Michael Grabner has not lived up to expectations and it’s time to stop pretending that he will. There was never the expectation that Grabner would lead the Leafs in goals or points, but management assumed that Grabner would benefit from playing on a rebuilding NHL team since he would have lots of ice-time. Right now the only positive from trading for Grabner is that the Leafs gave themselves some contract space.
Playing On the Top Line Should Help, Right?
Toronto hoped that Michael Grabner could re-ignite his faltering NHL career by playing for a predictably bad team and for most of the season Grabner has played with Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov. In that time Grabner has put up a disappointing 11 points in 56 games with the Leafs this season. It’s mind-boggling that even with getting top minutes and playing with a skilled player like Kadri that Grabner could add so little to Toronto’s offense.
Here are two facts to show just how badly Grabner has played this season. Grabner’s best offensive season came during the 2010-11 season with the New York Islanders in which Grabner put up 52 points in 76 games, unfortunately his point totals have continued to decline since that season. The other fact is that Grabner hasn’t had a single point in the last 21 games. 21 games! That includes the game against the New York Rangers on February 18th that had Grabner finish the game with 20 minutes of ice-time, 3 shots, and zero points.
Then there is the aspect of ignoring statistics and judging Grabner based only on watching him play. He is a fast player, probably one of the fastest players on the Leafs. The problem is that Grabner isn’t able to finish a play, which means that he will often miss the net when shooting or when he does shoot it’s straight at the goalie. It’s frustrating to watch him play because he is obviously a talented player, but something is just holding him back and keeping him from playing as well as he should.
Who Should Take Michael Grabner’s Spot?
With the many injuries to the Leafs’ forwards it means that there isn’t a lot of options besides Grabner, except for Brad Boyes. For whatever reason coach Mike Babcock has been resistant to using Boyes higher in the lineup even though Boyes has managed to play better than Grabner with less ice-time and fewer games played. In 46 games this season, Boyes has put up 19 points. That might not seem like much of a difference compared to Grabner, but when you consider that Boyes has put up more points than Grabner in 10 fewer games and with less ice-time then it’s pretty confusing as to why Babcock won’t play Boyes higher in the lineup in place of Grabner.
Maybe Babcock is just playing Grabner more to try to attract other teams’ interest in trading for Grabner. Although with the way that Grabner has been playing lately it only hurts his trade value by giving him that much ice-time. Hopefully Toronto can move Grabner at the trade deadline and move on from his disastrous season.
Toronto Maple Leafs contributor for The Hockey Writers.
I’ve been a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs since I was a kid and have always had an interest in writing. At The Hockey Writers, I get to enjoy both of my passions as well as writing about small convoluted details in player contracts and stats.