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Gaborik, Wild Roll into Colorado

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The Minnesota Wild roll into Colorado for the first game of a 3-game road trip that will see the team face the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues.  The Wild are 3-1-0 against the Avs this season and have had success against them as a whole in their team history.  Their last meeting saw the Wild squeak out a 3-2 win in a nail biter of a game that went down to the last minute and a half before a winner was decided. 

The Wild, just one point out of a playoff spot currently, will need a much better performance from Niklas Backstrom than they have gotten in recent days.  Backstrom has allowed 21 goals in his last six games and has looked like he has been fighting the puck at times.  The Pepsi Center could be just what Backstrom needs, however, to get back on track.  In his six regular season games at the home of the Avs, Backstrom is 5-1-0 with a 2.00 Goals Against Average.

The Wild are 2-1-1 in their last four and are playing good, if inconsistent, hockey and their offense is seeming to get hot at the right time, as the Wild have gotten three goals each from Owen Nolan and Stephane Veilleux, and have potted 14 goals in their last four games.  If the team is to make any sort of run at the playoffs, this is the type of game that they need to be victorious in.  The Avs are at the bottom of the West and are coming off of a 3-0 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday night.

Here are some stats for the Wild vs. Colorado this season:

Niklas Backstrom .923 Sv Pct, 3.00 GAA
Pierre-Marc Bouchard 4-2-6, +2, 2 PIM
Mikko Koivu 1-4-5, +1, 4 PIM
Owen Nolan 4-0-4, +2, 0 PIM
Brent Burns 1-3-4, +2, 2 PIM
Marek Zidlicky 0-4-4, +2, 2 PIM
Andrew Brunette 1-2-3, E, 2 PIM
Antti Miettinen 1-1-2, E, 2 PIM

Gaborik Returns to Team
The good news for the Wild is that Marian Gaborik is back and skating with the team.  There is no set date as to when he will return, but he will certainly help the team when he does.  While he will help the team, however, I have my own thoughts on the team’s superstar.

I am not a fan of Marian Gaborik.  I think the Wild is a better team with him than without him and I think he has a vast amount of talent.  The thing that always hangs me up, however, is why he is considered to be one of the top players in the league.

What I always like to ask Gaborik’s supporters is this:

What has Marian Gaborik ever done to deserve any sort of loyalty from the fans?

My answer?  One 5-goal game.

When you think about it, it’s kind of interesting.  Gaborik is making $7.5M this season and is reportedly seeking for a contract upwards of $8.5M.  Seemingly a good price to pay for one’s star player, right?  Well, here is a list of some players making within $.5M of what Gaborik makes and their accomplishments.

  • Ilya Kovalchuk – 4 40+ goal seasons, 2 50+ goal seasons, 03-04 Maurice Richard Trophy
  • Jarome Iginla – 3 40+ goal seasons, 2 50+ goal seasons, 3 90+ point seasons, 01-02 Art Ross Trophy, 01-02 Lester B. Pearson Award, 2 Maurice Richard Trophies, 1 Stanley Cup Final
  • Brad Richards – 1 90+ point season, 1 Stanley Cup Championship, 03-04 Conn Smythe Trophy
  • Marian Hossa – 2 40+ goal seasons, 2 90+ point seasons, 1 100+ point season, 1 Stanley Cup Final, .81 Pts/gm in playoffs
  • Henrik Zetterberg (not this season, but starting next) – 1 40+ goal season, 1 90+ point season, 1 Stanley Cup Championship, 07-08 Conn Smythe Trophy, .84 pts/gm in playoffs
  • Nicklas Lidstrom – +401 in career, 4 Stanley Cup Finals, 6 James Norris Memorial Trophies, 01-02 Conn Smythe Trophy
  • Chris Drury – 98-99 Calder Trophy Winner, 1 Stanley Cup Championship, .70 Pts/gm in playoffs, 16 career GWG in playoffs
  • Joe Thornton – 2 90+ assist seasons, 4 90+ point seasons, 3 100+ point seasons, 05-06 Art Ross Trophy, 05-06 Hart Memorial Trophy
  • Vincent Lecavalier – 2 40+ goal seasons, 1 50+ goal season, 2 90+ point seasons, 1 100+ point season, 1 Stanley Cup Championship, 06-07 Maurice Richard Trophy

That, compared to this…

  • Marian Gaborik – 1 40+ goal season, .76 pts/gm in playoffs, 1 GWG in playoffs, 1 5-goal game, 165 career games missed

Doesn’t quite add up, does it?

Now, I’ve been accused before of being “a stat guy,” meaning that I look at the stats and fail to look at it in a humanistic view.  Truth be told, yes, I do think stats are telling.  But I also look at it on a whole as well, as a fan, a writer, a “stat guy” and a student of the game.  Stats don’t tell the whole picture, but neither does just looking at one game’s performance or even one season’s performance; especially not when it comes to negotiating a long term contract.

The bottom line is that, stats or not, Gaborik does not even deserve his current contract.

He has not accomplished anything other than one game, nor has he won anything, nor has he led the team to anything.

If the team can re-sign him for the money that Koivu is making?  Certainly, re-sign him.  Otherwise, if the Wild are going to pay a player $7M a year, I want a player that is worth $7M a year.  I want a player that we base paying $7M a year on his career accomplishments…Not on one game.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Gaborik has all the talent in the world and I think that, eventually, he’s going have his “breakout season.”  But eight years is a long enough wait to wait for a breakout season in my book.

For a team whose fans are complaining about the team being mired in mediocrity, you need look no further than the team’s star player to understand why.  Despite all of his talent, despite all of his upside, despite all of the greatness that dwells within Marian Gaborik (yes, I said greatness…He has all the potential to be as dynamic and productive a player as Alexander Ovechkin), he has never produced fantastic numbers in his career.  Was Gaborik a top player last season?  He certainly was.  12th in points, 7th in goals.  There’s no denying that he had a tremendous season.  But my question is why are we considering 82 points a tremendous season??  Why are we considering 42 goals a tremendous season??  Why are we satisfied with our star player scoring 42 goals when he is capable of so much more?  The “New NHL” was supposed to cater to Gaborik’s strengths.  If the new game is catering to his strengths, why then are we satisfied with seasons of 30 and 40 goals.  Why then are we satisfied with a player that we are uncertain is able to handle the workload of a full season without getting injured?  Why are we satisfied with making this player our highest paid player?

By no means am I saying that Gaborik does not make us a better team, nor am I implying that he’s not our most talented player.  What I am saying, though, is that the State of Hockey deserves better.

Just as many fans say that we deserve a better coach (and while I don’t think that there is a better coach out there, I will concede that we do deserve better results than Lemaire has gotten this season), I say we deserve a better superstar.  We deserve a superstar that we know is going to be in the line up 82 games per season (barring a freak accident).  We deserve a superstar that provides us with the same output as the Crosbys, the Thorntons, the Ovechkins, the Malkins of the league.

I, for one, am sick of settling for Gaborik.  I’m sick of settling for paying a player $7.5M per season when we don’t know whether or not he’s going to be in the line up on any given night.  I’m sick of settling for paying a player $7.5M per season when we don’t know whether he’s going to be the Marian Gaborik that torched the Rangers for 5 goals last season or the Marian Gaborik that was invisible against the Boston Bruins to begin this season.  I, for one, am sick of settling for a player that is our best player but couldn’t lead the team out of a wet paper bag.

This has nothing to do with stats.

This has everything to do with his teammates deserving better, with the organization deserving better and with the fans deserving better.

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Written by bcbenzel

March 12, 2009 at 1:45 pm

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