Rick Nash vs. Marian Gaborik

by Rick Roos



Who is the better winger to own in fantasy hockey - Rick Nash or Marian Gaborik?

Once again this week, Cage Match features a battle between players with similar point projections in the DobberHockey 2014 Fantasy Hockey Guide. But the catch remains that I won’t tell you what those point projections are exactly – for that you’ll need to order the Guide, which remains far and away the best fantasy hockey resource you can find.

Here I’m rewinding to the recent Cage Match tournament to crown fantasy hockey’s most frustrating player in featuring one player (Marian Gaborik) who made it all the way to the final four versus another (Rick Nash) who reached the final eight. But this time, instead of focusing on the level of frustration they cause, I’ll look toward who might actually produce better for your fantasy team in 2014-15 and beyond.


Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

As the first overall draft pick in 2002, Nash has been under a microscope from day one. In his nine Columbus seasons, Nash led the team in scoring six times, including each of his final five campaigns. But in his career he’s topped 69 points just once and forty goals twice, with his only point per game season of 55+ games being 79 in 78 games in 2008-09.

For years, the question was whether Nash had fallen short of expectations or instead was simply a casualty of the poor Blue Jackets offense. To the extent his 2012 trade to the Rangers has provided an answer, it’s been to say that Nash himself – now age 30 - might be the disappointment, what with a tally of only 81 points in 105 Blueshirt games.

Gaborik was also a top draft pick (3rd overall in 2000) who jumped straight to the NHL. But Gaborik has better delivered on expectations, with three point per game seasons of 65+ games (plus two others where he played fewer games) and six seasons of 65+ points overall (versus Nash’s four).

That’s not to say Gaborik has always dodged disappointment. For one, even though he’s played two more seasons than Nash, his career games total stands at 810 -- a mere 37 more than Nash and far short of the 1000+ it could’ve been had he stayed healthy. Plus, Gabby has a bad habit of following a great year with a very poor one(65 points in 81 games (2002-03) with 40 in 65 games, 86 points in 76 games (2009-10) with 48 in 62 games, and 76 points in 82 games (2011-12) with 27 in 47 games).

Gaborik just signed a seven year deal with a per season cap hit and AAV of $4.875M, whereas Nash’s has four years remaining and brings with it a yearly cap hit and AAV of $7.8M, which is not only well more than Gaborik’s but also ninth highest for 2014-15 among all NHL forwards.


Ice Time

With Nash, we’ll get to compare his two Rangers seasons with his final Blue Jacket campaigns. Gaborik’s data won’t be ideal, as not only did he split both of the past two seasons between two teams, but he didn’t play more than 35 games for any one team in either campaign.



Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards


17:01 (R.N.) – 6th

16:24 (M.G. - CBJ) – 4th

17:41 (M.G. – LAK) – 3rd

2:29 (R.N.) – 6th

2:41 (M.G. - CBJ) – 1st

3:00 (M.G. – LAK) – 3rd

0:29 (R.N.) – 10th

0:01 (M.G. - CBJ) – 13th

0:04 (M.G. – LAK) – 14th


19:58 (R.N.) – 3rd

18:40 (M.G. - NYR) – 5th

18:04 (M.G. – CBJ) – 3rd

3:09 (R.N.) – 3rd

2:52 (M.G. - NYR) – 4th

2:24 (M.G. – CBJ) – 4th (tied)

0:31 (R.N.) – 7th

0:02 (M.G. - NYR) – 9th

0:03 (M.G. – CBJ) – 12th


19:05 (R.N.) – 2nd

19:30 (M.G.) – 3rd

3:27 (R.N.) – 3rd

3:34 (M.G.) – 3rd

0:39 (R.N.) – 10th

0:05 (M.G.) – 10th


18:55 (R.N.) – 2nd

18:05 (M.G.) – 3rd

3:39 (R.N.) – 1st

3:09 ((M.G.) – 2nd

0:17 (R.N.) – 11th

0:13 (M.G.) – 11th


I could’ve guessed that Nash’s Ice Time was down last season, but the extent of the drop (nearly 3:00 overall from 2012-13 and down close to 1:00 on the PP from 2011-12) was surprising. We can take his 2013-14 numbers and form two reasonable – but generally opposing - conclusions.

On the one hand, we could deduce that Nash hasn’t endeared himself to Alain Vigneault, who’s coming off a season in which his Rangers made the Cup Final despite Nash barely qualifying as a top six forward. In that case, the future would look murky for Nash, as one would expect him to see his Ice Time – and thus his production –remain low.

But it’s also reasonable to focus on the fact that the Rangers will be entering 2014-15 without Brad Richards and Benoit Pouliot (and, most notably, their 5:36 per game of PP Ice Time) and having only added two offensive-minded forwards in Lee Stempniak and untested but touted rookie Kevin Hayes, who both figure to sit below Nash on the depth chart. Given that, one could argue that Vigneault will have no choice but to increase Nash’s productive Ice Time in 2014-15, particularly on the PP.

With Gaborik, things also aren’t crystal clear, as we only have a small sample size of his games for the Kings. But we do know that he produced well there (38 points in 45 games, including the playoffs) and the Kings chose to re-sign him despite their up and coming younger players like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, so his Ice Time is likely protected.

Overall, although each player comes with Ice Time uncertainties, Gaborik’s situation looks more favorable since we can at least point to him having produced better than Nash when both received under 18:00 in overall Ice Time and less than 3:00 on the PP, which might well be a similar Ice Time outcome for each in 2014-15.


Secondary Categories



(per game)


(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)


(per game)

PP Points

(per game)


0.55 (R.N.)

0.24 (M.G.)

