A year ago at this time Marian Gaborik
faced an off-season of uncertainty.
Coming off major surgery which limited him to only 17 games played with the Minnesota Wild in 2008-09, Gaborik did not know if his recurring hip and groin issues were a thing of the past or if the surgery had corrected these problems for good.
|In his first season on Broadway, Gaborik led the Rangers in goals (42) assists (44) and power play goals (14) . |
And heading into unrestricted free agency Gaborik, the face of the Wild franchise since its inception in the fall of 2000, had no idea where he would be bringing his plethora of talents, only that it would not remain Minnesota because the Wild had decided they could not afford to re-sign their signature player.
Now firmly entrenched as a New York Ranger, coming off a sterling, and healthy, first campaign on Broadway, Gaborik heads into a much more settled off-season.
“It’s definitely different this summer,” explained Gaborik. “I didn’t know what was going to happen or where I was going to end up last year. Now I know my place, I’m here, I’m signed, I’m a Ranger.”
Certainly Gaborik is more settled than a year ago. But so, too, are the Rangers because they have one of the elite players in the league under contract for several more years.
Gaborik turned in a career year for the Rangers this season, notching 86 points, three more than his previous highest total set in 2007-08 with the Wild. He equaled his career-high with 42 goals, which was also first accomplished two seasons ago.
“Gaby is just an amazing talent, it’s hard to describe what it’s like to be out there playing with him,” said Erik Christensen, who centered a line with Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky
down the home stretch of the season. “He carried us offensively most of the year. He’s our go-to guy.”
Even with opposing teams structuring their defensive game plan solely to stop Gaborik, the uber-talented Slovak managed to be the fifth-leading goal scorer in the National Hockey League this season, finishing nine goals behind co-leaders Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. Gaborik also ranked tenth in the league in points scored and third with 14 power play goals.
“I am happy with how I played, but I plan to work hard this summer to be even better next season,” Gaborik said.
That is music to John Tortorella’s ears. While thrilled with Gaborik’s production, especially through the first several months of the season when the club struggled mightily to find secondary scoring and relied on him so much to carry the load, Tortorella believes that the 28-year-old superstar can still find another higher level to his game.
“We keep pushing him to be even better,” said Tortorella. “He needs to cross that line and play better in big games. That’s our job as coaches to push him.”
After missing plenty of game action in four of the previous five seasons due to injury woes, Gaborik appeared in 76 games with the Rangers this year. Only once since 2003-04 had he skated in that many games.
And although he missed six games due to three separate minor injuries, including a nasty skate gash on his thigh following a practice collision with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
, Gaborik was pleased to have put his injury concerns in the past.
“It’s been a while since I played this amount of games,” explained Gaborik, who has now notched 30 or more goals six times in his career. “Definitely the year was good from that standpoint. I want to keep that up for next year.”
The one main thing Gaborik would like to change next year is the playoffs. He desperately wants to take part in the post-season as a member of the Rangers following this season’s disappointment of not gaining entry to the playoffs.
“It’s disappointing to be out and not playing right now,” said Gaborik, who has 22 points in 29 career post-season matches. “Now I want to have a good summer in terms of working out and get even better and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”