Beleaguered Belarusian: Is Mikhail Grabovski Pushing His Luck With The Leafs?

Jon Neely@@iamjonneelyAnalyst IFebruary 24, 2010

TORONTO - NOVEMBER 23:  Mikhail Grabovski #84 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets hit by Brendan Witt #32 of the New York Islanders during game action November 23, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

After yet another incident involving Mikhail Grabovski of the Toronto Maple Leafs in Vancouver over the weekend, it might be time for Leafs GM Brian Burke to take a look at just how effective this seemingly troubled player is for the team.

The injured forward spoke to the media for the first time today since being arrested and then released after an alleged bar fight downtown Vancouver while watching his Belarusian men's team play. His English is limited, but he had no comment on the situation and told reporters if they had questions to ask somebody else.

Sure, that's what they'll do.

Grabovski hasn't played in a game for Team Belarus because of his ongoing recovery of a broken wrist he suffered during a Leafs game earlier in the season, thus being forced to watch the 5-3 win over Germany from a bar stool around the corner.

No word on whether the fight took place prior to the end of the game, but we're pretty sure he was aware his team won.

Which begs the question why he was fighting at all, but that wouldn't be the first time that question was asked in connection with Grabovski, who has been a part of a few puzzling fights in his NHL career—mostly with members of his own team.

It started with his former Montreal Canadiens teammates, and current Belarusian teammates, the Kostitsyn brothers, Sergei and Andrei. The much talked about rivalry between the brothers and Grabovski really took flight after his trade to the Leafs last season.

Rumours were flying that the Habs wanted to get rid of Grabovski because he didn't fit in well with the team and was more of a problem to the team than anything, and it was clear he was not a favourite of the team once he was gone, especially of the brothers.

There was talk from both sides in the media about the hatred between the fellow countrymen but it all boiled over in a mid-season game in Montreal last season. It was a 6-2 blowout for the Habs and late in the game Grabovski became so enraged with the youngest brother, Sergei that he tried to shove linesman Scott Cherrey out of the way to get at him before sarcastically waving to the opposing crowd as he was shown off the ice.

The push warranted him a three-game suspension and only fueled the bitterness between the players, just like their days in the schoolyard no doubt.

"If Sergei wants to fight, we'll go in the street and every minute of every day I'll wait for him and we'll fight," said Grabo following the game. He clearly wasn't following the old "leave it on the ice" cliché so often spoken of in hockey; this was pure hatred.

Most fans shrugged off the war of words and simply enjoyed the battle from afar, believing that the problems with the Habs were a thing of the past, and that he would gel with his new club in Toronto.

That seemed to be the case early on, but soon his bad behavior caught up with him once again in the Leafs' dressing room. He was involved in at least one scuffle during practice with former Leaf, Jason Blake, before the American winger was traded to the Anaheim Ducks.

Coach Ron Wilson simply scoffed at the altercations not paying much attention to them at all. But the problems with teammates continued in November earlier this season when he was involved with defenseman Francois Beauchemin during practice.

During a stretch the two were talking when suddenly Grabovski grabbed the defenders visor and landed a punch in before the two were broken up by coaching staff. Again the fight was brushed aside by Wilson who compared it to brothers fighting in an everyday family.

Talk of brothers never seems to be far from this Maple Leaf.

Since the beginning of last season the only common denominator with all problems in the Leafs dressing room has been Grabovski. Sure, the minuscule tussles didn't cause any major problems of any sort. No lines were drawn, no sides picked, but the multiple issues with this one player has to have raised at least a few eyebrows of his teammates.

When Grabovski and the Kostitsyn brothers were all named to the Belarus Olympic team many wondered how the three would co-mingle while once again playing together. The questions were short lived after Grabo's arm injury ended his chances at playing, but it shouldn't be overlooked that the only type of news surrounding the young Leaf seems to be negative.

He has played 120 games with the Leafs, scoring 27 goals and 73 points in that time rotating through different lines as a steady faceoff man. He certainly is not the first-line center the Leafs have been looking for, but since the problems with the law - to put it politely—that the 26-year-old ran into in Vancouver, the question should be asked whether he's a player the team needs at all.

With the trade deadline fast approaching and the problems only continuing with the young Leaf, you've got to wonder whether Burke has had enough of the antics, never one to shy away from getting rid of a player he wasn't happy with.

It's probably unlikely anyone will take that bait and trade for Grabovski once the Olympics are over and the roster freeze is up, but Burke cannot be happy with his player doing more in the bar than he is on the ice.

This latest incident may be the final straw for the problematic Grabovski in Toronto who could be on his way out of Toronto the first chance that arises.

The problem for Grabovski is he's running out of references on his list when looking for a new employer.