Caps Back to Early Playoff Exit Status with Grabovski Signing

The DC fan base exploded with joy this past week over the Grabovski signing.  While this is an improvement in the current roster, Grabovski does nothing more that put the Capitals back to early playoff exit status.  More on this later.

The events leading up to it were humorous with a Belarus news agency first reporting the signing and no one really believing it.  Washington people are a little gun-shy knowing how General Manager George McPhee (GMGM in shorthand) can play media politics with the best of the pols at nearby Capitol Hill.  Who is less trustworthy:  A news agency from a country still rife with post-Soviet corruption or a General Manager who stated Brooks Laich was absolutely his second line center this year?  Belarus takes this round, but the fans got Grabovski.

Time to separate the facts from the hyperbole.

Disasterous Offseason

First, the Capitals cannot re-sign Mike Ribeiro at a decent price and he heads off to Phoenix.  Some seem to believe that the Caps gave Ribeiro the big money opportunity

With Mike Ribeiro in Phoenix, Grabovski is expected to play better than he has throughout his career to replace #9's production. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
With Mike Ribeiro in Phoenix, Grabovski is expected to play better than he has throughout his career to replace #9’s production. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

when he played one, lockout-shortened season scoring 49 points.  Those believers must have missed his previous six seasons in Dallas where he was a point-per-game player and hovering around 20 goals a season.

The Capitals also waived Jeff Schultz and lost Matt Hendricks in the offseason.  While these guys were not big point producers, the Capitals’ problem was never about scoring goals. Forward Matt Watkins was signed to a two-way contract with Hershey and must be hoping Tom Wilson and other Bears were going to be ready to step up.  It is a stretch if Schultz and Hendricks roles will be adequately replaced.

Washington did re-sign defensemen Karl Alzner and Tomas Kundratek, which made the offseason not a complete coup for free agents.  But again, the problem in Washington is defense and nothing was done to shake up the old guard.

The Rumors

Another reason for the skepticism on the Grabovski signing was because of the other signing rumors in the offseason.  There was a lot of talk about the Capitals re-signing Ribeiro.  Then, the Caps were in the running for Vincent Lecavalier.  Then, the Caps were in the running for Daniel Alfredsson.  Maybe there was even a Jaromir Jagr whisper or two.  Gordie Howe playing for his sixth decade?

The Capitals just have a hard time with the salary cap and likely for other reasons (which could be discussed at length) attracting big time free agents.  Not just big time free agents, but people who will legitimately get the team over the hump.  Arguably, Ribeiro was supposed to be that guy.

Grabovski, Grabovski, Grabovski

Almost immediately the big DC blogs and Caps writers began discussing the Grabovski signing–not that he was a replacement for Ribeiro, but that he is a better player.  That he will produce more and at better times (regular strength).  That his Corsi for and Corsi against and other advanced stats show that he will make his teammates better, while Ribeiro generally made his teammates worse.  Oh, and puck possession—Grabovski really can possess that puck.  On the fringe, we have the fans that somehow believe Coach Adam Oates will “bring out the best” in Grabovski; or, that Coach Oates understands him.

Here is what we know about Grabovski in facts.  On a really bad Toronto team, he got to 50 points twice and 48 points once.  Different from Ribeiro, his points come in goals.  So with less points and less assists, I do not really get the argument that Grabovski makes his teammates better than Ribeiro, because historically Ribeiro has assisted others in scoring a lot more.

Grabovski helped get his team to the playoffs once, in last year’s lockout shortened season, when he had his playing time reduced.  Could it be argued Toronto was better when Grabovski was playing less?  In the last playoff year, Grabovski put up two assists in their seven game series.

Professionalism?  Yikes.  This guy quit on his team it appears because of conflict with the coach who he called an “f**king idiot” after his contract was bought out.  You can read about his off-ice issues here (and the on-ice one’s too, also here).  The truth is, while the Caps are getting a lot of credit for being patient for Grabovski, they picked up a guy way down the list from who they were really going after and someone no one else really wanted.  Now Alex Ovechkin (not known as a great locker room presence) has a potential problem child to deal with.

At times Grabovski has score more goals than Riberio, but he has little, unproductive playoff experience and he is now on a team that needs a lot of playoff help.

What About Brooks?

Brooks Laich is known as a team player and a leader.  We also have no idea what the team was saying to Laich.  Were they telling fans that Laich would be 2C or were they feeding that line to Laich too?

What the Caps potentially have is the fourth highest paid player on their team under a long-term contract that might be a bit tired of getting screwed around.  Two years in a row, Laich is getting demoted for two one-year contract guys that are basically patching holes in the roster.  How will this affect his play and development with the Caps?  It is something to be considered.

