Marian Gaborik isn’t going to score 40 goals, as he did in 2007-08 (42), 2010-11 (again 42) or 2011-12 (41). There’s a good chance he won’t even score 27 goals, as he did during a 2014-15 season that took a while to get going but ultimately ended up as a very good year under Darryl Sutter.
Gaborik will turn 35 in just under two months, and while there are still some bursts of speed and creative rushes that have backed off the defense and created room for his teammates, he still hasn’t cashed in on any of his renowned “bang-bang hands plays” around the net through his nine games this season. His one goal was scored on a laser-guided wristshot from between the top of the right circle and the faceoff dot that beat Mike Condon inside the far post on a power play against Ottawa on December 10.
Since then he was held scoreless over the first three games of the road trip and was a healthy scratch in Boston on Sunday for the first time in his Los Angeles career, according to the game-by-game summary as part of the game notes distributed by the league.
“Gabby is a really caring guy, and he tends to base his game on how much he scores, but as you get older, you have to have a more defined role, then,” Darryl Sutter said after the club’s morning skate at Nationwide Arena Tuesday. “There’s not too many guys that just get away with that. So it’s easy as a coach to say, ‘you know what? You’ve scored one goal in nine games, that makes you a 10-goal scorer.’ Last year he would score one goals every four and a half games. That makes him a 15-goal scorer. The year before he scored 27. Well, he’s going to be a year older. He’s going to be 34 or 35, so I’m perfectly happy if he’s a 10-to-15 goal scorer, but he sure as hell better do everything else, and he better be a good role model for younger players.”
Sutter also spoke of wanting Gaborik to “show some leadership,” referencing his veteran tenure on a team that traded for him in March, 2014 but does not have a surplus of players who have been relied upon as offensive performers in their careers.
“We’re not a dynamic, high-end team in any of that stuff, so he has to show good leadership or direction,” Sutter continued. “That’s what his teammates expect, and that’s what coaches expect.”
Tonight Gaborik will return to the arena where he spent 34 games over parts of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons and totaled nine goals and 23 points with the Blue Jackets. He’s returned to Columbus with the Kings twice before – totaling one assist over the two games – and acknowledges facing his former team is “kind of becoming a normal move.”
“I spent pretty much one full year here so, parts of two seasons, and I enjoyed my team here. Wasn’t long, but you know, I think it’s just kind of becoming normal to come here,” he said.
Gaborik spoke with LA Kings Insider about his game following the morning skate in advance of tonight’s game, where he’s expected to once again slot alongside Anze Kopitar and Trevor Lewis.
Marian Gaborik, on communicating with Darryl Sutter about not playing in the Boston game:
Well, obviously, we had a talk but you know, it is what it is. I put it behind me and I know I have to play better so it’s just the bottom line.
Gaborik, on what aspects of his game he’s trying to improve:
Just I think my overall game. You know, pretty much a lot of aspects, so I’ll just come back and play my game, do what I can help the team to win. That’s skating, being good in the defensive zone and then produce and just winning battles and everything, so just pretty much play better overall.
Gaborik, on whether he knew he was going to be traded out of Columbus:
I thought I was going to get traded. You know, last couple days you hear all these rumors and everything, that it’s going to be LA so that’s what I was kind of thinking – I’m going to go here.