Marian Gaborik has been an above-average possession player for quite some time. Since 2008-09 (when Gaborik played just 17 games), he's only put up a negative Corsi Relative % once, in 2010-11. However, last season, he was barely above average, so his first full season with the Los Angeles Kings was our chance to see whether he'd show a large improvement on Anze Kopitar's wing. Answer: a resounding yes. Gaborik posted not only the best raw Corsi For % (59.48%) on the Kings, he just missed beating out Pavel Datsyuk (59.63%) and Jordan Staal (59.54%) for the best figure in the entire NHL. His score-adjusted Corsi (which accounts for the effects of being ahead or behind in a game) actually was the NHL's best. And when he was joined by Justin Williams, as Jon Rosen pointed out, they were absurdly effective.
What about actual scoring, though? It would have been asking a lot to expect Gaborik to maintain his playoff pace, which over a full season would have put him second in the league in goals behind Alexander Ovechkin. As it was, his 27 goals in 69 games were second on the team, just one behind Jeff Carter (who played all 82 games). He also was a major boost to the Kings' power play, which looked uninspired for long stretches this year. Gaborik was top-ten in the league in individual goal-scoring rate on the PP...
Top Ten Power Play Goal Rates (minimum 60 min.)
... and one of the more memorable storylines of the season was watching him wreak havoc with Kopitar and Carter during the middle of the season.
Watching Gaborik for the full season also reinforced some of the skills we discovered during last year's playoffs. Gaborik was often at his most dangerous when planted right in front of the crease, waiting for passes, rebounds, or assorted garbage to come his way. There's a video on YouTube which contains all of Gaborik's goals this season; we ain't posting it here because #rights, but if you watch it, you'll notice just how often he scored this year from that spot. That element often goes missing for LA, but Gaborik has been able to take that responsibility on his shoulders.
It all adds up to exactly what the Kings hoped they were getting last spring: a bona fide right-hand man for Kopitar. All this, by the way, is coming with a $4.875 million cap hit. Which is gonna make the Negatives section seem awfully nitpicky.
This is a case of "I want moooooore!"
Gaborik had 26 even-strength points this season, and good for an average of 0.38 points per game (and 1.69 points per 60 minutes) at even strength. Both averages put him outside the top 100 of the NHL. He ranked fifth behind Carter, Toffoli, Pearson, and Kopitar when it came to his even strength scoring rate, which taken at face value isn't a bad place to be. It's natural to want to see more.
... oh, and speaking of wanting to see more, Gaborik missed 13 games this season. That was probably as good as I'd hope for from a 32-year-old Gabbo, but the fact that I held my breath every time Gaborik was in the corner or tripped up is a negative for my hockey-watching experience. What can I say? I'm selfish.
Gaborik beats the Sharks outdoors:
(Runner-up: Gaborik dangles the Sharks indoors.)
Marian Gaborik will continue to be a Los Angeles King, he will continue to hang out with Anze Kopitar, and he will continue to score goals. The big question is whether those two will be skating with Dustin Brown (almost definitely, at least part of the time), Justin Williams (only if he's around, sadly), or a cavalcade of other Kings. That'll be a fascinating story to watch in training camp; is it possible that Darryl Sutter would consider putting one of Manchester's stars up there? Is he going to move up Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson? Will we see Dwight King there for another 20-25 games? Stay tuned.
We set sky-high expectations for Marian Gaborik, and in some ways, he actually exceeded them this season. And yet... is it greedy of me to want more than a 55-point pace, especially when he was so lethal on the power play?
Probably. I'll give him an A.