Why Mikhail Grabovski Is Capitals' Biggest X-Factor for 2013-14 Season

Robert WoodCorrespondent ISeptember 15, 2013

Feb 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski (84) during the pre game warm up  against the Buffalo Sabres at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

Mikhail Grabovski is the Washington Capitals' biggest X-factor for the 2013-14 season. 

Thank you, Captain Obvious. 

The 29-year-old forward was signed by the Capitals on Aug. 23, according to a team press release. Upon signing Grabovski, Caps GM George McPhee stated that “Mikhail adds speed and offense to our lineup, and we are very pleased to have him sign with the Capitals. We believe he will be an excellent addition to our club." 

Grabovski better be an excellent addition to the Capitals' power-play unit. Washington led the NHL during the 2012-13 season with a power-play percentage of 26.8. The Caps' power play was spearheaded by Mike Ribeiro and his 27 power-play points, which tied for the league lead in that category. However, Ribeiro joined the Phoenix Coyotes in the offseason. 

Grabovski will now be expected to play the role of Ribeiro on the Capitals' power play.

But can Grabovski handle the job? 

Take a look at the table below to see how Grabovski's power-play stats compare with those of Mike Ribeiro during the 2012-13 season and over the course of their careers: 

Filling Ribeiro's shoes will be a tall order for Grabovski, to say the least. And there's little margin for error: the success of the Capitals' power play depends on him.  

That's it though, right?  

Not so fast. The success of all four lines of Capitals forwards will also depend on Grabovski.

Hold on a second. How is that possible? Grabovski only plays on one line at a time. 

Correct. But Grabovski's success or failure on his assigned line will create a domino effect for the other three lines. 

Ouch. No pressure, Grabo. 

You see, Grabovski is the second-line center, a position that has been the source of much consternation for every Capitals head coach since Bruce Boudreau. Therefore, all the uncertainty associated with the second-line center will disappear if Grabovski plays his part.

Watch how everything falls into place, starting with Grabovski: 

  1. Mikhail Grabovski successfully centers second line, establishing rapport with Troy Brouwer and Martin Erat. 
  2. Nicklas Backstrom stays on first line, centering potent trio of himself, Alex Ovechkin and Marcus Johansson. 
  3. Brooks Laich moves to third line to play his preferred position of left wing, free from responsibilities of playing second-line center. 
  4. Mathieu Perreault continues to center third line, maintaining chemistry of Capitals' secret weapon during 2012-13 season. 
  5. Jay Beagle remains in lineup and centers fourth line, where he is best suited to play. 
  6. Capitals' forward depth becomes an asset, not a liability. 
  7. Washington's offense flourishes as a result. 

But all that falls apart if Grabovski doesn't pull his weight.  

You hear that Mikhail? No pressure, buddy. None whatsoever. Welcome to Washington, by the way. 


Note: All statistics courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise.