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Kessel over Grabovski? Even Vintage Leaf doesn’t buy that one

I’ve been watching “All-Star” hockey games since the late 1950s and early ‘60s—so long ago that the game was actually played before the regular season started.  In fact, in the era that I was raised watching hockey, the All-Star game meant something, because it was played between the defending Stanley Cup champions (from the previous spring) and a group of the best of the best of the rest of the NHL (albeit, in those days that was only five other teams).  Some of the intensity that you regularly saw between rival teams existed, to a certain extent, in the olden-days All-Star contest because the defending champs were playing for pride against the best of the rest—and some of the old-time personal hatred would spill over at times.

So the games were often a bit fiercer than today’s modern offensive waltz, a game which is essentially a marketing opportunity for the league and its sponsors.  That’s fine.  It is what it is and people seem to enjoy the gimmicky stuff, including the rookie game and skills competition, that goes along with the “event”.

Now, what I do respect much more, though, is the end-of-season All-Star selections.  Generally-speaking, those twelve players, on the first and second teams, are, for me, the true All-Stars—selected as they are based on their body of work over an entire season.  (It’s much like in the NFL.  I have no interest in the “Pro Bowl”—everyone, it seems, gets selected and many of the guys chosen don’t even bother going, so you get the eighth best quarterback or whatever running the AFC team for a half.  Nobody cares.  I do, however, pay attention to the end of season All-Pro picks, the players who are the true, deserving, legitimate “All-Stars”.)

All this by way of saying it’s been a long, long time since I’ve paid serious attention to the NHL mid-season All-Star game—or who gets to play.  Yet I couldn’t help but notice the obvious selection this week of Kessel over Grabovski as the Maple Leafs’ sole (and I can’t argue with that part of it) selection to represent the team at the game in February.

I would be interested in hearing from others who follow the team closely if that choice rings true with you. 

For me (and those who follow this site know I’ve long acknowledged I haven't exactly been a Grabovski guy) though, the choice has to be Grabbo.  Recognizing that Kessel has one more goal than Grabbo (though Grabovski has more points), the latter has played hard pretty much all over the ice this season.  Kessel is minus 15, Grabovski plus 6.  So, yes, Grabbo has good “numbers” on a low-scoring team.  But most importantly, I know what I've seen and Grabovski has been the more consistent performer for the Leafs to this point in the season.

Ironically, I wouldn’t have even had this guy on the team back in September. I had him written off as a factor last spring.   But a summer of renewed dedication and almost nightly determination seem to have made Grabovski, at least for now,  more of an impact player than I ever suspected he could be.

This is not to harpoon Kessel, who is a talented guy, better some nights than others, but someone who commands attention from the opposition and still creates offense. He may be, if he continues to improve his all-around game, a good Leaf for many years to come.

But if we’re talking about who is most truly deserving right now, based on the first half of the 2010-’11 season, my vote goes to Grabovski. 

And speaking of improvement, if Schenn continues his growth arc, a year from now, he may well be one of the Leafs selected for the game—and some day, more importantly, an All-Star at the end of the season, when it matters most.


  1. It isn't even close.
    Defences back up on Grabbo as much as Kessel. Grabbo uses his linemates. Grabbo is dynamite on faceoffs. Grabbo is disciplined in his end, coming back deep as required. Grabbo plays with an edge, goes to the dirty places to make plays. Grabbo is fearless, believes in payback, and can lay you out if he gets the chance.
    Grabbo NEVER takes a shift off, let alone a game.
    Grabbo is the best forward that the Leafs have. Kessel isn't even 2nd or 3rd in my book.

  2. Oh yeah, Grabbo reminds me a bit of another fearless & fiesty little guy with a world of talent & an eveready bunny work ethic, though he wasn't a center. That would be Dick Duff. He showed up every night as well.

  3. Excellent point about Duff. He was indeed a guy who fought for his ice, could really skate and played with an edge- which was noteworthy because he was not a big guy at all. Hopefully Grabbo keeps working like he has this season.

  4. Grabs, then MacArthur, then Schenn, then Kulemin.

    Honestly, I'd have liked no Leaf to be an All-Star, what a waste of time.