It may sound almost sacrilegious to question the Rangers' goals, assists, and points leader, but it is about time for Marian Gaborik to show that he really is worth all the money he is being paid in this, the most important stretch of games the Rangers have played in more than a decade.
Spare me the excuses of what was just mentioned above, about how if it was not for him the team would not be anywhere near where they are.
Fact is, they’re there, and they need to face what lies ahead.
The rest of the way is no easy task for the struggling New York Rangers, and now more than ever they need their superstar Slovakian winger to step up. I have been saying all season that even with all the goals and points, Gaborik is not the player he was when he was healthy in Minnesota, as rare as that was.
Gaborik has not shown that explosive speed that became his trademark, no matter how many times Joe Micheletti wants to bring up that he has “such a powerful stride.” After Gaborik’s monstrously amazing start to the season, he has cooled off considerably this month.
He has been battling injuries all season long, and the fact that it has not been announced by the team still does not dissuade me from that sentiment. He is a wounded animal, but the team could not afford to have him rest, so he played on.
It stems from more than the team needing him to play. Gaborik himself tried to show fans he isn’t the oft-injured “could be” but the healthy and limber “gonna be.” In the process, he ended up further injuring himself.
Gaborik was ridiculous in his decision to participate in the Olympics after missing the previous two games before, and it caused him to miss two games after. Ironically, the Rangers averaged four goals a game in his absence, which is substantially higher than when he actually plays.
When Gaborik is out of the lineup, John Tortorella rolls four lines and there is flow to the game. But for some reason, when Gaborik does play, Tortorella only plays three and ends up shifting players back and forth all game long.
Since Gaborik has returned to the lineup, he has one goal and three assists in six games. He has not been skating well or showing any flashes of what he did earlier in the year. In fact, he has been coasting for more than half a season. It got to the point where I had to stop mentioning it, because people do not want to face the truth that their superstar is not healthy and is not playing up to par.
I suspect he will not get healthier as the season goes along, and he will continue to coast because the lower body injury will prevent him for surging.
The Rangers are in a catch-22. They will not finish good enough to make the playoffs or do well, but they will not finish bad enough to get a good pick. I wrote at the beginning of the season that this team had 10th place written all over it. Right now, it looks like that may be a close finish—right smack dab in the middle of mediocrity.
Tortorella would never even consider what I am about to suggest, but if the Rangers want to have a shot this season, then Gaborik should sit. The team plays better without him than with him, as strange as that sounds. When the playoffs roll around, if the Rangers make it, Gaborik can then be inserted into the lineup because playoff atmosphere is a whole different game.
The Rangers face off against the St. Louis Blues tonight. Gaborik will be in the lineup. The team is coming off a game where captain Chris Drury called them out for being immature and not winning important games. If the team does not respond to that tonight, then all is lost. If they win, I still fear it will be nothing but false hope.
I, like everyone else, will be awaiting Gaborik’s next move with bated breath, to see just what is going to happen the rest of the way.
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