EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Kings general manager Dean Lombardi’s trade deadline coup for Marian Gaborik was first greeted with skepticism.
In Columbus, he was not as productive as expected. He was said to be somewhat one-dimensional with that one dimension being offense. Valuable, yes, but some questioned whether or not it would fit in with head coach Darryl Sutter’s defense-first system.
However, center Anze Kopitar, who would soon become his linemate, thought different.
"It was something that we were missing for a long time here," Kopitar said. "He’s a left winger, a left shot. It was obviously exciting."
But now, three months and 11 goals later, the perception surrounding him is nothing like what it was in Columbus or New York.
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"He’s been awesome from Day 1, ever since he got here," said Kings defenseman Alec Martinez. "He’s a great guy both on and off the ice. He’s developed some chemistry there with Kopi pretty quickly. He’s a heck of a hockey player, we’ve seen that, he can score some big goals, he has a lot of skill, he has a lot of speed, he’s been awesome for us."
"That’s always one thing you’re concerned about, is when you get a guy late in the year, how they are going to fit in?" said Sutter. "A lot of times it doesn’t (fit), and it has with Marian."
After five goals and 11 points in the regular season while in a Kings uniform, Gaborik has taken that to another level with six goals, four assists and plus-2 rating in the postseason – the most goals from anyone in the playoffs. The hard shot and his speedy, perimeter skills have been the missing piece in L.A.’s game.
The combination of him and Kopitar has been one of the most entertaining to watch in the postseason. Their chemistry is undeniable and undeniably productive.
"We got put together right away, and you obviously try to develop as quick as you can. It seems like it’s been clicking for us," Kopitar said. "I think he’s a constant threat with his shooting ability and scoring ability. Every time he comes into the offensive zone, everybody’s paying attention to him. Maybe that gives me a few more inches to work with.
"And at the end of the game, giving the puck to him somewhere in the slot is always a good option."
While he might have struggled at previous stops, he’s revitalized his career in Los Angeles. However, his status for next season is still unknown as he is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season.
The contract talk can wait. For now, it’s a perfect fit and the Kings plan to capitalize on his knack for big goals in big moments until there are no more moments left this season.
"We were counting on Gabby to do that, and I’ve been really happy with him," Sutter said. "He’s scored big goals and he made a big play last night on the power play to Jeff (Carter). He’s played really well for us."