Two games are simply not enough to completely analyze a player and project the type of season he will have. In those two games, however, there are some indications that can be picked up on that may suggest there will be change in a player's game from one season to the next. From a Rangers standpoint, not many players have shown those early indications, but one individual that has is forward Marian Gaborik.
We all know that Gaborik was the victim of a severe slump in 2010-11 in comparison to his first season on Broadway, so there's no need to get into the details there. Slump or no slump, last season is now behind us and Marian Gaborik is still an elite talent in the National Hockey League. Therefore, the expectations placed on Marian have not changed from when he first signed in New York two years ago, especially now since the Blueshirts went out and acquired his desired first line center in Brad Richards over the summer.
Based on what I've seen from the Slovakian Sniper sofar this year, in both the preseason and the regular season, Marian is on the right track to returning to form. From the start of training camp, Gaborik has been a standout among his fellow teammates, as he should be. He's looked faster, he is more confident with the puck and most importantly, he is shooting and shooting often. He received tremendous accolades from head coach John Tortorella throughout training camp, and deservedly so.
Whatever the case was with Gaborik a year ago, he simply was not himself, and I had this conversation with many readers a countless number of times as the season went on. He wasn't showing that explosive speed or his prolific wrist shot. It just all wasn't there for Marian, and he'll be the first one to tell you that. Again, it's difficult to pinpoint an exact reason as to why he struggled so much, but the fact of the matter is that he's now looking like a changed player and ready to be the player he was in 2009-10.
Through two games, Marian's first line has not played all that well, but that's not his fault at all. Actually, despite his line not looking in sync, I think Gaborik has looked just fine. He's registered six shots in two games, one of which made it's way to the back of the net in Friday's season opener, and is fourth among Ranger forwards in ice time.
He's looked stronger along the boards and is definitely quicker than he was a year ago. What I've been most impressed with, though, has been his control of the puck and also his battle level. A lot of times last season you would see Marian carelessly play with the puck, have it stripped and then give up on the play. This season, he is very protective of the biscuit and if he does lose it, he works very hard to get it back. That's something the coach has to be enjoying every time he sees.
Now imagine if Gaborik can eventually get on the same page as Brad Richards and those two begin to click. Like I’ve said over and over again, Gaborik doesn’t need Richards in order to succeed because he is an All-Star in his own right, but the boost he’d get from having a set-up man in Richie would be an amazing thing to watch. It would most definitely broaden his statistics as well, and with a player as skilled as Marian, numbers are always a big focus.
Now I reinforce the point that two games is by no means an ethical example as to what to expect from a player for the season, but considering the strong training camp and preseason Gaborik had, and now seeing him carry that into the regular season to this point, there's something there that should give Marian and fans alike some hope. Hope that he will turn the page on a down season last year and focus on re-establishing himself as a dynamic sniper in 2010-11. That same sniper that buried 42 goals in his first season as a Ranger.