Is Mikhail Grabovski a good replacement for Mike Ribeiro?
He's a great improvement.
For the first time since Sergei Fedorov's reigh as the second line centerman, the Washington Capitals enjoyed a year where Mike Ribeiro helped carry the team through the first half of the season, racking up points and getting the Caps on the board. Many believed Ribeiro was the answer the Caps were looking for as the team rebounded in the second half and took the Southeast Division. However, Ribeiro fell flat in the playoffs, scoring just 1 goal (an OT winner) and 1 assist in 7 games. The excitement that Ribeiro created carried over into the off-season as fans waited patiently to hear that GMGM had signed the swag-tastic centreman.
Instead of inking a long team deal with the Caps however, Ribeiro got the money he wanted from the newly named Arizona Coyotes. The Caps just could not afford to keep Ribeiro for $5.5M for 5 years, especially since Ribeiro is technically beginning the twilight of his career. Fans around DC were none-to-happy with GMGM (shocker) and everyone was talking as if the Caps already lost next years playoff race. So who would fill in the #2 spot behind Niklas Backstrom? Brooks Laich was named as the best possible choice, and he certainly is a good choice if he can stay healthy. But in my experience with following rumors and listening to what other teams are trying to put together, I have learned two things: Never count GMGM out and never believe him when he says they're not going to do anything.
The Caps signed Mikhail Grabovski to a one year deal at $3M with a no-trade-clause. And to be honest, that's a steal.
Not many people know much about Grabo except that he was bought out by Toronto and went into a tirade over how head coach Randy Carlyle demoted him to the 3rd and 4th lines. Grabo finished last season with 9 goals and 7 assists. While that sounds awful and terrible and it makes you want to throw your arms up in the air and scream "Ribeiro!", keep in mind that Grabo was demoted to a checking role on a team that had zero depth.
Ribeiro is a better point producer than Grabovski, although both of them average about 50 points a year, but Grabovski is a better two-way player. According to NHL.com and HockeyAnalysis.com, Grabo had the highest CORSI percentage on the Leafs from 2009-2011. What is CORSI? CORSI is the shots for/against equivalent of +/-. It calculates how many shots were given up against each player on the ice and how many were taken. It sounds like a silly stat - like most the majority of baseball stats - but it is interesting and simple to break down into a easy-to-understand-phrase: Grabo makes his teammates better while he's on the ice, much better than Ribeiro does.
Ribeiro actually had a higher percentage of shots against while he was on the ice. Not to mention his temper lead to more than a few un-needed penalties.
Under Adam Oates, Grabovski will have the oppurtunity to play with better players (Martin Erat and Troy Brouwer most likely) and he will have power play time with Ovechkin and Backstrom. His offensive style of player is comparable to what Semin brought to the Caps, but Grabo is smarter, much smarter - better yet, he's more responsible.
Up to 12 teams wanted Grabovski before he settled on the Caps. The KHL was waiting in the wings with a pool full of money, but he opted to sign with Washington because of Oates style of play. While Ribeiro was a slick stick handler and passer and made people forget that he just had a 10 min misconduct for slashing, Grabovski has a smooth touch around the net and can pass just as well. He can also backcheck and prevent shots against and get the puck out of the zone.
The Capitals now have a solid depth down the middle, especially if Laich can stay healthy this year. The lines might looks something like this:
Johansson - Backstrom - Ovechkin
Erat - Grabovski - Brouwer
Ward - Laich - Fehr
Beagle - Perrault - Chimera
That's not terrible.
Grabovski is a huge signing and his value to the Caps will be seen almost immediately. The Caps have a whole training camp and pre-season under Oates, and the Caps might be in the toughest division in the league. They're not going to run over teams and claim the Metropolitan league as easily as they did the Southeast, but they will certainly do some damage.
More to come...
Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller - Getty