Monday, February 14, 2011

The Canucks Did Not Give Up On Michael Grabner

From the I-Can't-Believe-This-Has-to-Be-Said Files:

Michael Grabner is having a fabulous rookie season for the New York Islanders. The former Canuck is now leading the New York Islanders in goalscoring, but that's not quite eye-opening enough. How's this: with his hattrick last night, Michael Grabner now has more goals than Alex Ovechkin, Jarome Iginla, and Patrick Marleau. He's currently tied with Logan Couture for the most goals amongst rookies, has a five-game goalscoring streak, and has helped the Islanders to three straight wins with 7 goals in those victories.

It is at this point that Canucks fans and media start to take notice, pointing out that Grabner would be third in goals on the Canucks, just 5 behind Daniel Sedin. Heck, he has more than twice as many goals as Mason Raymond, the Canuck he is most often compared to. And so, there are a few people inclined to ask the question, "Why did the Canucks give up on Michael Grabner?" One such person, unsurprisingly, is Brad Ziemer, who goes so far as to say that "giving up on Grabner [was] a big...mistake."

It's not just that it's a dumb question; it's a flawed question. The entire premise is completely and totally wrong. The Canucks did not "give up"on Grabner.

It's called a trade. You give something, you get something. Trading a player is not giving up on a player. Giving up on a player would be something like waiving him with the knowledge that another team will likely pick him up. Like what Florida did. The Canucks, on the other hand, recognized his value, but put more stock in shoring up their depth on defense, an area that has hurt the Canucks in recent years.

The Canucks are currently leading the NHL in goals scored. A pure goalscorer like Michael Grabner is not what they need. The Canucks are currently missing 3 of their regular top-six defensemen. Depth on defense is what they need. Is this a hard concept to understand? The Canucks traded away something they didn't need for something they do need.

Would it be nice to still have Grabner? Of course. He showed decent chemistry with Kesler and Raymond last season and would have been a nice fit on the second line. Do the Canucks particularly miss Grabner? No. Did they make the trade with the understanding that he had the potential to score 30+ goals in the NHL? Yes.

To be fair to Canucks fans, they have been particularly ruthless to Ziemer on this topic, but for the wrong reasons. They instead say that Grabner is getting an opportunity with the Islanders that he wouldn't have in Vancouver, which is only partially true. Grabner is averaging only 14:03 per night on the island, which is about right for a borderline second line player getting mostly third line minutes. He's barely getting any powerplay time and only 1 of his 24 goals was on the powerplay. Quite frankly, he could easily be playing in the same spot that Jeff Tambellini has filled this season, moving up to the second line at times and filling in on the third and fourth lines as needed. Unlike the situation with Brendan Morrison at center, the Canucks don't have a logjam of wingers that would have prevented Grabner from finding a spot.

But that completely misses the point: the Canucks did not give up on Michael Grabner. They traded him. There is a distinct difference. They traded away a valuable asset for a different type of valuable asset and I am certain that Mike Gillis does not consider it a mistake. I don't either.


  1. Amen.


    Grabner may be a +9 right now ( helped by his scoring ), but back checking and getting in on the forecheck were never his strong suits.

    He is a shooter...

    I am still happy with Tambellini in that spot. He plays a 200' game and gets praised by the coach for it, unlike a certain Austrian that used to make AV pull his hair out in that regard.

  2. One thing: Grabner's recent success HAS coincided with an increased TOI. True, his season average is low, but he started the season on the 4th line. In the last three games, he averaged 18:40, including two games where he played over 20 minutes. Perspective: The reigning Hart trophy winner averages fewer than 20 minutes per game.

    That said, Gillis chose Raymond over Grabner, and comparing the two side by side, most sane people would make the same choice, even despite the stats discrepancy right now. Grabner doesn't fit into the bottom six and doesn't make the top six. I'm interested to see how many goals he'd have scored from the press box.

  3. The Canucks didn't give up on Grabner - Florida did. Remember - we *traded* Grabner, they *waived* him.

  4. Qris, he had two games above 20:00, but for the most part he's still getting around 15-17 minutes a night. He scored his hattrick last night in 15:03 TOI.

  5. Nice breakdown yet again... Thanks for your help with our collective sanity.

  6. Great read, thank you.

  7. Excellent work.

    And I have figured out why I'm addicted to PITB, and why I find myself having to read every morning, and jonesing after every game: PITB, you guys help me order the hockey-talk portion of my frontal lobe. Cheers.

  8. Biggest mistake = Florida dumping him.
    Though, I am wondering if Florida asked for Grabner or if Gillis bargained and offered Grabner.

    It is impossible to call it a mistake because we do not know the details of the transaction, but if Florida waived him I would assume these scenarios: a.) Grabner is what they wanted, but when they got him he didn't click b.) they wanted someone else, but got low-balled into something they didn't want as much c.) they wanted someone whose contract could be dumped

    Also, I would not suggest that trading someone is not giving up on a player. Look no further than the team you write about, the NYI. How many guys have they traded away, aka Luongo??? Clearly gave up on him for DiPietro.

  9. I was having this same argument with a colleague today! This link is now in his inbox, thank you!

  10. @Skeeter

    Still, around November we're looking at 10-13 minutes per game. Looking at box scores, his ice time's been pretty sporadic, but whenever he's produced, his ice time has shot up, which no doubt contributes to his natural streakiness.

    During October he had a few 15 minute outings, and during the season his ice time has fluctuated wildly -- 16-minute games followed by 11-minute games -- but overall in November and October his median ice time has been 13:13. His maximum was 16:36 and his minimum was 10:13.

    In February, his 15:06 last game was his lowest of the month. He had two games where he played over 20 minutes. His median ice time in February is 17:39. His maximum was 20:43.

    Clearly, his ice time has improved. I've no doubt that his linemates have improved with it. In fact, I know it, cause now he's playing the second line with Nielsen and Okposo. He's earned his spot there, but he wouldn't be getting the chances he's getting now, in Vancouver.

    @Richard J

    When the deal first came out, it was made clear that Grabner was a necessary component. As far as Florida was concerned, Grabner or no deal.

  11. Ballard's inconsistency has made this trade more disappointing than giving up Grabner. The guy is our second highest paid d-man and only manages to play like a 5th/6th d-man on most days. Couple that with the fact that his salary hurts the likelihood of retaining some of our better d-men in Ehrhoff and Bieksa and you have multiple reasons as a Canucks fan to be less than happy with the trade, not even worrying about how Grabner is doing.

    But I'm glad to see Grabner having some success, he showed some signs that he could be a good top 6 guy last season and he's further cementing that. It's nice to see a guy that started on your team play well, even if he's not on your team anymore.

  12. @Anonymous

    Ballard has not been inconsistent. That's a myth. He's playing like a 5th/6th defenseman because he's getting minutes like a 5th/6th defenseman. When he's been given more minutes, he's performed very well. The Canucks are just blessed with a remarkably deep defensive corps, which means he ends up further down the lineup.

  13. He's been very inconsistent...I don't see how anyone who has watched all the games could say otherwise. The reason he gets 5/6 ice time is because he has been outplayed by Edler/Ehrhoff/Bieksa/Hamhuis the majority of the season....what's really the myth is that AV hates him and his lack of ice time is due to that.

    Ballard's lack of ice time is due to spotty play, plain and simple.


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