Final Stanley Cup Thoughts, And Former Wild Marian Gaborik Gets A Cup Ring (BOO!)

Marc Elliott

AMSTERDAM, NY… I was just out in New York for a few days, and the disappointment over the Cup Final loss felt by the Ranger faithful is still evident in a few of them. If I saw someone with Ranger gear on, I would engage them for a bit. There is still some sadness over it, but most fans I spoke with agreed with me that this was the best Cup Final, quite possibly in the history of the NHL. It was that exciting and engaging. TV ratings, revenues, and other available data bear that out. Especially feeding the overall excitement and interest level was the playoff format change, going to a bracket standard for the tournament.
Most, though, believe the Blueshirts got farther than they thought they would and are pleased with the season overall. Or maybe they were still euphoric over the removal of John Tortorella as coach. Or both—I couldn’t quite tell. Their dour feelings about the tourney outcome aside, they are happy. I am happy. Last week I said I was hockeyed out, but here I am, keyboard before me and the NHL Network on with a Game 3 replay on. Can’t get enough, I guess. I am looking most forward to the NHL Awards show and the Entry Draft show on Friday eve. They should be great.
In the meantime, my thoughts turned to other hockey stuff. The Rangers were certainly my sentimental pick for the Cup, although my hockey brain was firm in thinking that the Rangers had a lot to overcome to eliminate the Kings for the Cup. The Kings really do have it all. Excellent size, speed, and skill, along with a coaching staff that really gets it when it comes to getting results without being overbearing. If you are a follower, I don’t have to explain head coach Daryl Sutter’s personality to you. I mean, the guy is a farmer in the off-season. He grew up farming. He’s fairly quiet and pretty deadpan.
Sutter is not too excitable behind the bench or at his press conferences, which have become the stuff of legend for their brevity, amongst other things. My favorite “Sutterism” was after the Game 6 loss to the Blackhawks, when they were going to have to go back to Chi-town for the deciding Game 7 of the WCF. Sutter was asked by the intensely anticipatory press what he had told the club after the wrenching 4-3 loss to the Hawks. I’d say at least some of the assembled mass was expecting or hoping for some sort of terse response—you know, something to get the presser into an uproar, and spur some follow-up responses and so forth. Sutter calmly looked up and said, “Fly at eleven.” I was grinning ear to ear.
One more thing on Sutter. I have been a longtime fan of Red Wing coach Mike Babcock. (Not of the Wingies!) For a good many seasons, this guy has been the smartest guy in hockey, in my book, from an on-ice, competition viewpoint. Not anymore. He has been replaced. There IS a new number one…
Whilst out in upstate New York, I was in the Amsterdam area, and I was doing some reading about it. It was home to Congressman Benedict Arnold, who was named after the famed hero-turned-traitor of the same name. The traitor Arnold’s planned misdeeds were discovered just a couple of weeks before the politician was born, and the news hadn’t made it upstate yet, otherwise some thought the family would have named the young Benedict differently.
As soon as I read that, I thought of the Kings’ Marian Gaborik (don’t know why). Yes, the former Wild, Ranger, and Bluejacket forward, traded to the Kings near the deadline just this winter. I can’t say I am jumping for joy because Gabby is now going to get a Cup ring. But it would sound petty and jealous to feel like that. There are probably a couple of guys per team that I am not crazy about. For the Kings, Gabby is one of them. But we all have some Gabby “history,” don’t we? I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the way he departed my beloved Minnesota.
He was our first draft choice, our first star player, and the object of most fans’ affections. I kind of liked him, but I had reservations. Like some offensively skilled players, he wasn’t keen on playing ‘D’ early on. Jacques Lemaire had to really grind on him to get that from him. I was brought up on the theory that the coach is the authority figure on a team, without question. I never got the feeling from Gabby that he liked Minny or embraced the Twin Cities, and those are two substantially special places for me. I always felt that his National and Olympic clubs had a higher place in his hockey heart than the Wild or Stanley Cup did.

And then there were the contract holdouts, with Gabby and his agents basically forcing the team to overpay him on two different deals because they knew he was their only bona fide star at the time, and the club either wasn’t playing the free agent game yet or there was a lack of interest in the organization and area from anyone they pursued. He had the Wild over the barrel, so to speak, and his agent knew it, especially the knucklehead-father agent Allan Walsh. Gabby’s last year with the Wild, before gaining UFA status, was particularly troublesome. Matters had deteriorated to the point where Gabby sat most of that last year, opting to have a hip surgery that I couldn’t figure out whether he really needed or could have put off and played.
This escalated the acrimony between Wild GM Doug Risebrough, Gabby, and Walsh, and it became clear that Gabby was going to be gone and that the club couldn’t trade him and get anything for him. Thank you, Walsh and Gabby. Was this orchestrated or no? We’ll never know. It will be a hockey mystery for the ages. So, Gabby gets on the Cup, and I’m shrugging my shoulders. Congrats, Gabby, I guess… PEACE    

Marc Elliott is a sports opinion writer who splits his time between Minnesota and his hometown in Illinois…