Stupid team makes stupid move - Second best player to be bought out

Cam Charron
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.

But I do not like that the Toronto Maple Leafs bought out Mikhail Grabovski.

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.

Then this:

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.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 jasken
July 04 2013, 03:19PM
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@Badger M

There seems to be a nice list of potential teams interested in Bozak just not for 8 yrs. Here are some the Stars, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Calgary and Anaheim, Toronto is still in mix. With Grabo now out there 1 has to wonder how many teams will be trying to get him now.

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#2 Matt
July 04 2013, 11:49AM
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This is completely baffling.

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#3 Vancityleaffan
July 04 2013, 11:57AM
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I'm actually getting more mad as this has all sunk in over the past hour or so. Something makes me think that Randy is driving this bus more than Nonis. And unlike Sandra Bullock in Speed.....this bus isn't going to survive....

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#4 Starved
July 04 2013, 12:06PM
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Vancityleaffan wrote:

I'm actually getting more mad as this has all sunk in over the past hour or so. Something makes me think that Randy is driving this bus more than Nonis. And unlike Sandra Bullock in Speed.....this bus isn't going to survive....

If Nonis is letting Carlyle dictate his moves, it is still Nonis who is to blame. The buck stops at the GM.

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#5 caper7
July 04 2013, 12:09PM
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I always liked Grabo's plucky spirit but I never seen a guy do more work with such little results. LOL

We can debate this all we want but the fact is he is gone.

Obviously we have a signing or a trade in the works to be letting go of Grabo.

I think we should also try and move Liles for a bag of pucks. Even more cap then. Too much money tied up in him.

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#6 MaxPower417
July 04 2013, 12:17PM
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I'm furious. The only thing that can pacify me at this point is three under market value free agent contracts. I'm not holding my breath though.

If Bozak is brought back, I'll lose it.

Maybe Nonis is tanking now that the drought has been broken...

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#7 millzy09
July 04 2013, 12:22PM
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Grabo will put up 25 goals and 65 points next year as a 2c and stand in for a 1c.

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#8 robocop
July 04 2013, 12:29PM
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Whatever you say about Burke, he never gave up something of value for nothing in return. I was hoping that era would continue with Nonis, but it doesn't look optimistic with this move. Apparently the reactionary fanbase has gotten what it wanted. A bad omen for the future.

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#9 Thomas
July 04 2013, 01:00PM
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Two hours have passed, and I'm still mystified.

If this was done to re-sign Bozak for similar Grabz money and a longer term, plus open the vault for a player like Clarkson; I may be forced to re-think some things.

What games are Nonis and Carlyle watching? This may be the dumbest Leafs personnel move I've ever seen.

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#10 jasken
July 04 2013, 01:27PM
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I like Grabo's talent but being on ice for 5 of Boston's last 6 goals sealed his fate in play-offs. Nonis was trying to trade him no one offered leaving him 1 choice buy-out. The difference of looking at stat sheet and watching a game. Leafs want 2 way players and Grabo is not a 2 way player.

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#11 afk47
July 04 2013, 01:31PM
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There are only a few Leaf fans who did not like Grabovski while he was with the team, I am not one of them. But there is one thing that may justify this move: health. The team doctors may have diagnosed his intestinal issues as something that will prevent him from gaining back the weight he lost. It may also negatively impact his nutrition. I know he spent way too much time in the defensive zone this season, but the management may know something we don't. And if they figure it is likely that he is physically unable to be the player we knew two years ago then they did the right thing. I know it's hard right now, but we all need to chill. But... let's all rage quit if they re-sign Bozak, especially if it's for more than 3.5 million!

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#12 jasken
July 04 2013, 01:34PM
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This was not done to re-sign Bozak they have Bolland who will go right to the top line with kessel and jvr if Kadri regresses. Or a second line with Lupul now if they sign clarkson for 5 or 6 mil then it was a waste of a buyout. Re-sign clarke for 4 mil and worry about the bottom 6 and RFA with what they have left.

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#13 Badger M
July 04 2013, 01:39PM
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The optimist in me hates that your articles usually take a negative position on Leaf matters, but I can't even blame you for this article. What an idiotic move.

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#14 Brandon
July 04 2013, 01:49PM
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"All I can say is that Jonathan Bernier better be real, real good, because he'll be facing 35+ shots a game next season." Well, he was already going to face 35+ shots with the roster we had going into this summer. I really don't understand your point here.

I find it depressing coming here sometimes because straight statistics people are always so pessimistic in a sense, not really taking the intangibles into consideration most of the time. I'm not saying you're like this, but some of the articles here make me facepalm for a lack of a better term. This is Nonis' first summer, and while he may be obliterating the team as we speak (and I'm not saying his is, I rather consider otherwise), shouldn't we give him at least the opportunity that he rightfully deserves to let us see what he has planned. After all, he made Vancouver what it is today until Gillis came in and completely just annihilated the team that had everything. This was not even close to a stanley cup contending team, and even you said it Cam, that these ridiculous numbers in shots against and some player's shooting percentages were ridiculous and had to go down at some point. You practically wrote it out that last season was a lucky one. Which is why I don't fully comprehend the fact that you're the one leading the pack saying that Nonis isn't doing his job right changing the personnel. You're assuming he did this because he's taking Bozak back, while that might very well be true is not the case as of this point, so I don't see that as a very compelling reason to be upset with this move. A couple of articles ago you were ranting on how they had less than 20 mil to sign however many RFA's.

