How drastically things have changed for Mikhail Grabovski over the course of one year.
The 30-year-old Belarusian was not too happy about it. He vented his anger to Jonas Siegel of TSN.ca the very next day:
Of course I feel [expletive] sad. I played [expletive] five years here. I'm supposed to feel upset about that. I loved it [here]. Toronto fans are one of the best fans in the world...I play in the [expletive] Russian KHL, I make lots of [expletive] points and what's going to happen? He make me [expletive] play on the fourth line and he put me in the playoffs on the fourth line and third line again. Yeah, I don't score goals. I need to work more about that. I know that. But if you feel support from your coach [you'll find success]. I don't feel any support from this [expletive] idiot...
It's safe to say that Grabovski did not think former Capitals head coach Adam Oates was an...idiot. After all, Oates immediately placed Grabovski on the second line, although he was moved down to the third line before getting injured.
According to LeftWingLock.com, Grabovski appeared on the second line with Troy Brouwer and Eric Fehr for 4.29 percent of the Capitals' even-strength ice time throughout the regular season, and he appeared on the third line with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward for 4.56 percent of that time. Those two lines were the Capitals' fourth and third most frequent even-strength line combinations, respectively.
Regardless of where he played, Grabovski remained productive whenever he was on the ice. He finished sixth on the team in goals with 13, seventh in assists with 22 and seventh in points with 35. Additionally, Grabovski was one of only seven Capitals players to finish as a plus player, checking in at second on the team with a plus/minus rating of plus-six.
Finally, Grabovski had the highest faceoff win percentage on the team at 54.0 percent (minimum 400 faceoffs), while also ranking sixth on the team in power-play goals, power-play points and power-play time on ice per game.
Despite the injury, Grabovski did more than enough to show the Capitals that they made the right move by letting Mike Ribeiro walk, then signing Grabovski.
Now, the Washington Capitals can end their seemingly endless search for a second-line center by signing Mikhail Grabovski to a long-term deal this offseason.
But for how much? And for how long?
For starters, Grabovski made $3 million in 2013-14 with a cap hit to match. As a comparison, the Capitals' first-line center (Nicklas Backstrom) will earn $6.5 million in 2014-15 and is signed through 2019-20. With Backstrom's deal as a measuring stick and keeping in mind that the Capitals currently have $14.93 million in cap space, Washington should offer Grabovski a contract worth around $4.5 million per season for at least three years.
But is he worth the investment when analyzing the "fancy stats"? In other words, does he drive possession?
Of Corsi does.
Quick, distract yourself from that gratuitous hockey pun by studying the following table:
|Fancy Stats: Grabovski vs Caps Forwards & Team (Min. 40 Games)|
|Corsi For Percentage, Relative||+4.0%||1st||3rd|
|Fenwick For Percentage, Relative||+2.7%||1st||3rd|
|Shots For Percentage, Relative||+4.0%||1st||3rd|
|Goals For Percentage, Relative||+13.8%||1st||1st|
|Shooting Percentage, Relative||+1.9%||3rd||3rd|
Someone in the Capitals front office must have been paying attention to these numbers. Perhaps it was owner Ted Leonsis, who often refers to "analytics" in his blog, Ted's Take.
Whatever the case, Washington is apparently interested in re-signing Grabovski, as tweeted by Washington Post Sports:
As a follow-up to that report, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post spoke to Grabosvki's agent, Gary Greenstin, on the telephone the following day. Greenstin said, “I believe [management has] interest in Grabo. We have interest to stay in Washington. We’ll see what’s happening.”
What's happening is that new GM Brian MacLellan is mulling it over, along with several other moves. MacLellan spoke to Prewitt about the topic on June 16:
We’re working through that right now. We’ve been in contact with his agent a few times. We liked the job Grabovski did for us last year, but we’re also balancing what we’re going to do with our roster and the dollars we’re spending on our roster. I think one of the priorities for me is to upgrade our defense. Depending on the cost of that and overall cap room, we’ll make a decision on Grabovski.
Capitals fans can at least find comfort in knowing that MacLellan has his priorities in order. However, he must be careful not to undo one major success that his predecessor was able to achieve while he is in the process of correcting that same individual's most glaring oversight while general manager of the Washington Capitals.