|Marian Gaborik while in training camp.|
So in 14 playoff games Gaborik has almost equaled his regular season output. A very impressive performance, especially for an unrestricted free agent with a phenomenal injury history. And my buddy projects that performance into a CBJ uniform, and wonders if the Blue Jackets would still be playing today if they had not traded him at the deadline.
And frankly, if Head Coach Todd Richards (HCTR) would have had the ability to roll a sniper like Gaborik out during the thunderous comeback at the end of Game 6, it certainly would have increased the odds that the CBJ could have tied that game, and I'm not sure the Pens would have won the series if that had happened. The thought of Gaborik isolated on Fleury in that moment makes me slightly sick to my stomach. But as Dandy Don Meredith always said: "If 'ifs and buts' were 'candy and nuts', we'd all have a Merry Christmas."
This is a dangerous brand of speculation, mostly because it will drive you crazy. But frankly, I don't think you see those numbers from Gaborik playing on the CBJ, even in the playoffs. The Blue Jackets have tried to play a puck possession game this year, deliberately moving up the ice with good passing, and getting in deep on the forecheck and grinding on the other team. LA can play that kind of game, no mistaking that. As Hitch would say, they play a very heavy game.
But as I watched them dismembering Anaheim last night, I noticed that it was with a quick strike, stretch game. Anaheim was trying to get in on the forecheck like the CBJ like to play, and Drew Doughty, arguably one of the best defensemen in the game, was shredding them with lightning quick stretch passes to breaking forwards. That is Gaborik's game, but it is unwise to think that the CBJ have the same capacity to play that game, especially in a playoff environment. When the CBJ are throwing stretch passes up the ice, they are playing another team's game, and likely losing. They have gotten away from their identity. LA has the talent and experience to change up to that kind of game if that's what the situation demands. They also have the experience and talent to out-grind you if that's what the situation demands. They are a very versatile team, and Coach Darryl Sutter does a masterful job with their line up.
On LA, Gaborik is one of many threats. On the CBJ he is one of the main threats, and much easier to defend and shut down, especially in a playoff environment. He now is playing on a much deeper, much more experienced team, that has won a Cup recently. And realistically, it looks like they are on their way to another one, as they are a deeper team than Chicago, especially with Gaborik on board.
When Gaborik came back after the Olympic break, I do feel he gave Arty Anisimov a big bump in production by creating more space for him by his presence on the ice. And, I didn't feel it was a huge risk in keeping him. But what then? You traded two number one picks, Brassard and Moore, and a beloved player in Derek Dorsett for Gaborik. I think Jarmo felt he had to recover some assets, even at a reduced price, for that investment. A general manager looks really bad when you have that kind of investment walk out the door. Think LeBron James. The Cavs really should have traded him, if they wanted to remain competitive, because that way you come away with assets. They lost that multi-million dollar investment, and now they are in the cellar. You just can't let that type of asset walk out the door. Back to Jarmo's situation, you may lose on the deal, but you recover residual value where you can, with the possibility of making a great pick in the future.
|Alexander Wennberg during 2013 Development Camp.|
I do agree with Jarmo that Gaborik didn't quite fit in the CBJ system that was played this year. I'm not real sure Brassard would have either. I think he is much better off with Alain Vigneault as a coach. Which is not to belittle HCTR, I just think Vigneault is a better fit for the type of player Brassard has become. But I digress (again). Jarmo's job is to look out for the long term interests of the organization. The Gaborik trade was a high risk, high reward trade, that ended up being a loser on the risk side, but had the side benefit of completing the locker room purge of the players who quit on Hitch. With talent like Wennberg coming into the system, you don't want to be tied to a high cost aging veteran, so you recover the assets that you can.
Over the short term, Gaborik might have helped us out of the first round of the playoffs. On the other hand, the team made the playoffs without him, a validation of HCTR's system, and the work ethic of our players. This issue CANNOT be understated (he shouted). This years players have established the performance baseline for the CBJ, that starts with an indefatigable work ethic. This is the baseline that Wennberg, Kerby Rychal, and Marko Dano will see coming into the organizaton. Bring your skill if you want to make this team. But you better bring your lunch pail and your work ethic if you want to stay on it. You can't have anyone exempt from the work ethic. A high priced free agent may, or may not have that work ethic. Young talent coming up through the system will see that as the baseline for everyone, so will accept it as normal. The good news is that the team structure is there to assist them in that learning process.
Gaborik is having one helluva playoff. I think that happens in LA. I don't think it happens in Columbus. Nothing in this post is intended to be a criticism of Gaborik. It just didn't work here, but it seems like it will in LA. But we get a number 2 pick on the deal. I wonder if we can get another Boone Jenner?
This year we were privileged to see that best team in CBJ history. Coming into the 2014-15 season, Nathan Horton will be healthy coming into training camp, Wennberg will have a shot to try to make the team (not to mention Rychal and Dano) without the pressure of having to be a star, the team will have the experience of knowing they can make the playoffs if they play their game, and more importantly, the experience of playing together another year. Stability is not a bad thing for the CBJ right now, and signing Marian Gaborik does not contribute to that in the long run. So I think we are better off where we are now.