0.17 (R.N.)

0.36 (M.G.)

0.44 (R.N.)

0.24 (M.G.)

3.97 (R.N.)

2.51 (M.G.)

0.10 (R.N.)

0.17 (M.G.)


0.59 (R.N.)

0.29 (M.G.)

1.04 (R.N.)

0.44 (M.G.)

0.57 (R.N.)

0.38 (M.G.)

4.00 (R.N.)

3.21 (M.G.)

0.20 (R.N.)

0.18 (M.G.)


0.48 (R.N.)

0.41 (M.G.)

1.27 (R.N.)

0.77 (M.G.)

0.25 (R.N.)

0.48 (M.G.)

3.73 (R.N.)

3.36 (M.G.)

0.23 (R.N.)

0.25 (M.G.)


0.45 (R.N.)

0.29 (M.G.)

1.21 (R.N.)

0.74 (M.G.)

0.25 (R.N.)

0.35 (M.G.)

4.06 (R.N.)

3.09 (M.G.)

0.18 (R.N.)

0.26 (M.G.)


The only category with year to year consistency is PIM, where Nash’s roughly one PIM per two games is ahead of Gaborik’s output, particularly over the past two seasons. Blocked Shots have been back and forth, with Gaborik’s past advantage morphing into Nash holding a comparable edge, likely due to the emphasis (even in the post-Tortorella era) on Blocked Shots in New York.

Hits had been owned by Nash until he somehow only managed 11 in 65 games during 2013-14, which was a huge drop from his 1+ Hit per game over the past three seasons. But at the same time Gaborik’s Hits output has dropped from okay to below average, although I feel some of that has to do with being on two teams in each of the past two seasons and focusing more on offense, which also would explain his drop in Blocked Shots output.

Just as Nash’s Hits have fallen precipitously, his PP output plummeted in 2013-14 as well. And a drop of roughly 50% versus his average from the prior three seasons is not in line with his 20% drop in PP Ice Time, so we’ll have to see if unsustainably bad luck might’ve been to blame, at least in part. We can also see that Gaborik’s PP output was down, albeit not by much; and again, that could be a question of fitting in with new teams. But we should examine his luck-based metrics as well, to get a better overall picture.


Luck-Based Metrics



Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO (5x5)

IPP (5x5)

IPP (5x4)


10.1% (R.N.)

10.6% (M.G.)

1008 (R.N.)

1018 (M.G.)

70.3% (R.N.)

73.3% (M.G.)

50.0% (R.N.)

58.3% (M.G.)


11.9% (R.N.)

7.9% (M.G.)

1029 (R.N.)

990 (M.G.)

79.5% (R.N.)

57.7% (M.G.)

63.6% (R.N.)

50.0% (M.G.)


9.8% (R.N.)

14.9% (M.G.)

994 (R.N.)

1019 (M.G.)

70.2% (R.N.)

80.7% (M.G.)

68.2% (R.N.)

61.5% (M.G.)


10.5% (R.N.)

11.5% (M.G.)

1014 (R.N.)

1031 (M.G.)

88.2% (R.N.)

81.6% (M.G.)

55.6% (R.N.)

63.2% (M.G.)


This data helps paint a clearer picture behind some – but certainly not all - of the numbers for each player. With Gaborik, his highest shooting % was in his most successful recent season of 2011-12, although 14.9% is barely above 12.9% and led to at most six more goals. Also, Gaborik’s highest 5x5 PDO (and only one that was outside of the “normal” ceiling of 1030) was in his mediocre 2010-11 season, whereas his 5x5 PDO in his successful 2011-12 was 1019, which he repeated last season.

Nash’s shooting percentage has been below his 12.4% career average, but not enormously. And although his 42 points in 44 games 2012-13 season was accompanied by a 1029 PDO at 5x5, he also posted a very respectable 66 points in 75 games in 2010-11 with a 1014 5x5 PDO.

The IPP data doesn’t show much year to year aberration for either player. Clearly Gaborik trends high at 5x5, although the fact that he’s been above 73% in three of these four seasons suggests those were not flukes and can be repeated. His 5x4 IPP has been similarly consistent. Nash’s 5x5 IPP dropped last season, although even if he had managed to hit his normal 60% that would’ve meant only two more PP points. And Nash’s 5x5 IPP last season was not low compared to his two most recent campaigns.

All in all, these numbers should be concerning for Nash owners, as bad luck does not appear to be to blame for his poor production last season. Meanwhile, nothing points to Gaborik being unable to match the production he achieved in his brief time with LA during 2013-14.


Who Wins?

The outlook for Nash is not good, unless it’s for non-cap leagues that place a premium on Shots. The reality is Nash does not appear to be in the good graces of a coach who was able to take his team to the Cup Final despite treating Nash like a borderline top six player. And while the Rangers – on paper – have lost more offensive firepower than they added in the offseason, that might not be enough to vault Nash back into 60+ point territory given how last year unfolded.

On top of that, and as was the case last week when discussing Dustin Brown, there’s a real concern that someone in most leagues will still see Nash as a solid bounce back candidate, making it more likely than not he’ll have an unjustifiably high cost. And the problem is this isn’t the kind of situation that would translate to Nash also having useful trade value, as it’s one thing to reach for a player in a draft and another to assign him the same upside in a trade.

Gaborik’s value is not easy to pinpoint, as although he performed very well for LA (69 point pace in achieving 38 points in 45 games between the regular season and playoffs) there’s also the reality that the last time someone not named Anze Kopitar hit the 60 point mark for LA in a full season was way back in 2007-08. But still, in straight points leagues I’d opt for Gaborik due to less downside and a more realistic chance to produce 60+ points again.


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