24 GP: 3 G, 6 A, 9 Pts, 8 PIM, -4, 23 Shots
Career best year - 2007-08
24 GP: 3 G, 6 A, 9 Pts, 8 PIM, -4, 23 Shots
Plays of the game: 3
Game pucks: 1
3 Star selections: 0
Where he started the season
Making the big club in October still seemed like it was going to be out of reach for Grabo, but an impressive preseason left our management with no other choice than to put him on our opening day roster. The problem had always been where would we fit in another small centre? Believe it or not, however, it wasn't Plekanec who was centering Kovalev and Kostitsyn in October, it was Mikhail. He was given an enormous chance as he had just bumped Tomas to #3 centre (something Carbo has been trying to do for years). Unlike other players who have to play their way off the team before Gainey will ever move them, Grabovski had to perform to remain with the team or it would be back to Hamilton for the Belarussian.
He didn't really blow anyone out of the water early in the season and he was soon moved to the third line and was making more frequent press-box appearances as the season went on. His play in his first 12 games was at times spectacular, but he was failing to put up the numbers we would expect from a top-6 forward. In those 12 games he was -5 and scored just 1 goal to go along with 1 assist. It was off to Hamilton for the 23 (almost 24) year old and he maybe had just hit a wall in his NHL dream. To make matters worse for poor Mik he got himself injured almost immediately upon his return to Hamilton.
Something happened, though, once he was healthy, something that Bob couldn't ignore - he started lighting up the AHL. During the months of January and February Grabo was Hamilton's best player by far and probably even the best in the league. His exceptional play earned him a late February call-up and that is when we saw a different player. In his last 12 games of the season he was +1 and scored 2 goals and added 5 assists - he was a changed player. His play was exciting, it was dynamic and he definitely played a role in our bid to win the conference as we were 8-3-1 in those last 12 games he played for us. Sadly Carbo decided to go with 'experience' and age in the playoffs rather than speed and skill (the 2 areas in which we clearly held an advantage over Philly and Boston) so Mik didn't see any playoff action. When we couldn't find the back of the net to get to the third round there were quite a few people wondering why we left out such a dangerous offensive weapon.
Grabovski by the numbers: N/A (why we're not sure...)
Lions' links on Grabovski:
From Belarus With Love
We used to be Lions in Winter
2006 to 2008: Strides Ahead
Grabovski didn't have the type of season that the Kostitsyn's had, but it wasn't a failure either. He showed a lot of determination after his mid-season demotion to go to Hamilton and put up the numbers that he did. To me that shows a winning attitude, it shows a certain mentality that can't be taught and to me he epitomizes the type of player we want on this team. He didn't give up, he fought and he won. It did, however, become more and more obvious that there isn't too much room for him on our team. He will never be a checking line forward and as long as he plays centre he will have to be one of our top 3. He proved by the end of the year that he can fill the role as 3rd line centre, but it seems like the team has different ideas for that spot as they looked to players like Smolinski, Lapierre and Begin to play that spot in the playoffs.
Where we'd have him next season
There has been much speculation that we would lose Grabovski to the Russian league this summer and the more I think of it, the more it makes sense. I would hate to lose a player of his calibre, but with the recent addition of Tanguay and the team still looking for another top-6 forward I find it hard to believe that this player would earn a spot. At 24 years old I am pretty sure the team will let him walk as he is slowly distancing himself from the title of prospect. It would be a shame to lose Grabo as I believe you can never have enough offensive potential, but if you look at the numbers it is clear that only 2 of him and the Kostitsyns will make the team and after the season and playoffs that those two had I would say it is a stretch. Mikhail is a restricted free agent so don't be surprised at all if by July 1st he does not have a contract. Like Perezhogin before him he will be able to go to Russia and make way better money and play way more hockey.