After being activated off IR yesterday, Michael Grabner is set to return to the Islanders lineup tonight in Ottawa. What should fans expect from Grabner this season, and where does he fit in the lineup?
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 3, 2014
Where Does he Fit?
To best utilize his skill set, I feel as though Grabner needs to be a top 9 forward with this team plus of course getting penalty kill time. While he does struggle on breakaways, it can’t be denied that Grabner has offensive skill that will be hindered playing on the fourth line. However, my THW colleague Anthony Tartamella provides a compelling case as to why the fourth line is the perfect spot for Grabner. While I don’t disagree with Anthony’s reasoning as to why the fourth line is the right spot for him, my difference of opinion shows that what he said early on in his post about everyone having a different view of Grabner is 100% correct. Ultimately, I think he will end up being on the third line. However, if he begins to struggle he might find himself on the fourth line like Anthony talks about. Although, if he goes into one of his tailspins that we saw last season, he could find himself in the press box due to the teams new-found depth courtesy of the summer acquisitions.
What Should Fans Expect?
If he manages to stay in the lineup for a majority of the rest of the season, expectations for Grabner are tough to come up with. The only given with him is that he will help the penalty kill ten fold. An Islanders penalty kill that has struggled for mostly the entire year will get a huge boost with the addition of Grabner. Expectations for Grabner beyond that though are a mystery. He has the ability to be a solid third line player in this league. However, he also has the ability to go through a tailspin like we saw last season which really hurt his value, especially now with the Islanders increased competition for forward spots. I want to believe in Grabner and think that he will be able to figure it out this year. However, given that his stats have been in decline since his rookie season in 10/11 and that he will be fighting for ice time more than ever this season, I have hard time expecting him to suddenly figure everything out and break out into the player everyone hoped he would be following his 34 goal rookie season.
Players on the Bubble
With Grabner returning, and the Islanders new-found depth up front, some players are going to have to fight to stay in the lineup. None more so than Matt Martin though. As I said last month, although he brings a physical element to the lineup, most of what he says is replicated both other players on the team. While he has stepped up his game a little bit recently I think he is potentially the number one target to hit the press box. The only player that could potentially see the press box sooner is Islander fan whipping boy Josh Bailey. After a hot start to the season seemed to change some fans thoughts on him, Bailey has began to fall back into fans dog houses with his struggles since returning from a broken hand a few weeks ago. If he can’t figure stuff out soon, Bailey will likely find himself in the press box as the criticisms mount.