Caps Make Playoffs, Exit Early as Usual

At the end of the day, even with the Grabovski signing, the Caps offseason has been a net loss.  Grabovski does upgrade their roster, but there is no reason to believe that another skater with minimal playoff experience or professional winning record is going to get this team over the hump.  Throw in a potentially healthy and upgraded Red Wings in the East, and some professionalism issues with Grabovski, this could be a disaster season for the Caps.

The Caps are not that close to being a championship caliber club and they needed more help than just Grabovski.  Defense is their main issue.  They need more than that one piece to get them to the next level.  Even if Grabovski plays better than he has historically, this team has still not improved from last season.

For those who are pointing at advanced stats, Coach Oates’ great quotes, Grabovski’s opportunity to get a multi-year big money deal next year or anything else as the reason the Caps are now contenders are grasping at straws.  The simple facts are that the Caps needed more than Grabovski and Grabovski is not the player you think he will be.



15 thoughts on “Caps Back to Early Playoff Exit Status with Grabovski Signing”

  1. “It is a stretch if Schultz and Hendricks roles will be adequately replaced.”
    Seriously, this is a reason for being down on the Caps off-season? Hendricks is a fourth line guy who got paid twice as much as he was worth. Matt is a nice guy, but the league is filled with those kind of players. Schultz was a healthy scratch the last month and a half of the season, so how hard is it going be to replace him, huh? As for Ribiero, he hardly was signed at a decent price ($5.5 million for four years) and if you knew anything about advanced stats, you’d know he was a possession disaster which happens to be the exact opposite of Grabovski who consistently makes players around him better. I could go on, but this “analysis” is so rife with factual errors (Ribiero to Nashville?), it’s hardly worth the effort. Writing about hockey and being a hockey writer are two very distinct things.

    • I don’t think Schultz and Hendricks were huge pieces, but they still need to be replaced and they haven’t been yet.

      Ribeiro was expensive, Grabovski was better value at $3m…I don’t think it gets them any closer to getting anywhere in the playoffs.

      This was a opinion/commentary article, not an analysis. I provided a few links in the article if you are interested in seeing some of the deeper statistical analysis about Grabovski vs. Ribeiro.

      • Schultz was replaced during the year and in a grander sense, over the course of the last 2 or 3 years with the rise of Alzner and Carlson. Hendricks, as nice a role player as he was and is, is replaceable by any number of players within the organization. Latta is thought to be ready for a role in the NHL, Volpatti, even Wilson could fill that role. Furthermore, in what way is there even space for any of the aforementioned players with the signing of Grabovski. As it stands our fourth line would consist of Chimera-Beagle-Ward, that is a more capable line than was assembled last year with Hendricks.

        If those are the reasons we failed this off-season, in addition to not overpaying to retain Ribeiro for early production and age-associated drop-offs, then I will take what we did.

    • Thanks Ross. Some seem to think it will be enough possession to decrease opponent’s chance by enough to make them a contender. I disagree. Glad you found the humor in it.

  2. Mike Ribeiro didn’t go to Nashville, he went to Phoenix. Matt Hendricks went to Nashville. Facts, they’re a powerful thing.

  3. This column went well. Case in point, “Time to separate the facts from the hyperbole”, and then, the very next sentence, “First, the Capitals cannot re-sign Mike Ribeiro at a decent price and he heads off to Nashville,” is factually incorrect.

    I could go on about some of the other problems with the column but when you set yourself up so well in the beginning I don’t see much need to.

    • He went to Phoenix…I was writing about Hendricks and it was a typo. I would be interested in hearing the other problems.

      • First of all, congratulations on a troll-job well done! Pick on Caps fans from the get-go and proceed to write inflammatory, misleading statement after statement. Yaaayyy! You got clicks!

        Now, head on over to @russianmachine to hear about the “other problems”. Warning, it’s not very flattering.

        When you’re done there, I can also help you with some “other problems”.

        Let’s consider that why you don’t “understand” why Grabovski makes his teammates better. Well, it seems to be directly related to the fact that you don’t understand the statistics which tell us that. How do we know you don’t understand? Well, you called it “Corsi-on & off” (another “typo”?) which was followed by “oh, and puck possession”. And another thing about water being wet, it’s really not dry at all!

        Another silly assertion that stands out is your inability to believe that Adam Oates will be able to get the most out of Grabovski. Is it really even remotely out of the question to believe that Oates will make him better? I’m not sure – though it wouldn’t surprise me – if you noticed that Alex Ovechkin won both the Rocket Richard and the Hart last year and EVERYONE credits Oates for his resurgence.

        • There are statistics that try to show how Grabovski makes players better. Will that translate to Washington or will his assist numbers remain low? Will the added possession eliminate enough opponent chances to lower the score to offset the lower scoring? A lot of ifs. Thanks for the debate in the meantime and for reading the piece. We will have to see how the season will play out!

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