All Hail Mikhail Grabovski

Let me tell you a story my friend. It’s a story of a Leafs team that was losing a game 2-0 to the lowly New York Islanders in what was, as things are wont to become for bubble teams in late January, a must win. The Maple Leafs had pressured the Islander a lot but they had been unable to crack Al Montoya’s facade while at the other end they had seen the Isles convert two of their limited chances into goals. It seemed like – on a night when other contenders for the final playoff spots were headed towards adding points to their totals – that the Leafs had let a perfectly good opportunity slip them by. And then…a miracle.

Nino Niederreiter, himself a victim of a cowardly headshot by Mark Fistric earlier in the season and no stranger to targeting a player’s head, decided that he was going to try to ring Grabbo’s bell. Unfortunately, he was unaware that Grabbo’s skeleton is made of adamantium or that his hockey skills are equally powered by secret Russian experiments and rage. 

It proved a deadly combination as Grabovski decided that he’d much rather have the two points than bloody revenge – keep in mind how hard it must have been to go against his KGB training – and then proceeded to pick up a goal and three assists to pace the Leafs to a 4-3 win in overtime. Hell, Grabbo was so determined to play with the Islanders that he banked a pass of the decrepit arena’s gate to PA Parenteau so that the game could go to overtime. 

During the intermission, the Sportsnet Panel Of Limited IQ traded ‘thoughts’ on Grabovski including that he was a third liner and that the Leafs would be lucky to get a second round pick for him. The latter I hope never gets proven wrong but I am of the thinking that Grabovski would not be as valuable to another team as he is to Toronto. Looking at a number of contending teams I think that Grabbo would be a huge addition especially if he was used either against the opposition’s top forwards or in really soft minutes. It ties into the funny way in which his play has been perceived in Toronto. Sure, today he is much loved but when I trod a lonely path of worship (two seasons ago) there was a lot of talk about how he had fallen off. Below is a table (accurate before tonight’s outburst) of Grabovski’s even-strength points, scoring rates, save percentage, and PDO. As you can see, his scoring has always been consistent in Toronto. The perception of what he’s done has never really squared with what he’s actually been producing.

SEASON GP PTS TOI/60 G/60 A/60 P/60 On-Ice Sh% On-Ice Sv% PDO
2007-2008 Season (MTL) 24 9 10.31 0.73 1.21 1.94 9.32 905 999
2008-2009 Season (TOR) 78 48 13.37 0.75 1.09 1.84 7.92 900 979
2009-2010 Season (TOR) 59 35 13.50 0.45 1.51 1.96 7.65 903 980
2010-2011 Season (TOR) 81 58 14.73 0.91 1.15 2.06 9.83 917 1015
2011-2012 Season (TOR) 42 28 13.92 0.92 1.02 1.95 8.90 921 1010

Those numbers are pretty good for a player that has been on what is acknowledged to be the worst team in the history of the NHL. As for him being a third liner, if he were to play for a contender then his minutes might end up third among centres. Among the league as a whole? Not quite. Below is a table of points scored per 60 minutes of even strength ice-time and the time-on-ice at even strength among centres that played at least 50 games (30 for this season). 

  P/60 TOI
2008-2009 Season 48th 32nd
2009-2010 Season 37th 44th
2010-2011 28th 17th
2011-2012 Season 45th 39th

It’s simplistic but if you think of the teams that have multiple centres that could be top centres on most teams in the league (think Pittsburgh with Crosby (RIP) and Malkin) then I think it’s fair to say that he’d likely be a second line centre on most teams in the league. It’s no surprise that teams are chasing him (via Elliotte Friedman):

23. Wasn’t hugely surprised to hear the Maple Leafs may consider dealing Mikhail Grabovski. (They are listening to pitches).

Oh, and a fun couple of stats: Brad Richards is signed for a $6.7M cap hit for the next 145 (or 8 whatever) seasons and has 33 points in 47 games. Grabbo? 32 points in 43 games for a $2.9M cap hit. All hail Mikhail.

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