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Fantasy Pool Look: Gaborik going the wrong way

Marian Gaborik is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. (Getty Images)

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Marian Gaborik is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. (Getty Images)

Minnesota’s Marian Gaborik is finally healthy, as exemplified by his four-point evening Thursday. Odds are the slick Slovak will find himself on a new team next season given his free agency status in the summer. What does that mean from a fantasy standpoint?

Obviously, any player who leaves the confines of the Minnesota system stands to benefit offensively and this is especially true when one has the talent of Gaborik. I list him as one of perhaps a dozen players in the NHL with the skills to reach 110 points. With the Wild, I doubt he could get 95.

It matters little, however, if he can’t even play 72 games. To say “can’t” is a little harsh, considering he has done it on three occasions in his eight-year NHL career, but it’s realistic to question whether he can do it again. One of those three seasons was in 2007-08 when he played 77 contests. You will remember, however, he was battling a groin injury at the start of the campaign that took him out of some games, but he returned earlier than many poolies expected. The point is, in his third “healthiest” season, Gaborik still put a scare into his owners by suffering from the same ailment that has troubled his career.

Unofficially, the 27-year-old has missed time due to injury on 13 occasions. Five because of his groin, three from his hip area, twice due to problems in the abdominal area and the other three were the result of either the flu or a leg injury. That’s 10 injuries stemming from the middle of his body and for all we know those so-called “leg injuries” could have been the groin flaming up as well.

Fortunately, poolies have seen a similar trend with a superstar before and can brace themselves for the worst. The star I’m referring to, of course, goes by the name Peter Forsberg and although he tallied 100-plus points on two occasions, they were sandwiched by injury-plagued campaigns ranging from the entire season (2001-02) to “only” missing nine games (in 2000-01 when he had 89 points).

Is Gaborik in this kind of danger? Sure, the danger is there, but it’s rare for injuries to crop up so consistently in star players. Sure the precedent is there - Eric Lindros had a promising career marred by head injuries and Martin Havlat missed the majority of two seasons and sat out of at least nine games in each of his first eight campaigns – but take one look at Havlat and you’ll see he’s two games shy of tying a career high in games played this year.

Do you know why that is? He’s more careful. And because he’s more careful, his game has changed and his production has dropped. Havlat, like Gaborik, has the explosive talent to top 100 points, but will never reach that lofty plateau because he really only has two choices now: One, he could play like the explosive player he once was, which would likely result in him getting hurt again, or two, he could be more careful and settle for being just a point-per-game player.

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Clearly he chose the latter, thus extending his career.

Lindros made the same decision. Up until 1999, Lindros had at least 1.17 points per game every season. The problem was, only twice in those seven years did he play more than 65 games (that includes the lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign). So after missing the entire 2000-01 season, Lindros became more careful. The result of the change probably extended his career by a couple of years and he wound up playing 153 games in the two subsequent seasons, which was the highest two-year total of his career.

But his production dropped below a point per game.

So the best guess on Gaborik would be that he follows suit. He’ll either be a prolific 65- to 70-game, 85-point player or he’ll be careful and tally 75 points in 75 games. Either way, 90 points is out of the question, no matter what team he ends up on in 2009-10.

Farm Report: The Flyers signed an undrafted, late-blooming Swedish goaltender named Johan Backlund earlier this week. Where have we see this scenario before? The Wild signed Niklas Backstrom in 2006 to take a shot at the backup job and we all know how that went, so don’t underestimate the Flyers’ signing of Backlund. With Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki both under expiring contracts, it would seem at least the backup role is up for grabs. If you need a goaltender in your keeper league and have lots of room on your bench, you could do worse than take a flyer (pardon the pun) on this guy and see what happens.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.

Want more fantasy insider information or to contact The Dobber? Check out dobberhockey.

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