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#15 Brandon
July 04 2013, 02:03PM
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Grabovski is obviously a good player, but the indisputable fact remains that the Leafs did reasonably well this year with him playing a relatively minor role.

Given the general improvement of play by the Leafs in general this year (albeit in a shortened season), which coincided with a reduced role for Grabovski, I'm not sure I can agree that this is cataclysmic.

I don't know enough about hockey to understand why Grabovski wasn't played on the first line, but surely there's a reason that just about every Leaf article I've ever read has repeatedly noted that neither Bozak or Grabovski are number one centres.

We'll just have to wait and see

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#16 DarrylY
July 04 2013, 02:15PM
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@MaxPower417

Nonis is tanking for the player who was just drafted #1 overall in the draft?

Yeah, actually that sounds just about right given what we know of Nonis so far.

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#17 MaxPower417
July 04 2013, 02:29PM
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@DarrylY

Haha, I see you saw that before I got to the edit button. You must have had this page open a while before posting lol

But lmao yeah the way things are going I could see that plan up on a whiteboard at MLSE.

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#18 MaxPower417
July 04 2013, 02:29PM
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@DarrylY

double post

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#19 MaxPower447
July 04 2013, 02:33PM
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@DarrylY

Haha, I see you saw that before I got to the edit button? You must have had this page open a while before posting lol

But lmao yeah the way things are going I could see that plan up on a whiteboard at MLSE.

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#20 leafer4life
July 04 2013, 02:43PM
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I think this narrative needs to normalized with Corsi divided salary. Grabbo is good but for what he is paid I haven't seen he is worth the salary. The leafs can likely get his services for cheaper in the UFA market. They already have Bolland and now can get a cheaper option with shorter term for 2C.

Also first people complain the leafs are in a terrible cap situation. And then after he buy outs, that narrative disappears and become general anti Nonis narrative. This needs more #, data and analysis and less opinions and hit pieces imo.

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#21 DarrylJ
July 04 2013, 02:54PM
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Kaberle, Antropov, Poni, Hagman, Blake, and Moore were all productive, like Grabovski, on bad leafs teams. How have they done since?

To call Grabo our second best player is just plain ignorant. If he's so good, why was he untradeable?

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#22 Badger M
July 04 2013, 02:58PM
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Thank god that there are even stupider GMs than Nonis out there:

http://hfboards.hockeysfuture.com/showthread.php?t=1461843

THANK YOU FEASTER

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#23 Badger M
July 04 2013, 03:08PM
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Nvm it was fake :(

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#24 Jeremy Ian
July 04 2013, 03:30PM
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I was shocked too, at first. But this is only one side of an equation. We don't yet know what the model is. What we do know is that Grabbo was misplaced and overpaid in his role and there was no sign that they were preparing to reposition him. We might rail on at the injustice and ineptitude. But with Bolland, they now have their bona fide third liner. The issue now is that they need the bona fide first line C. Bozak is not that. If what comes of the next week is nothing, then this will look dreadful. (And if they sign B then maybe worse than dreadful). Then we can wail on about Nonis. My own view.

Cam, what do you think this means for Liles?

(For a little perspective, those of us who've been fans since the 1960s have seen a lot worse.... I was among those demonstrating at Maple Leafs Gardens when Lanny when to Calgary.... God help us if management descends to Ballard levels of idiocy).

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#25 jasken
July 04 2013, 03:44PM
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Jeremy Ian wrote:

I was shocked too, at first. But this is only one side of an equation. We don't yet know what the model is. What we do know is that Grabbo was misplaced and overpaid in his role and there was no sign that they were preparing to reposition him. We might rail on at the injustice and ineptitude. But with Bolland, they now have their bona fide third liner. The issue now is that they need the bona fide first line C. Bozak is not that. If what comes of the next week is nothing, then this will look dreadful. (And if they sign B then maybe worse than dreadful). Then we can wail on about Nonis. My own view.

Cam, what do you think this means for Liles?

(For a little perspective, those of us who've been fans since the 1960s have seen a lot worse.... I was among those demonstrating at Maple Leafs Gardens when Lanny when to Calgary.... God help us if management descends to Ballard levels of idiocy).

Watch Ballard destroy Leafs for spite and to prove something to Sittler was shameful, but worse was watching Rick Vaive, Steve Thomas and BoB McGill go for Al Secord and Ed Olczyk of many Ballard cost cutting moves to keep money in his pocket. Ballard was by no means an idiot he liked his riches and wanted to keep as much as he could lol.

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#26 Jeremy Ian
July 04 2013, 04:17PM
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jasken wrote:

Watch Ballard destroy Leafs for spite and to prove something to Sittler was shameful, but worse was watching Rick Vaive, Steve Thomas and BoB McGill go for Al Secord and Ed Olczyk of many Ballard cost cutting moves to keep money in his pocket. Ballard was by no means an idiot he liked his riches and wanted to keep as much as he could lol.

