can’t use his lethal shot.
Scoring 30 goals, if healthy, should be a minimum for Gaborik this term. The Rangers should be a better, deeper team this coming season – starting with the top line. It’s not unreasonable to expect a much improved team’s top winger to meet that mark, especially when he has done it so often on more defensively inclined teams. What won’t help Gaborik though are the irrational fans (and media) that cry foul when he has the audacity to fail to score for 3 or 4 games. Believe it or not he actually played well occasionally last year even when the goals didn’t go in. Some fans though, won’t believe it.
In my opinion 40 goals, 80 points and a healthy return on the power play are reasonable expectations this season for Gaborik. With a large salary, large expectations and finally having the running mate he requires the season should be a successful one for Gaborik. If he fails for a second year in a row he may find his act sent packing to a lesser town for the rest of his contract. That’s not in anyone’s interest.