A longstanding legend of the Islander dynasty era is that when Al Arbour was asked by Bill Torrey at the 1977 NHL Draft whether to select Mike Bossy, who had a reputation as a goal-scorer but supposedly avoided physical play, he said yes. "I can teach a player to check," Arbour said. "I can't teach him to score goals."
Recently a Canuck fan defended his team's decision to trade Michael Grabner, their 2006 14th overall first round pick, to Florida as part of the trade for Keith Ballard (mainly distinguished for nearly killing then teammate Tomas Vokoun). His argument was that Grabner was not big or physical enough and was poor defensively.
This brought the Arbour quote to mind. True goal scorers are not that easy to find. When you find one, it makes more sense to teach him to check than to trade him for a rather unimpressive defenseman and hope one of your other prospects can learn how to score goals.
It has become quite popular to mock Islander general manager Garth Snow. In fact, it seems that every time the Islanders are mentioned in the news, the writer finds a way to mock Snow and owner Charles Wang. This has been especially true during the recent Nabakov saga.
Well, Snow may yet have the last laugh. When Montreal refused to pay Mark Streit top defenseman money, Snow signed him. Now Streit has a deserved reputation as one of the NHL's best defensemen. With Andrei Markov's recurring injury problems, you can bet the Habs wish they had that choice back.
When Snow signed Matt Moulson in the summer of 2009 after the LA Kings refused to re-sign him, a Kings beat writer assured me that Moulson had "nothing." A year and a half later, Snow has just signed Moulson to a three-year extension as Moulson is on his way to a second straight 30-goal season playing on John Tavares' left wing.
Meanwhile, the once promising Kings now look like they may miss the playoffs in part because they are unable to get goal production from the left wing position.
The Canucks are doing quite well this season, but then their problem has not been the regular season. Doing well in the playoffs has been their real challenge. They may get over the hump this year, but it bears pointing out that their past playoff struggles have been partly due to poor goal production—and that Grabner would now be the third highest goal scorer on their team. Wonder if they'll miss Grabs in the second season this year.
By the way, on a team with a minus-43 goal differential, Grabs is a plus-2. Guess someone taught him how to check. That would put a smile on old Al's face!
Yeah, that Garth Snow, he doesn't know a thing about hockey. Sure.