Michael Grabner -- LW -- #40
16-5-21 in 45 games
Most often seen: trick question, too fast to be seen
Contract status: signed through 2015-16, $2M salary in 2012-13 ($3M cap hit)
Obligatory YouTube video of: a breakaway goal
Thoughts on 2012-13: Of course when we talk about Michael Grabner, we have to first mention the breakaways. For better or worse they are his defining characteristic, getting fans on their feet the moment he knocks away a pass at the blue line or streaks up ice, to the conclusion that, sometimes, ends with the red light on at the other end of the ice.
Ask anyone who watches the Islanders about Grabner and it's the first thing that comes to mind. It's also the biggest point of contention about Grabner. "He could be Bure if he could finish," is the normal lament, which I'm sure has been uttered numerous times about other players on other teams. But Grabner's scoring ability and speed seemingly put him one step away from being an elite scorer in the NHL.
The thing that I find most annoying is that there isn't really a way to quantify Grabner's breakaways. Does he score on 10% of them? 40%? As far as I know, nobody is counting. How many breakaways should we expect an average player to score on? There's not really a way to quantify them. At the very least, I think we can say that he gets a ton of breakaways, compared to the average NHL player.
This past season, Grabner's ice time was reduced. He was fourteenth on the team in average time on ice with 14:47 per game (and a meager 16th and 12:30 in the playoffs), down from 15:32 the prior year and 15:04 in 2010-11 when he scored 30 goals. This drop was something I opined about during the season, especially when he was getting under ten minutes per game consistently, but I may have been wrong. It's possible that Grabner was being "saved" a bit to allow him to go in shorter bursts, which makes some sense for a speed guy. Although you would also think it makes sense to put one of your top scoring threats on the ice as much as possible. But saving him to power up like in a video game was the case or not, it seems to not have mattered.
Grabner ended up scoring .36 goals per game, up from .26 last year but still short of the .45 he notched in 2010-11. He had a bounce back year, not doubt about it, as he ended up with 16 goals in 45 games, which projects out to 29.5 goals over a full 82. His shooting percentage, which dipped 3% last year, also popped back up to it's 10-11 number so he could have been a victim of bad luck that year (and hopefully not the reverse; benefiting from good luck this year). No one would complain about Grabner hitting 30 goals again, which could conceivably give the team three 30-goal scorers. He would have had a good shot to do this year if it wasn't a shortened season. Maybe the ice time issue wasn't such a big deal after all.
Grabner is a big part of the Islanders offense, and when he is scoring, it's a huge secondary scoring asset (although are we supposed to call a potential 30-goal scorer a secondary scorer?). It's also necessary to mention his penalty killing abilities, to which he had two minutes of per game.
A solid grade for a player who made solid contributions this past season, and I tend to not hold the missed breakaways against him quite so much (your mileage may vary). The big question is; can he score 30 next year?
Add your thoughts and post-season grades in the comments.