The Declined Play of the Grabovski Line

The Declined Play of the Grabovski Line

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Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Courtesy of Elsa/Getty Images

Much has already been said of the struggles of Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur this season when playing with each other, so I won’t bore you further with another long diatribe. Instead we’re going to take a look at what it is that stats can show us about areas that have led to these decreased levels of play. Of course, I had the concept of this article all done before they had that amazing game against the Islanders on Tuesday, so I sound a little like a crazy person but that’s life.

As far as point production goes, only Grabovski is on a good pace. His 16 goals and 32 points puts him on an 82 game pace of 30 goals and 61 points. Kulemin is on an 82 game pace of 8 goals and 33 points while MacArthur is on a 27 goal, 46 point pace. This was easily the most productive line last season, so the drop off in production is quite surprising to many.

To get us started, let’s take a look at some of the stats we’ll be observing:

Name Corsi REL On-ice Sh% On-ice Sv% PDO
Mikhail Grabovski 12.4 9.67 .915 1012
Clarke MacArthur 5.5 9.44 .916 1011
Nikolai Kulemin 1.1 9.29 .916 1009

*All stats are even strength

The Corsi ratings tell us much of what we already knew: that Grabovski is the glue that holds this line together. His undeniable ability to get the puck to the opponent’s end for an attempt at the net is the best in Toronto’s forward group. MacArthur sees a drop of 13.8 and Kulemin sees one of 12.6 from last season. Even Grabovski shows a huge drop in Corsi of 8.9. When the line clicked last season, no one on the Leafs was more capable of possessing the puck. That is not so true today, with a large of percentage of their shifts having them hemmed into their own zone. This is reflected in their Zone Fin%, where all three start more shifts in the offensive zone than they finish there.

As for their PDO, they’re roughly the same as they were last year (1015 for Grabovski; 1005 for MacArthur; 1018 for Kulemin). Their team shooting percentages have gone down slightly, but only very slightly. PDO doesn’t account for their drop in production. Before getting into some more stats, I’m going to make a little aside about an action that may have derailed this line early in the season. That would be the MacArthur suspension. With MacArthur gone, suddenly one third of their chemistry was now gone in favour of (the admittedly awesome) Matt Frattin. Grabovski and Kulemin started the season completely cold and when MacArthur came back, he went dry as well. Ever decreasing confidence led to changes in some other statistics that I will now go into.

With the Grabovski line losing confidence combined with the reemergence of Tyler Bozak and the addition of Tim Connolly and Matt Frattin, ice time was suddenly hard to come by. Fast forward to the present and Grabovski averages 17:12 TOI/G (19:21 last season), MacArthur gets 14:36 (17:06 last season) and Kulemin receives 15:19 (17:19 last season). Going hand in hand with this is a decrease in powerplay time across the board. Grabovski went from 3:08 PPTOI/G in 2010-11 to 2:21 this year, MacArthur went from 2:55 to 2:00 and Kulemin from 2:39 to a measly 1:06. Each of the three have much lower powerplay point totals as a result of this.

Some final stats:

Name Shots Hits Blocked Shots Giveaways Takeaways
Mikhail Grabovski 92 (162) 27 (47) 15 (26) 27 (47) 30 (53)
Clarke MacArthur 74 (132) 27 (48) 11 (19) 19 (33) 12 (21)
Nikolai Kulemin 72 (120) 53 (88) 26 (43) 18 (30) 22 (36)

*Stats in parentheses are the current season pace

There are drops across the board here. Let’s take a look at the same stats in the 2010-11 season:

Name Shots Hits Blocked Shots Giveaways Takeaways
Mikhail Grabovski 239 44 25 45 49
Clarke MacArthur 154 115 20 49 24
Nikolai Kulemin 173 101 48 28 37

*All situations

The drops are quite dramatic, especially in the shot category. It’s difficult to say just what it is that has caused the lack of shots from these three. It could be that coaches have found out exactly how to play them or it could be a complete lack of confidence that has derailed their season. The latter theory holds some water, as the recent play of Kulemin especially has shown glimpses of his past self. It’s not my place to predict what will happen next season with these three, but my gut tells me that Kulemin will bounce back at the very least. Grabovski is already back to his old form, so it’s up to Kulemin and MacArthur to finish the season strong and come into camp determined next season.

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