Mikhail Grabovski is starting to get a little heat in Toronto. The other night against Winnipeg he benched for a good chunk of the game and people are starting to question what is wrong with Grabovski this season. Truth is, there is probably nothing wrong with Grabovski except for his line mate Jay McClement.
When one looks at Grabovski’s stats this season you will actually see that his 5v5 Goals/60 is actually up this year to 0.946 goals per 60 minutes of play from 0.895 last year and 0.924 the year before so his 5v5 goal production is certainly there. It is his assist totals that are down dramatically. The problem is his most frequent line mates are Nikolai Kulemin, Jay McClement and Leo Komarov, none of which are dynamic offensive players. McClement has never scored more than 12 goals in any season in his career and Kulemen had a 30 goal season in 2010-11 but never more than 16 otherwise and has just 9 goals in his last 97 games and Komarov is a rookie not known for his offensive ability. You can’t expect Grabovski, who probably isn’t a dynamic playmaking center to start with, to rack up a lot of assists with a pair of third line players on his wing.
On top of that, Jay McClement is actually a pretty bad hockey player. When the Leafs signed McClement in the summer I questioned the signing because he had terrible numbers in Colorado the previous 2 seasons. In fact, over the past 2 seasons in Colorado and St. Louis he was 4th last in the league in 5v5 ZS Adjusted goals against per 20 minutes (sadly ahead of only Kessel, Bozak and Lupul). He also ranked 230th of 258 in terms of fenwick % over those 2 years. This season he is last on the Leafs in zone start adjusted fenwick % at a terrible 41.1%.
On top of McClement being pretty bad, the player McClement replaced on that line, Clarke MacArthur, is pretty good. MacArthur has the best fenwick % on the Leafs this season and in the 58:11 of 5v5 ice time he and Grabovski played together this year they had a corsi % of 57.1% while Graobovski has been at 41.7% when separated from MacArthur. Last season when Grabovski and MacArthur played together they were at 56.0% and when Grabovski was without MacArthur he was at 50.9%. In 2010-11 Grabovski’s corsi% was 55.3% with MacArthur and 47.0% without.
In summary, there is nothing wrong with Grabovski. It is the coach that took a good player who had very good ‘chemistry’ with Grabovski off Grabovski’s line replacing him with at best a mediocre 3rd liner to go with the other 3rd liner on his other wing. Maybe when Lupul comes back Carlyle will be forced to put a real top 6 winger on the Grabovski line and then people will stop asking “What is wrong with Grabovski?” but until then, blame Jay McClement (with a primary assist to Randy Carlyle).