July 04 2013 11:40AM
I did not grow up a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. I am from Vancouver, and grew up cheering for the local hockey team here, until about two years ago I just felt not that into cheering for a team anymore, and began watching a lot of other teams.
I enjoy covering the Toronto Maple Leafs for theleafsnation dot com. I like the early start times that allow me to finish work on a game night and still have time to get a bite to eat or a drink. I like that there is an expansive, intelligent fanbase that is fun to interact with. I like the fact that the Leafs for the most part played an entertaining style of hockey, and they've scored a lot of goals over the last few seasons, led by Phil Kessel, one of the game's best and most entertaining players.
There is no reason for me to have an emotional attachment to the Maple Leafs, because unlike the majority of readers here, I did not grow up in Southern Ontario with the same passion for this hockey team. Given the team's lack of success over the past decade, I can understand why the city exploded during the team's brief, yet heartwrenching playoff run. This team was fun. They have the blue-est of collars and the underdoggiest team in the first round, and it was easy to cheer for them to upset Boston. Damnit, they nearly managed it.
With the Grabo buyout, Leafs can load on up David Clarkson perhaps, possibly re-sign Tyler Bozak, lots of options for them.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) July 4, 2013
Like most insiders, I respect the work that Lebrun does with his reporting, but I have no clue how anybody can watch both Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski side-by-side and determine that Bozak, not Grabovski, is the one worth keeping.
For two years, Mikhail Grabovski, Nik Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur were one of the best second lines in hockey. Not only did they drive play and get all the Corsis that the nerds love, but they also scored a bunch of goals, which seems like an important aspect of the game.
In 2012, the possession numbers of Maple Leafs players was correlated to the amount of ice time they spent with Grabovski. Grabovski was always a much better first line option for Phil Kessel, because Grabovski and Kessel worked so well together which was obvious to everybody except to the people running the Leafs. He still had just four fewer points than
Grabovski Bozak despite starting shifts almost exclusively in the defensive zone. In the playoffs, people seemed to be surprised that a more offensive unit of him, Nik Kulemin and James van Riemsdyk were *gasp* looking dangerous.
And we got this:
In fact, between 2010 and 2012, Grabovski, MacArthur and Kulemin were ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th on the Maple Leafs in scoring. The team is sending the 2nd and 3rd player on that team to unrestricted free agency, because Dave Nonis does not have a clue what he is doing.
Usually, I'll wait a while to make a judgment about a general manager, but this is an inexcusable move by Nonis unless there is somehow a way to trade for a centreman who is even better than Grabovski. He won't, and this money will be definitely useless as it could take three or four years to find somebody in the system that progresses to be as good as Mikhail Grabovski was.
The local and national media's preference to Bozak over Grabovski is certainly borne out of xenophobia, because the vast majority of hockey writers are old, straight, white males that prefer people that talk and act like them, unless they act like a stereotype like the Blue Jays' Munenori Kawasaki. Grabovski is visibly more talented than Bozak. Grabovski is better at scoring and puck possession. Grabovski speaks English a little worse than Bozak, and that makes all the difference. Perhaps this is why Ron Wilson and Randy Carlyle both put Bozak on the first line and not Grabovski.
With the $5.5-million in cap space that the Maple Leafs save from buying out their second best player, Dave Nonis will not get a centreman as good as Mikhail Grabovski unless there is a player on the market we don't know.
I wasn't a Leafs fan growing up, but I am still very angry at this move. This is not something that good hockey teams do, and I would prefer the Maple Leafs to be a good hockey team. This is a bad move that bad hockey teams make.
This is stupid.
All I can say is that Jonathan Bernier better be real, real good, because he'll be facing 35+ shots a game next season.