Kings’ Marian Gaborik is close to returning, could add offensive spark

FRED KFOURY III/ICON SPORTSWIRE

At times throughout the young hockey season, the Los Angeles Kings offense has gone through spurts. During some stretches, including the span in which they scored 12 goals in two games, they looked nearly unstoppable. But then, there was that three game stretch, and little bit more, where the Kings could not even buy a goal.

Los Angeles, and head coach Darryl Sutter, are still searching for that consistency which made them deadly during their Stanley Cup runs during the 2011–12 and 2013–14 seasons. One key piece to the offense might be the return of Marian Gaborik.

In this year’s World Cup of Hockey, Gaborik broke his foot and has yet to return to full practice. On Thursday, however, he did participate — along with Anze Kopitar, and Andy Anderoff — in an optional skate, which is a good sign for the 34-year-old Slovakian-born winger.

Acquired during the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, for Matt Frattin, and a second round pick, and a conditional third round pick. While only appearing in 19 games during the regular season, Gaborik gave Los Angeles a boost during their run to hoisting the 2014 Stanley Cup. He led the team in goals throughout the playoffs with 14. That off season, as a free agent, Gaborik signed a massive seven-year contract, worth upwards of $4.8 million.

Marian Gaborik stands at 6'1" and weighs in at a touch above 200 pounds. His frame fits the Kings’ mold perfectly. Gaborik can bruise apposing forwards around the right boards while still scoring goals and setting up teammates in front of net.

While Gaborik has yet to play in this season, Gaborik’s offensive output his been exceptional during each of his previous three years. Considering he only played in 19 regular season games back in the 2013–14 season, coming away with 16 points. The next season is where he really became a fan favorite. Gaborik played in 69 games, but racked up more than 20 goals and 20 assists, accumulating a total of 47 points, good for fourth on the team.

Goals are not the only thing that define a good forward. You always have to consider the +/- of a hockey player, and Gaborik’s has been just okay, according to hockey-reference.com. In 2014, he ended as a +6, the next season, Gaborik bumped it up only one, despite contributing to all those goals scored. And in fact, during this previous season, Gaborik had his worse +/- of his tenure with the Kings so far, finishing with a -6. Does that tell the whole story? No, of course not, but it does show that Gaborik was maybe a bit off while defending in his own zone. However, the Kings last season were not great as a whole, barely sneaking into the playoffs as the eighth seed.

Is Marian Gaborik’s presence on the ice, once he recovers from injury, going to make a difference? Absolutely. Gaborik can be a key in the offensive zone if he finds his touch from two seasons ago.