In terms of regular season play, 2011-12 was the second best of Marian Gaborik's three seasons with the New York Rangers to date. His offensive prowess coming off not only a rough year in 2010-11 on the ice, but off the ice as well when he lost two dear friends in Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra, carried the Blueshirts very far. Without Marian, there's not doubt that this team wouldn't have been sitting in the top spot in the Eastern Conference for a majority of the season, let alone be in the top four in the Conference in order to snag home ice in the playoffs. Yes, he had that much of a positive impact on the club, which is why it was extremely unfortunate to see him have to fight through an injury during the postseason when the Rangers needed him most.
The Good: For the third time in his career, Marian reached the 40-goal plateau and also tacked on 35 assists for 76 total points on the season. As far as goals go, Gabby just about doubled his total from the prior season to really become a different beast from the player that struggled throughout his second year on Broadway. The motivation was there from the beginning of training camp for Marian, as he had to jump into the swing of things a day late after attending Pavol Demitra's funeral in Slovakia. He had both Boogard's and Demitra's numbers printed on the back of his helmet during camp and kept them throughout the season until the very end.
That motivation carried him far, as he finished third in the entire National Hockey League in goals and 15th in points. After a lackluster year in the prior season that had some fans frantically calling for his departure, he made quite the effort to completely turn things around 180-degrees and to his credit he did it amazingly well. I'd go as far as to say he was the turnaround player of the year in the League, because there was no one player this season who had odds against them to the degree that Gabby did going into training camp. What he was able to accomplish is inspiring.
We saw the speed, the competitive edge, the quick release, the willingness to shoot the puck; it was all there for Marian this season, just as it was in his first year with New York two years ago. This earned him a spot in the 2012 All-Star Game in Ottawa, in which he scored three times (twice on Henrik Lundqvist) to win MVP.
The Bad: The postseason, plain and simple, was a whole different story. Marian finished with five goals and six assists in 20 playoffs games through April and May, and although those numbers are not horrible, they were an extreme drop-off from what was expected of him based on regular season play. The most frustrating part of it all was that Gaborik was playing a very timid style of hockey that had fans enraged. A team's top offensive player cannot shy away from the pressure of the playoffs when it means life or death at that point.
We later would find out that there was a legitimate reasoning behind Gaborik lack of production in the playoffs, however, and that was a torn labral in his shoulder that was operated on last week. The injury was suffered in the first round series against the Ottawa Senators and progressively grew worse as the playoffs went on.
Highlight of the Year:
Overall Assessment: Playoffs (and injury) aside, this was a very hopeful year for Marian Gaborik. He showed that an 'off' season could not stop him or slow him down, coming back better than ever with the effort we saw throughout the 2011-12 season. As I said, what he did was inspiring and the Rangers hope his dominance continues from here on out. Gaborik is a star caliber player in this League, no doubt about it.
Report Card Grade: A