Weâ€™ve partnered up with Pension Plan Puppets to bring to you a Player Review series, where we will be evaluating and grading the 2009-10 season for every Leaf who featured in a significant number of games for the Blue and White last season, with an eye towards 2010-11.Today we feature Mikhail Grabovski, profiled by Garrett Bauman.
Talented albeit inconsistent, Grabovski has held down the second-line centre job in Toronto for two seasons, with mixed results.Â A flashy player who scored 20 goals in his rookie season, Grabovski’s tenure in Toronto has featured as many moments of offensive brilliance as head-scratching decisions (both on the ice and off).
Listed at 5’11″ and a generous 182 lbs, the feisty 26 year-old Belarussian plays a much more aggressive style than his size would indicate. Although he has done a passable job in the #2 centre role, questions remain as to whether he fits GM Brian Burke‘s long-term vision of the club. Under contract for two more years, the enigmatic forward may find himself on the trading block should a top centre become available (via trade or FA) to the Maple Leafs.
Grabovski followed up an impressive 20-goal rookie campaign with a respectable sophomore year, posting 35 points in 59 games, during which he missed nearly two months with a broken wrist.Â An impressive stickhandler and puck-protector, and possessing deceptive speed and superb agility, Grabovski is at his best when operating down low along the boards and behind the net.Â He has a hard, accurate wrist shot (16.7 SH% his rookie year) which he is not afraid to use, and a nifty array of breakaway moves in his arsenal.
An underrated defensive player, Grabovski’s two-way game has grown by leaps and bounds under coach Ron Wilson: during his time in Toronto he has emerged as an excellent forechecker and has displayed a growing commitment to the backcheck (his CORSI and GVT placed him among team leaders in both categories last season).Â He is fearless on the ice, skating full-force through the danger areas and willfully absorbing the subsequent physical punishment to make a play.
A streaky player, Grabovski has a frustrating tendency to disappear for short stretches of four to five games at a time, on several occasions throughout the season.Â His ability on the draw remains a work in progress, as he has posted aÂ faceoff win % below the 50% threshold each of the past two seasons (although to his credit he did improve from 44.5% in 2008-09 to 49.8% in 2009-10).
Grabovski also has a knack for letting his emotions get the better of him, often allowing aggressive opposition play to throw him off his game. During the past two seasons, he was suspended for shoving an official, and arrested (although later released) after a bar fight during the Olympics. Maturity, both on the ice and off, will be required if Grabovski is to fulfill his potential in a Maple Leafs uniform.
Despite his obvious talents, the major flaw in Grabovski’s game is his selfishness with the puck.Â His numerous attempts to skate through the entire five-man opposition unit by himself, rather than make use of his teammates, reminds fans on a far-too-regular basis of one Sergei Berezin (the original ‘Do-It-Yourself’ artist; Bob Vila has nothing on him).Â Grabovski is by no means a terrible playmaker — his vision and passing abilities are quite good — but he doesn’t make the decision to use his teammates as frequently as the coaching staff would prefer, often to the detriment of what appear to be quality scoring opportunities in the making.
Grabovski’s ’09-10 giveaway-to-takeaway ratio of 1.3/1 (actual numbers: 40/30) is perhaps his most revealing statistic, highlighting his propensity to turn the puck over while skating into the the opposition, but also his ability to generate a similar number of opposition turnovers on the backcheck.
Now it’s your turn. In the comments, rate Gabovski on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential, and your expectations for the season.
What is the likelihood we will see Grabovski suit up for the Maple Leafs in 2010-11? Do you think he will be traded in the off-season, during the season, or finish the year as the Leafs’ second-line centre?