Takin' a T/O with BT: Marian Gaborik Is Back...for Now
Every team has one.
Okay, sometimes the roster is full of these kinds of players—players whose talent alone could lay the world at their feet, but their bodies simply won't allow it.
Kyle Wellwood fell victim to this disease while he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs, as did Nik Antropov, and who can forget about Carlo Colaiacovo? (See? Told you it wasn't just one per team.)
The Buffalo Sabres have one in Tim Connolly, and thanks to his new contract extension he may (or may not, who knows) be causing Sabres fans headaches for the next two years.
Want an extremely unfortunate case? After scoring 78 points in 82 games in his rookie season of 2006-07, the Colorado Avalanche's Paul Stastny has fallen victim to a bitter injury bug: Strained groins, a broken foot, appendicitis, and a broken arm.
Not exactly what you want from a player you just signed for the next five years.
But that's exactly the case: Insanely talented, but oft-injured—these players are blessed with gifts and marred with curses at the same time, not only making it difficult on them, but on their team's ability to plan ahead.
In most fans' minds though, there's one example who's fairly prevalent:
The Minnesota Wild's Marian Gaborik.
Since he was drafted with the third overall draft choice in 2000, the slippery Slovak has been sporadic at best.
When he was drafted by the Wild, various outlets were drooling over him. The Red Line Report went as far as to dub him their number-one overall pick and used words such as fluid, speedy, and creative to describe the then-World Junior standout.
He was a big kid at 6'2" and 180 lbs., who could stand to add a bit of muscle—but in the immortal words of Derek Harmsworth, which prospect doesn't? Aside from a few consistency issues (no word on injuries at that point) scouts were comparing him to another Marian—Marian Hossa.
In his first three seasons, Gaborik steadily improved. After a solid rookie campaign that netted him 36 points along with tying for the franchise record for goals in a season with 18 (remember, this was the Wild's first year), Gaborik proceeded to become the Wild's first back-to-back 30-goal/60-point scorer, and played in the 2001/02 NHL YoungStars game.
The success though, got to Gaborik's head. Entering his fourth season, Gaborik wanted a raise and refused to report to Wild training camp until he got one—a holdout that Gaborik was prepared to hold-up for as long as possible.
Gaborik eventually ended his holdout, eleven games into the season, which resulted in the second-lowest point total of his career, but his absence was noticeable: The Wild finished last in the Northwest Division after a deep playoff run the year before and their leading scorer was Alexandre Daigle.
But the following season the lockout—as for so many other players—hurt Gaborik.
Whether it was the season split-between the Swedish Elite League and the Slovakian League or maybe a conditioning issue follow the year-long layoff, but Gaborik came back to the NHL only to miss 17 games with a groin strain and a hip-pointer injury—two things that had caused him a bit of trouble before the lockout.
Hindsight being 20/20, we should've taken it as a hint.
In the past three seasons, Gaborik has earned himself the nickname "The Man with the Glass Groin" and with good reason: Aside from a 77-game/83-point season in 2007/08, Magical Marian missed a combined 77 games with hip and groin injuries, and another 27 games with a back injury early this season.
And it's because of that back injury and those 77 combined games missed that no one knows what to expect this offseason: Gaborik has made it clear that unless the bank opens up in Minnesota he wants out. The only question is, what's he worth and to whom?
There's no doubt that teams would shell out $6.5 million or more for the electrifying four-point player we saw Wednesday night, but I'd be hard-pressed to find someone willing to spend $3 million with all of the longevity of a ceramic hammer.
His name is Marian Gaborik. You may have forgotten about him while he was injured, but every so often he'll pull off a huge game to refresh your memory like he did Wednesday.
Whether he's worth the money or not will be up for debate on July 1. Any fantasy owner who just benefited from tonight's game though doesn't care about that though.
For tonight, Marian Gaborik was simply worth the wait.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile, or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out his previous work in his archives, and he's syndicated through www.hockeybarn.com.
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