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2016-17 in Review: How nervous should we be about Marian Gaborik’s two identical rough seasons?

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With Vegas unlikely to take on Marian Gaborik’s contract, it’s a good time to review his second consecutive not-great season.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the next month or two, we’ll be taking a look at the players who made the Los Angeles Kings’ 2016-17 season what it was: a crushing disappointment that got people fired an up-and-down journey which managed to be both unusual and familiar. Rather than the good-bad-future-grade format we’ve used in past seasons, we’ll ask a crucial question and answer it using it what we saw this year.

After back to back rough seasons, how nervous should Kings fans be about Marian Gaborik’s future?

The original phrasing for this review was “should Kings fans be nervous about Gaborik?” but that would have been a short article. Like Leafs Nation on Dan Girardi short, but of course the answer would have been “YES.” Two seasons of 20ish points in 50ish games does not bode well for a guy making nearly $5 million per season for many more years. Instead, I tweaked the question slightly, so we can discuss the degrees to which there should be nervousness from Kings fans. First, here’s a quick overview of what those last couple years of Gaborik have looked like.

2016-17 in Review: Marian Gaborik

Season(s) GP G A Pts PP Pts GF% RelTM CF% RelTM G/60 PriPts/60 Shots/60 iCorsi/60
Season(s) GP G A Pts PP Pts GF% RelTM CF% RelTM G/60 PriPts/60 Shots/60 iCorsi/60
2016-17 56 10 11 21 5 4.93 1.91 0.58 1.16 9.06 16.12
2015-16 54 12 10 22 4 -17.05 0.38 0.71 1.15 10.26 15.57
2014-15 69 27 20 47 18 8.72 4.82 0.85 1.38 8.19 13.83
2007-14 Avg 57 26 27 53 16 8.55 -0.93 1.18 2.01 9.45 15.19

Now, the concerns. The first involves yesterday’s announcement of the players available for the expansion draft. Marian Gaborik was left available by new GM Rob Blake. This wasn’t really even up for debate. What is even more concerning is just how well known Gaborik’s fall is league-wide. He’s a pretty big name, arguably one of the biggest names left unprotected for expansion. Yet, I don’t think I saw a single person outside of Kings-centric Twitters even mention him as someone who was notable in any way, shape, or form. He’s essentially just another name on the list to be passed over immediately.

Does Gaborik deserve this? Why yes, he does. Gaborik has four years remaining on his ill-advised contract, which currently pays him $4.875m per season. The 35-year-old Gaborik will be 39 years old when it ends. If he makes it that far before a buyout, that is.

We don’t need to really delve too deeply into the past two seasons of Gaborik’s career, because the problem is clear. He just isn’t the offensive force he used to be. Look at that chart above, and compare his mid-career statistics, and even his first year in LA, to his most recent two campaigns. The possession stats are fine, but all over the place. His shot and shot attempts are even fine. But the guy can’t put the puck in the next anymore, and that was always his primary talent.

It makes a lot of sense though. He’s 35 freaking years old now. His best skill was always his skating. He’s had a plethora of lower body injuries, the type that could sap one’s skating ability as they age. All of that makes him a prime candidate to have his production just fall right off a cliff. And look, it has! Dean Lombardi might be the only person in the world who didn’t see this coming.

There is a silver lining here. Gaborik isn’t a completely useless player. He actually finished pretty high up among the Kings forwards in the percentage of goals for the Kings scored with him on the ice, and Corsi for relative to his teammates. The puck is going the right way, and in the right net more often than not. That is a good thing! The problem is the Kings need players who can generate more actual offense than Gaborik is capable of. He just isn’t a player who deserves top six minutes or powerplay time anymore. Unfortunately, the Kings now have many millions of dollars tied up in bottom six forwards who that applies to. It remains to be seen how satisfied the new regime will be paying almost $5m per year to a mid-level bottom six forward, without the traditional bottom six forward style of play.

So Kings fans, you should be worried about Marian Gaborik’s last two seasons in the following ways: he is never going to be the scoring force he once was; he’s going to tie up a healthy chunk of the salary cap for the foreseeable future; he’s going to fill up a bottom six role that won’t be going to someone with more youth or offensive upside; and he’s going to tie up a healthy chunk of salary cap for the foreseeable future. But hey, there are definitely worse forwards in the NHL, and some of them were even protected in expansion! So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Stay tuned for our next 2016-17 in Review entry, on one of the other notable guys who the Kings left exposed.