What the Bolland Acquisition Means for Grabovski
This past Sunday at the 2013 NHL draft the Maple Leafs made a trade for Centre Dave Bolland, who is fresh off his second Stanley Cup championship. The trade addressed a key need for the Maple Leafs, a centre with size and physicality who has proven to be a clutch performer. Bolland may have only had 6 points in the playoffs but 3 of those came in the last 3 games of the Stanley Cup Final. Perhaps the acquisition has no greater effect than on current Maple Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski.
Under Coach Randy Carlyle, Grabovski saw some hard defensive minutes and not a whole lot of quality offensive situations. With Dave Bolland slotted in for the third line defensive role this frees up Grabovski to regain his spot as a top 2 centre with the club.
As the Bozak situation continues to develop it is becoming more clear that the two sides remain far apart and barring any huge turnaround does not look like they will get a deal done before he hits free agency July 5th. If Bozak does leave the team Toronto has a hole in the top 2 centres that Grabovski previously filled.
Barring the Leafs making a play for a top two centre such as Vinny Lecavalier, it appears as though Carlyle and Nonis will head into next season with Grabovski slotted in as a top 2 centre. With Kadri pushing boundaries for more responsibilities next season it seems like the top 4 centre positions will look like:
Toronto has Joe Colborne waiting in the wings and could see some time on the wing or filling in at centre for the big club if there is an injury.
During the 2013 NHL playoffs it seemed as though Grabovski had won over the confidence of Carlyle as he saw an increased role. Grabovski ranked 3rd amongst Leafs forwards in the playoffs averaging 19:06 of ice per game. Despite getting just 2 assists and being a -10 Grabovski used his speed and playmaking abilities to create offensive opportunities and wear down the Bruins defenseman.
Anyone who watched the Maple Leafs last season were well aware of Gravoski’s reduced offensive role with the club. He averaged 15:16 per game and had just 16 points in 48 games. Grabovski has proven himself as a reliable faceoff man and was 2nd on the Leafs with a 50.6 % success rate.
The question remains are the Maple Leafs confident enough in Grabovski to rely on him as a top two centre for a full 82 schedule, or will they pursue other options. If Toronto does move to pursue a centre it will make Grabovski and his $5.5 M cap hit expandable.