Insult To Injury: Grabovski's Loss Will Hurt Belarus More Than Toronto

Jon NeelyAnalyst IJanuary 4, 2010

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 07:  Mikhail Grabovski #84 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Detroit Red Wings at the Air Canada Centre on November 7, 2009 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It's bad enough when you're the biggest underdog going into the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. It's worse when one of the four NHL players named to your team gets injured and won't be able to play for the team.

But this is the case for Belarus and Mikhail Grabovski, who was looking forward to taking part in the Olympics on a team that will need all the help it can get.

Grabovski suffered a fractured wrist during the first period of Saturday night's game in Calgary and is expected to be out six weeks. He was hit hard as he cut across the ice and immediately knew something was wrong as he left the ice.

He has had an up and down season with the Maple Leafs and is currently fifth in scoring on the team with 25 points. He has had difficulty finding his spot in the lineup, being tossed around different line combinations before finding himself on the fourth line in the past two weeks.  

He seemed frustrated by his own play as well as by what Coach Ron Wilson had been saying about his play, but the coach was right in what he said; Grabo hasn't been what he needs to be for the Leafs.

The Leafs will miss his face-off ability as he has been the best on the team this season, but his absence will most likely be a minor blip for the team. It will merely open the door for one of the younger players from the Marlies to get a chance with the big club.

As for Belarus, the news is like getting kicked while it's down.

As a team with essentially no shot at winning a medal in Vancouver, Belarus basically just fills a spot in the tournament and becomes fodder for teams like Canada, Sweden and the U.S.

Losing one of its NHL players makes it even worse, if that's possible, for a team that will struggle scoring a goal, never mind winning a game.

Grabovski was to join his two rivals from the Montreal Canadiens, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, as well as Colorado Avalanche defenseman, Ruslan Salei, on Team Belarus, but he will have to let that opportunity pass.

The biggest story going into Vancouver for Belarus was going to be how the team would be able to deal with the rift between the Kostitsyn brothers and Grabovski, a story that no doubt would have been interesting to Leafs and Habs fans as well.

Unfortunately, it will never be able to develop.

Grabovski, who was a member of the Canadiens until he was traded to the Leafs last season, was said to have a major issue with the brothers while playing with them in Montreal, and it continued in each of the team's meetings since then.

Some may say the injury fixes that problem for the team, but there is no way Belarus wants to sacrifice NHL talent over three players who don't get along.

In the end, the injury will hardly affect where Belarus would have finished in the tournament, as one player for the team is nowhere near enough to compete with the juggernauts it'll be playing against. For the fans of the game though, it's tough to see a team that never really stood a chance go through such bad luck.

I wonder what the Kostitsyns are thinking right now.

Talk about "a penny for your thoughts."