has been a classic underachiever, a highly skilled player who rarely brought joy -- or victories -- to his team.
He tempts you with his talent and then breaks your heart with his lack of passion.
And yet, because of that skill and his undying potential, Gaborik has been handsomely compensated like someone who has actually lived up to their potential.
He has broken many hearts along the way.
Yet, when this year's NHL trade deadline rolled around, there was Los Angeles Kings
general manager Dean Lombardi sending a prospect, Matt Frattin, along with second- and third-round picks to the Columbus Blue Jackets to acquire the 32-year-old right-winger. The third-round pick turned into a second-rounder when the Kings won their first-round playoff series.
That's a high price to pay for a guy who rarely lives up to the hype, but Lombardi knew exactly what he was doing.
While big-name players such as Martin St. Louis, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson and Ryan Callahan hogged the headlines, Lombardi was quite pleased to add some secondary scoring for what promised to be a very difficult run in the Western Conference to get back to the Stanley Cup final. The Kings won the Cup in 2012.
In 22 games with the Blue Jackets this season Gaborik had rather pedestrian numbers -- six goals and 14 points. The upstart Blue Jackets were happy to be rid of him, even if Frattin didn't make much of an impact upon his arrival in Columbus.
Gaborik picked up his game a bit in Los Angeles, scoring five goals and 16 points in 19 games, and he has been wonderful in the playoffs. In eight post-season games Gaborik is second in Kings scoring with five goals and eight points. He tied Game 1 of the Kings' second-round opener against Anaheim with seven seconds remaining in the third period and then won it
with a goal 12 minutes into overtime.
A strong case could be made that Gaborik has been the most significant acquisition from this year's trade deadline.
"From all our intel prior to the trade, he was a good person who was liked by his teammates," Lombardi told me Sunday. "The expectation was for him to fit in with his teammates, learn to pay the price in the Western Conference and then let his talent take over. He is making progress and his teammates have done a great job embracing him and getting him on board."
Lombardi, who previously was the general manager of the San Jose Sharks and has served as assistant GM of the Philadelphia Flyers, is developing a reputation for rolling the dice on players who may have worn out their welcome elsewhere.
The Kings certainly would not have won the Cup two years ago without forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, both of whom were run out of Philadelphia. They were each excellent players for the Flyers, but their behavior away from the rink was a huge concern. Lombardi made a trade with the Flyers to get Richards, and then, when it was apparent Carter was not going to be happy or productive in Columbus, where he had been dealt, Lombardi got him too.
I once asked Lombardi if he was concerned about their shoddy reputation away from the rink and the executive proclaimed, "You don't win in this league with 20 choirboys."
Richards and Carter have not let Lombardi down. Richards has not had a great season, but he's a winner and you can bet your bottom dollar if the Kings win the Cup this season, he will have a hand in it.
As for the other big names that switched teams at the deadline, St. Louis had a rough start on Broadway but has come around nicely in the playoffs. The former Lightning captain had just a goal and eight points in 19 regular-season games with the Rangers, but has two goals and six points in nine playoff games.
Callahan, meanwhile, had six goals and 11 points in 20 regular-season games with Tampa Bay, but was held pointless in four playoff games.
Miller was not a life saver with the Blues and there remains plenty of speculation he'll sign with Anaheim as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Vanek has made a significant impact in Montreal, scoring six goals and 15 points in 18 regular-season games, but through the first round of the playoffs there were plenty of people wondering whether there was something wrong with him. After Vanek scored two goals
against Boston on Saturday, albeit in a loss, that talk should start to die down.
One of the biggest disappointments thus far has been Moulson. Traded twice this season, he has just a goal and two points in nine playoff games and has been all but invisible with Minnesota.
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