After taking most of the day to digest the bombshell of Marian Gaborik’s torn labrum, I’ve come to the glass half-full conclusion that there’s good and bad to be drawn from the news.
Timing – Obviously Gaborik was hampered by his injury during the playoffs, but if you’re choosing to look towards the future, it’s a good thing this happened now and not in October. Gaborik now has four full months to recover before the start of the season and even if he were out for the full six months suggested by doctors, he’d still be able to play a considerable chunk of the season. Better yet, the extent of the injury was discovered prior to any offseason player movement, giving the front office time to rethink and revise its plan of attack for the summer. Offense was the team’s primary need before the injury and that hasn’t changed, but at least GM Glen Sather and company know just where they stand. If this injury happened in training camp, the team would be able to do little in reaction and could be looking at severely weakened chances of winning the Atlantic Division crown.
Potential lockout – Of course none of us want a lockout, but there exists the very real possibility that the 2012-2013 season will be shortened. If it takes the owners and players a month or two to hash out their differences, Gaborik could actually be ready to go from the outset. Don’t do anything foolish and start praying for a work stoppage, but if your primary concern is finishing as high as possible in the Eastern Conference again, then having a healthy Gaborik on board for a shortened season may be the best thing to hope for.
Bounce back ability – Gaborik’s list of career injuries is longer than Santa’s “Naughty or Nice” list, but the good news is that the speedy Slovak has shown remarkable ability to produce immediately upon returning to the lineup in the past. Check out the numbers previously put up by Gabby after returning from lengthy absences:
2006-2007: Out from October 20th to January 6th with a groin injury. Scored seven goals in his first seven games upon returning to the lineup and picked up 26 total goals in 44 games the rest of the way.
2008-2009: Played in just six games until late March due to a torn labrum of the hip that required surgery. Racked up 10 goals and eight assists in the season’s final 11 games.
So while many athletes might take a long time to return to form after a six-month layoff, Gaborik has a proven track record of picking up right where he left off.
What if? – It’s impossible not to imagine what might have been if Gaborik were healthy for the duration of the playoff run. In the end, the Blueshirts still may have lacked enough offense to win it all this season, but crippling the league’s third-leading scorer didn’t help matters. A rookie weeks removed from Boston College turned out to be the team’s go-to scoring option during the Eastern Conference Finals, which isn’t a good recipe for success. An extra goal here and there from Gaborik could have made all the difference.
Desperation – I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Sather, but it might be difficult for even the savviest of general managers to resist panicking in reaction to this news. Sather was expected to pursue an elite scorer even before Gaborik’s lengthy absence was revealed, but now the pressure has only increased. Earlier this week Sather may have been focused on attempting to sign Zach Parise and ignoring the trade market where the Blue Jackets or Ducks could demand a hefty return for Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan, respectively, but could Sather be forced to rethink his refusal to part with top prospects in light of today’s news?
Made of glass – This was the concern with signing Gaborik in the first place. He’s held up fairly well in New York thus far, but the injury prone tag is now firmly affixed to Gaborik’s name once again. $37.5 million (or $7.5 million of annual cap space) is an awful lot to invest a guy that has a very difficult time staying healthy, no matter how good of a player he is.
More pressure on Chris Kreider – Perhaps the most concerning shockwave from today’s news is that New York’s prized 21-year-old may once again face ridiculously unfair expectations next season. Of course, many have irrational hopes for the youngster to begin with, but now that Gaborik’s on the shelf Kreider may once again become the team’s most relied upon offensive weapon. Kreider did nothing to dampen hopes in the playoffs and if anything, he may have raised the bar, but it’s simply unfair and unrealistic to expect a kid a few months out of college to carry the offensive load. If Sather is unable to land another star, then fans will be counting on Kreider to fill the stat sheet even more, and that’s a lot to ask.