Jesus, don't remind us. Let's watch out lest we lower the bar for Nonis -- if this becomes the standard for our expectations. lol.

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#27 Jeremy Ian
July 04 2013, 04:17PM
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jasken wrote:

Watch Ballard destroy Leafs for spite and to prove something to Sittler was shameful, but worse was watching Rick Vaive, Steve Thomas and BoB McGill go for Al Secord and Ed Olczyk of many Ballard cost cutting moves to keep money in his pocket. Ballard was by no means an idiot he liked his riches and wanted to keep as much as he could lol.

Jesus, don't remind us. Let's watch out lest we lower the bar for Nonis -- if this becomes the standard for our expectations. lol.

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#28 m@
July 04 2013, 04:31PM
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Don't get me wrong... I respect what Grabovski does as a player. But let's be honest here - 5.5 million a year is rigodamndiculous. And if he's playing your 3rd line checking C role and making 5.5 - then that is just beyond contemptible. Bolland plays that checking C role(arguably better) for over two million less per.

However, I do agree that if Nonis does not retain a 1\2 C (not named Bozak) than this was unnecessary - and could have waited until next year. But let's all practice a little patience here.. so reactionary we leaf fans (even transplanted ones).

Nonis is in his first summer as GM - he's putting his stamp on this team. He may not value Corsi #'s as the be all and end all as is portrayed on TLN. Perhaps he disagreed with Burke on this contract. Maybe he wanted Nashville's 1st round pick instead. But he's an NHL GM and there's only 30 of them in the world. I trust his opinion more than anyone I'll read on here.. no offence.

And I agree with a few others here - we never get the whole story folks... even in this age of getting hit over the head every day with statistical epiphanies. Maybe as one poster mentioned - his health issues are more serious than suspected. Maybe he wasn't untradeable - maybe he's just unable to pass a physical at this point. Maybe he was caught snorting rails off the custom "Burn the Boats... and a match" toilet tanks. Maybe he was soooo nice that it freaked people out. He may even be a huge prick... we just don't know.

Lastly, calling this move borderline racist is a tad over the top - don't you think? The move has everything to do with 5.5 million per... and maybe it's about even more than that.

But it's certainly not about Grabo's accent.

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#29 Justin
July 04 2013, 06:14PM
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Wait Leafs fans actually think before today Grabovski is their 2nd best player? Not even top 4 best forward.

Kessel, Kadri, Lupul, JVR way ahead of him.

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#30 Mironov's Nose
July 04 2013, 08:02PM
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Sometimes I wonder if half the commenters here even read the articles.

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#31 m@
July 04 2013, 08:24PM
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Wow... with some of the comments on here you'd think the Leafs had bought out Gretzky!

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#32 whichonespink
July 04 2013, 10:08PM
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If Nono did this so we could sign Weiss, then he should be fired. This move following the Bernier trade just doesn't make sense. He better have one humdinger of a trade lined up to fill this cap space. Like Travares or someone as good. Also, why isn't Bernier signed? Usually these RFA's trades happen and the player signs fairly quickly. I think he's less than thrilled with Toronto and wants to be the undisputed number one goaler.

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#33 robocop
July 05 2013, 12:55AM
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I sincerely hope that Nonis has something better than Weiss, Bozak or Clarkson planned. Grabo is better than all of them from what I have seen. Nonis is making lots of changes considering our last season was the most successful in a long time.

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#34 mike
July 05 2013, 03:56AM
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2nd Best Player on the Leafs....really, u think he's better than Lupul and JVR. He was making 5.5 million a year playing the 3rd line. Kadri surpassed him as the 2nd line centre.

Look, I was surprised (not shocked) he was bought out too. I thought they may wait till next year, but signing him to that contract was mistake by Burke and Nonis corrected it. They tried trading HIM at the draft and guess what, NOBODY was interested.

I'm looking forward to see who the Leafs get today.

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#35 Owen
July 05 2013, 07:09AM
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I'm a Grabo guy. Wasnt always the case, but he won me over when he grew up after the Olympics incident in Vancouver. With the emergence of Kadri, there was never going to be a fit down the middle on the top 2 lines, but why he was never tried on the wing I'll never understand. Re the buyout, I'm taking a wait and see approach. That cap had better be put to good use. We'll know soon enough.

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#36 Capers
July 05 2013, 08:08AM
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I am not really sure what all the fuss is about!! Garbo only plays 100% when he feels like it and he is not worth the contract whether they sign Bozak or not!! The huge mistake was made when they signed him to that crazy contract. Sometimes you have to take a chance but this $6m contract did not make Garbo want to earn it, more like the opposite happened. He was a liability in every game against the bruins, not a guy you want to keep paying that kinda money to!!! Kadri is the future number 1 in Toronto as long as he keeps improving and I for one believe 2013-14 will be his breakout year!! Garbo should be sent too the Habs because they love players that play great for the first half of the season and then disappear when the season gets important!!!!

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