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Grabovski: illusion or future difference-maker?

I acknowledged in the piece that, heading into this season, I simply wasn’t a Grabovski guy.  While he obviously had skill, to me he just seemed like a guy who didn’t give his all, all the time.  I had him pegged (unfairly?) as a one-way player, with no size and not enough grit to ever be more than a guy who would look good once in a while, but then dissappear when the going got tough.

Even as he started this season well, I was reluctant to embrace him.  I received a number of e-mails and comments on my post, from readers who really liked Grabbo and others like myself who were still not convinced that he had what it takes—or just simply didn’t much like him as a player.

Fast forward to the present (yet more production in Tuesday night's win against Florida) , and we have a guy who should have been, in my mind at least (and as I’ve stressed here before) the player representing the Maple Leafs at this past weekend’s All-Star game.  He has been the Leafs’ most consistent offensive threat, and someone who has played with more tenacity than I thought he possessed.

Now, it’s true that he has not faced the ultimate test—playoff hockey and the intensity (and defensive attention he would receive) that that entails.  But for a guy I had written off as not likely even being on the roster when this past October rolled around, (and I’m sure he wouldn’t have been if someone had offered to take him in a trade), he is a Leaf who has been a difference-maker, and who has helped create a strong and productive line with Kulemin and MacArthur.

Going forward, though, here's my question:  has he made himself “indispensible” (few players really are) to the Leafs and if so, where do we go from here?  Will he be worth, when his contract comes due, say, 5 million dollars a year for five years? What if he finishes the season with 65 points and leads the team in that category—does that suddenly put him in an elite contractual category?

He is still a young player, in NHL terms.  But at 27, he is already in his theoretical prime as a professional player.  Will he keep getting better and better, or will he get a new contract and settle back into a more complacent style of game?

The way Grabovski is performing right now, he is almost the prototype of what the “new” post-lockout NHL was supposed to enable and promote:  smaller skill players who could make it in an environment with much less clutching and grabbing.  Players who use their speed, smarts and elusive skill set to compete successfully.  And he certainly fits that profile very well.

That said, his track record in terms of productivity is still lacking.  Just OK prior to this year, he has been very good for fifty games this season.  And while his performance has been awfully encouraging for Leaf fans, there is no guarantee he will be a highly productive player for years to come.

So here is the question:  do you see Grabbo as someone who will get better and better, or is he a one-year wonder, someone who has hit all the right notes and won’t have this type of success again?

Do the Leafs look, when the time comes, to extend or re-sign him, or is now the time to get max value for him in a trade?

 Send your comments along.          


  1. Right now, it's hard to argue against keeping him for the longer term, especially if the team closes out the season with more than 80 pts and Grabbo keeps up his scoring pace. I'd be more than happy to give him a deal for 4 or 5 years at some point in the off-season or even better, partway through next year, but it needs to be kept reasonable; on one of the five or ten best teams in the league, he would be a second line player, so 4.5 million is fair, I think.

  2. I'd take any decent offers for him. He very well may be a one-year wonder and I don't think you should build a team around him. That being said, the Leafs may need to keep him because they've got nobody to replace him with (unless another NHL forward comes back in the deal).

  3. I 2 was not a Grabbo backer at the beginning of the season. He has turned me. He has made me think about this Leaf team in general. I've always thought Grabbo had/has alot of flash and grit, but no finish. Well, now he is starting to finish ! Maybe he just needed time to develop and is now 'figuring it out' so to speak. I have to remind myself, the Leafs are a VERY young team. Take Schenn, many were ready to dump this guy last year. Well, he is certainly starting to figure it out isnt he ! Since Burke's hiring i have noticed a TON of off ice articles about management hirings, boosting the Marlies, hiring more scouts etc... Imho, Burke is putting a structure in place to develop players that will benefit this franchise for years to come. In the past the Leafs have been WAY to quick to give up on players and maybe Grabbo is a good sign...things are changing !

  4. I have liked Grabovski since I saw him with the Bulldogs. I think that he has matured and that what we are seeing is the real deal. He stays late after practice working on his game and it shows. I think it would be insane to trade a proven talent for a pick that may never amount to anything. If we can ever get a big number 1 center we should have a pretty potent top six.

  5. I've always liked Grabbo, he has qualities you would want in any player: unafraid to go into corners, taking punishment to make plays, sneaky moves, good passer, good shot. What makes him definitely a Leaf? He hates the Montreal Canadiens and always will! He has character and displays it in his play. It's a rare combination and he developed with the Leafs. Can't really ask for more than that.

  6. Under no circumstances should the Leafs let Grabbo go... he is hands down the most entertaining player on the team (even though this sounds like faint praise. Lets be honest here too, most of the recent criticism of Grabovski is entirely due to the fact that he's Belarusian. If his name was Mike Grenville, he'd be king of Toronto.

  7. Is he indispensable? At this point, absolutely. Where would the team be this season without him?

    My sense is he will continue to improve and will be consistent. Keep him at a reasonable price, which I think is possible because he likes the city and really likes being with Kulemin.

  8. Thanks to all those who commented on the Grabovski post. The sampling here suggests a majority of Leaf fans would prefer that the Leafs sign him as a future building block. Whatever one's perspective on what the future may hold for him, it's clear that he has been a major contributor so far this season.