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Thursday, July 11, 2013

We Don’t Need Mikhail Grabovski

At the start of the offseason, it became brutally obvious that the Caps were going to part ways with Mike Ribeiro, the only true second line center Washington have had since the great Sergei Fedorov.  The  33 year old Ribeiro signed a four year, $22 million dollar contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.  McPhee and Ribeiro could not come to terms on the contract length, Ribeiro understandably wanting stability in a lengthy contract and McPhee understandably wanting a short term option.  And so Ribeiro set off to the desert, and it appeared we were left with middling options at our second center position.

But alas, there was a feud brewing in Toronto.  A new general manager in Dave Nonis bought out his underused Belarusian center Mihail Grabovski.  Understandably furious, Grabovski flings harsh words at Toronto Head Coach Randy Carlyle, and retreats to his wedding.

And as of this day, Grabovski remains a free agent, and speculation is growing.  One team that is consistently mentioned is the Washington Capitals.

Talent wise, it is an obvious fit.  He is a highly skilled hockey player, and his tools weren’t handled properly by the Maple Leafs, as evident in the always great Japers' Rink take on Grabovski.  He is capable of scoring 20 plus goals and adding 20 plus assists a season, as he’s done numerous times in his career.

But, fancy stats aside, is he really what the Caps want?

I’m not denying the fact that he is a good hockey player, because he is.  But if you do follow my Caps twitter account (@Capitals_Blog), you have seen that I’m not a big fan of Grabovski.   There are numerous red flags that stand out to me.

It is well known to just about every hockey fan in the world at this point that the Caps always let us down during the playoffs.  The vast majority of our players can’t seem to shake those playoff jitters, and they don’t play to the capabilities that the DC faithful know they can.  Look at some of our current centers and those in the past.  Nicklas Backstrom averages just barely over a point a game in the regular season, which is phenomenal, but only averages just over .75 points per game in the playoffs.  Mathieu Perreault averages .44 points per game in the regular season versus .36 in the playoffs.  Former Cap Brendan Morrison is .64 versus .49.  And former Capital Tomas Flischmann is .59 versus .27.

The Caps for the most part have had centers who play vastly different games between the regular season and playoffs.  You may think that is obvious.  Players understandably can get nervous in the playoffs.  But look at a second line center like Ryan Kesler, who is .61 points per game in the regular season versus .66 in the playoffs.  Henrik Zetterberg is nearly identical.  Mike Richards is .74 versus .79.  And Fedorov?  He was .94 versus .96.

And Grabovski?  He’s .59 versus .29.

I know, I know.  It’s really not all that fair to judge Grabovski considering he has played in seven career playoff games.  But numbers are numbers.  And on top of that, with all of the Caps playoff woes, do we really want a guy who is going to turn 30 next season and has only played in seven playoff games?

But it doesn’t end there.  Raise your hand if you liked Ribeiro’s attitude?  How about his stupid penalties he would take when things wouldn’t go our way?  Well then you’ll love Grabovski….

On top of his rant against Carlyle, Grabovski has plenty more errors in judgement.  How about the way he left Montreal?  In an excerpt from Dave Kellerman of Hockey Inside/Out:
The fun would soon end. On March 7, 2008, Guy Carbonneau changed everything. He benched Grabovski against the Phoenix Coyotes. Grabovski went ballistic and refused to get on the team bus after the game. When his teammates pleaded with him to get on for fear of missing their flight, Grabovski walked past Carbonneau and gave him a nasty stare, then suddenly turned sharply towards team president Pierre Boivin and told him “This was my last flight with the Canadiens.” And with that, Grabovski missed the flight, forever changing Canadiens’ history.
Grabovski was immediately shipped to Toronto.

And then there is his past feud with fellow Belarusian teammate Sergei Kostitsyn. Or how about his arrest and eventual law suit in Vancouver, where he assaulted a fan when he was out with a broken wrist?  Or maybe even his infamous incident with Max Pacioretty, where he admitted to biting him on the arm?

Interestingly enough, all of these incidences involved the Montreal Canadiens.  Even the fan he assaulted was a Canadiens fan.  And now, add Toronto on his hate list.  But, would we really have to baby sit Grabovski each time he is about to lose his temper?  Does that sound like a player that our great coach in Adam Oates would like to have on his team?

Even though McPhee claims to be all set in free agency, I’m not buying it.  I do believe he is talking with the Grabovski camp, especially after signing Karl Alzner to a $2.8 million contract.

The issue that will arise is similar to that of Mike Ribeiro.  Money most likely won’t be an issue, as
Grabovski is already making $1,791,667 per year from Toronto until 2021.  But, contract length will be.  He’s going to want a multi-year deal to give himself some stability, and McPhee won’t budge past a one or two year deal.  On top of that, Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to come to Washington after the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and he is capable of playing center on the second line.

