Last spring, The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired winger Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers. The Jackets were a team in need of a high profile scorer, and Gaborik fit the bill. Although off to a slow start last year, his resume from the past sealed the deal: This was the guy.
Columbus was smart, though. Instead of offering him some 8-year deal in the summer, they’ve opted to wait. Along with the player, they also got his contract from New York. He’s in the last year of his deal. In years past, Columbus would have foamed at the mouth and signed him to a contract deal with a lot of 0′s. This Columbus management? No so fast.
They’re trying to change the culture of this franchise. There’s more than one way of doing such a thing. Besides the obvious (winning, expecting to win), there’s the way in which the general manager signs free agents or gives contract extensions. Instead of just handing them out like halloween candy, players now have to earn them. They have to show that they want to play for Columbus.
When Gaborik first signed on with the team, he stared off with a bang. The first game in a Columbus sweater he netted the game winner against the Nashville Predators. His goal scoring and speed were levels above what we were used to seeing in Nationwide Arena.
This year, however, is different. While he has scored this season, it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Some may argue that the signing of Gaborik was for short gain to spring us into the playoffs. And they’ll use the fact that we haven’t’ signed him to a contract extension as proof. I don’t think such is the case.
I said earlier my theory on why we haven’t signed him yet. Let’s delve into that once more. Gaborik needs to prove that he wants to be the head honcho in Arch City. But is he? We’re not talking captaincy. Brandon Dubinsky already mans the ship. We’re talking about the top goal scorer. We’re talking about most skilled. We’re talking about replacing Rick Nash.
Last night the Blue Jackets fell in overtime to the Washington Capitals after holding a late lead. Where was Gaborik then? Where has he been all year? Marian seems to be more of the problem than the solution. He embodies the entire team-the fact that he has the ability to score, but just…doesn’t.
He’s not standing out as an all-star. I don’t care about advanced stats. At the end of the day, is he scoring goals? No.
But it’s more than that.
We expect Gaborik to score, yes. But that’s still not good enough. It’s not just about scoring. It’s about scoring a lot. In big moments. It’s about dominating the games at times, scoring in bunches, scoring two, three times a game. That’s the kind of player Gaborik is. But he’s not showing it.
So where does that lead us? What do we do? Fans of this team keep getting let down. They make the playoffs in 2009 only to hit rock bottom the next year. They almost make the playoffs last year only to hit rock bottom this year.
I understand that it’s only 17 games in, but….wait! It’s 17 games in. When do we get to stop saying only in front of the total games played every time? Sure, we can come back from this. I’m not suggesting we can’t. I’m not suggesting Gaborik can’t. He certainly has the capability to.
But we shouldn’t have to. Gaborik shouldn’t have to. He should already be there. Why should he get the benefit of the doubt? I don’t have much use for “potential” unless you’re a prospect. And Gaborik isn’t. He’s 31.
So is Gaborik the answer to the team, or just the question? Only time will tell. But if we wait too long to ask again, time will run out.