Will Rangers offense get by without Gaborik?
by Jesse Connolly/Web Editor
Marian Gaborik is going to make sure he’s fully healed and fit for duty when he makes his 2012-13 debut, but the high-scoring winger said back in August that he’s quite pleased with how his recovery from shoulder surgery has been going thus far.
"I feel good," Gaborik told Blueshirts United during a trip to New York for a check-up with Rangers’ doctors last month. "I have been working hard in terms of rehab. Things are going as they should be, so I am happy with the progress."
A 41-goal scorer in 2011-12 for the Rangers, Gaborik played through some serious pain during New York’s run to the Eastern Conference finals. On June 1, he went under the knife to repair a torn labrum, which was expected to sideline him for up to six months.
The 30-year-old winger has been working out in his native Slovakia and has been steadily making progress.
"I have been on the bike quite a lot (since the surgery)," Gaborik said. "Now I am starting to work more with my body in terms of weights---wearing a weight vest, doing some squats with my body weight. I am trying to do a lot of core stuff. It's going forward, so I'm going to be able to do more and more stuff."
Depending on how the current labor negotiations shake out, the Blueshirts could be without their top sniper for in the neighborhood of two months. Were Gaborik to need precisely six months to recover and return on Dec. 1, he’ll have missed the Rangers’ first 22 regular season tilts.
After an off-year – by his standards – in 2010-11 that saw him score just 22 goals, Gaborik topped the 40-goal mark for the second time in his three years on Broadway. He has eclipsed 30 tallies seven times in his NHL career, which began in 2000-01 with the Minnesota Wild.
Gaborik’s 41 strikes last season accounted for over 18.4 percent of the Rangers’ offense, as the Blueshirts finished 11th in the NHL with 222 goals. Among the NHL’s top 10 goal scorers, only Steven Stamkos (60 goals) accounted for a greater percentage of his team’s tallies (25.8%).
Luckily, the Blueshirts’ biggest offseason move saw New York reel in a guy who knows a thing or two about carrying the load on offense.
The Rangers sent Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon to Columbus, acquiring seven-time, 30-goal scorer Rick Nash.
Nash, 28, scored 30 of the Blue Jackets’ 198 goals last season (15.1%). Gaborik is thrilled to have another consistent scoring threat added to New York’s lineup.
"Obviously (Rick Nash) is a big addition," offered Gaborik. "He's going to be a big help to us. He's a proven scorer, one of the top players in the league, and he's going to be a big addition to our team, a big help. I am excited to have him."
While Nash alone can’t fill the entire void left by the losses of Anisimov (16 goals in 79 games in 2011-12) and Dubinsky (averaged 18 goals in last three seasons), and the absence of Gaborik, there are plenty of other reasons to believe New York won’t miss a beat with “Gaby” on the sidelines.
Veterans Jeff Halpern (358 points in 861 games) and Taylor Pyatt (18 goals for Phoenix in 2010-11) will vie for spots in the bottom six, as will noted tough guy Arron Asham, who should seamlessly take over Brandon Prust’s former role.
Furthermore, playoff sensation Chris Kreider will partake in his first NHL regular season after tallying five times in 18 postseason contests. Brad Richards also promises to be better right off the hop. The star center had 33 points in 47 games before the All-Star break in 2011-12, but matched that total in just 35 contests down the stretch and was outstanding come playoff time.
Add it all up and it appears that John Tortorella’s squad should be able to withstand the loss of Gaborik.
"The opposition now has to watch more guys," Gaborik added when asked about the addition of Nash. "They have to decide who to put their top D-pair against. So to have that kind of balance on our team, the pressure spreads throughout the team in terms of scoring. He is going to help that way, for sure. We're going to have more power offensively, and that's big for us."
When Gaborik returns, putting the Rangers’ revamped offense at full strength, the other 29 NHL teams are going to have their hands full.