The Rangers' season was a disappointment, especially after last year’s team made the playoffs with Scott Gomez at the helm offensively.
With Marian Gaborik at the helm this year, they were supposed to be better, not worse.
There is plenty of blame being thrown around. Most fans have directed their venom at general manager Glen Sather or head coach John Tortorella.
Tortorella is passing the blame on to Gaborik and the rest of his top players.
“Gabby is a legitimate star, but I don’t like the way he plays in big games,” Tortorella said . “I expect his line to play better in big games. We had zero top guys show up.
“That’s what makes my stomach turn today, 48 hours later, is that we had zero top guys show up to play. We had a [gutsy] game in our building vs. Philly [Friday's 4-3 victory] and we had zero top guys show up in Philly, which is despicable.”
Gaborik injured himself during the Winter Olympics and came back very slowly. Still, he managed to score 17 points—seven goals and 10 assists—in 18 games since the break. Also, during the Rangers' 7-1-2 stretch to finish out the season, Gaborik scored 10 points.
Maybe Gaborik could have played better down the stretch, but considering the fact that he was hurt for part of the time, 17 points in 18 games and 10 in 10 is not terrible.
It would have been great if he had played better down the stretch, but the bottom line is that this season was not lost during the final week of the year. It was lost early on when the only offense the Rangers were getting was from Gaborik. So I don’t think it’s fair to dump the blame on Gaborik the way Tortorella did.
To make things worse, this was just the first season of a five-year contract Gabby signed. So not only has Tortorella unfairly put the blame on him, but he has also risked straining a relationship that he’s going to need if he’s going to be successful as the Rangers' coach.
Maybe Tortorella was trying to lit a fire under the ass of Gaborik, but now is not the time to do it. The Rangers have no more games left to play, so instead of possibly lighting a fire where Gaborik could go out tomorrow and prove him wrong by scoring a couple of goals, instead he’s going into the offseason with this—the perfect time to let something fester.
Now we have to worry about next season, where the team’s top player, a legitimate superstar in this league, might not care to give his all for a coach that has focused the blame on him.
Instead of ripping a player Tortorella is going to need, he should have been ripping into team management that left him with one goal scorer, one goalie, and a lot of players that were either too young to make a serious difference or simply not skilled enough.
I mean, look at the players who finished ahead of Gaborik in the "Rocket" Richard race: Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Patrick Marleau—all of them played with significantly better talent than Gabby had to work with.
Now I don’t want to sound as if I’m giving Gaborik a free pass here—yes, if he had been a little bit better in that final game, the Rangers would still have meaningful games to play—but to single him out as the problem is just unfair.