McPhee shouldn’t budge.  There is no need for Grabovski.  We already have an adequate filler at the second line for the little time it may be necessary.

It’s Brooks Laich.


  1. Anonymous7:26:00 AM

    There is always a need for strong centre depth, something the Caps have not had consistently. A replacement pivot as a safety valve when Brooks Laich inevitably gets injured would be great, despite the anecdotal and largely unsupported arguments you've made, especially one that will take a pay cut since Toronto's already paying him.

  2. So, you are taking into account his playoff PPG stats from a 7 game series in which he was only getting 3rd line minutes, and comparing them to his PPG numbers for the rest of his career when he was getting 1st and 2nd line minutes? I don't see how you could make any reasonable argument for relevance of those numbers.

    Brooks Laich is not an adequate 2C for the Capitals. If Brooks was the answer at 2C, why was GMGM trying to extend Ribeiro for 3 years?

    Kuznetsov is very unlikely to be the answer at 2C for the Capitals in the near future. He plays wing in the KHL, not center, and he is horrible (<40%) on faceoffs). That doesn't sound like a guy you are going to throw into the fire taking a bunch of defensive zone starts in the NHL. Much more likely to be playing wing early in his NHL career.

    If GMGM can get Grabovski for a reasonable price and term, it would be very beneficial for the Caps. It would give them forward depth they don't currently have, and allow them to better slot the assets they do have. Kuznetsov can't be counted on to be in DC next year. Grabbo gives the Caps a decent 1C/2C combo in Backstrom/Grab, and allows them to play Laich at wing where he is more effective. It gives them some depth at center in case one of the two get hurt.

  3. Anonymous9:37:00 AM

    You said it yourself, "the only true second line center Washington have had since the great Sergei Fedorov". Last I checked we've had Brooks as a 2nd line center and even a first line center since then and it hasn't worked out, but now that he's older and just spent a season on the sidelines, he's supposed to be this all-star center? Right.

  4. Anonymous9:43:00 AM

    IMO, we can worry about the playoffs once we make it. It's a tough conference. Detroit, Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, New York, New York, Carolina, New Jersey (check out their Corsi, save percentage, and most significant addition) are all about as good or better than us, as currently constructed.

  5. "The How about his stupid penalties he would take when things wouldn’t go our way? Well then you’ll love Grabovski…."

    Is that for real? How many unsportmanlike misconducts did Grabovski have in the past 2 seasons? ZERO. Ribeiro has had 4.

    Grabovski had a total of 24 PIM's last season vs 53 for Rebeiro.

  6. Hey everyone, thanks a lot for reading.

    I know my opinion on Grabovski is in the minority, and I’m not saying each of your arguments against mine are wrong in the slightest. My points I have made show my concerns I would have if the Caps were to pick up Grabovski in the offseason.

    I understand he is a talented player. But, just because he is now the most talented center available doesn’t mean he’s necessarily the best option for the Capitals and they have to jump on the opportunity as quickly as possible.

    My main arguments were obviously his playoff performance and his general attitude, and, quite frankly, those should be major points of concern for the Capitals at this point in their organization. With recent issues of attitude, like Semin, you could include Boudreau and Ovie, you could even include Ribeiro to an extent, doesn’t a guy like Grabovski ring a bell in even the slightest? And maybe I’m completely off on that assumption, but it’s even the slight threat of this issue that causes me concern. The inexperience at the playoff level also raises concern. I would rather work with someone already in the system than take the risk of signing Grabovski to a contract and having the situation not work out in our favor.

    And, do we really think that Grabovski is capable of putting the Caps past there early exit woes? I’m not convinced. Is Laich the best solution? Absolutely not. But, I would rather take that approach and either test the waters at the trade deadline or wait for a better option to arise than Grabovski, because someday in the future that will be available, and we will all be watering at the mouth at that possibility all over again.

    Again, thanks a lot for taking your time to read what I had to say, and I apologize for causing a stir in all of your eyes, but it is simply my opinion, and I more than respect all of yours. And please, take the time to view some of my other writings on this blog, and see if I can gain any amount of your Caps hockey-blogger respect.

    GM On A Couch

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I think we need to pay attention to the new elephant in the room: We aren't in the SouthLeast anymore. There's something to be said for simply making it into the playoffs. We BARELY made it last year and with a step backward (at least on paper) at the center position, I'm having a hard time seeing anything but an 8 seed for the Caps from here on out.

      You need players that can score a lot in the regular season, too, because the post-season is no longer a given.

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