Toronto Maple Leafs

Mikhail Grabovski: Does He Stack Up to the Best Centers in the NHL?

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 27:  Mikhail Grabovski #84 of the Toronto Maple Leafs takes a shot on goal against the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on February 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Eric WarrenCorrespondent IIJuly 31, 2011

With Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs unable to lure Brad Richards to the the Leafs, or secure any kind of deal to land the Tampa Bay Lightning's Steve Stamkos, the crop of players available that were considered to be 'No. 1 centers,' well, to be blunt, was wholly  unimpressive.

The Toronto Maple Leafs currently have a few centers on the roster. Certainly none of the Richards or Stamkos variety, but you may be a little more than surprised at how one Mikhail Grabovski stacks up against some of the best in the league.

Now, I'm not about to suggest that he is the next coming of  'Sid the Kid;' however, when compared to the best in the league, especially given that he may have had a break out year last year, the Toronto Maple Leafs may already have their number one center.

Part of the problem among many in anointing Grabo with such a title is the fact that he and star winger Phil Kessel haven't been a good fit so far.

If, and this is a big if, Wilson could manage to harness and nurture a line of Grabo, Kessel and Kullemin, for example, it may in fact be one of the top lines in the league.

However, I digress for now. Here are some numbers from Grabovski and other top centers in the league, keeping in mind that Mikhail Grabovski came in 23rd overall in scoring among them and isn't considered a No. 1 center.

 


Player Team Pos GP G A P +/- PIM PP SH GW OT S S% TOI/G Sft/G FO%
1 Henrik Sedin VAN C 82 19 75 94 26 40 8 0 4
0 157 12.1 19:15 24.6 52.0
2 Steven Stamkos TBL C 82 45 46 91 3 74 17 0 8
1 272 16.5 20:11 23.7 46.5
3 Brad Richards DAL C 72 28 49 77 1 24 7 0 3
0 272 10.3 21:43 23.3 50.6
4 Eric Staal CAR C 81 33 43 76 -10 72 12 3 8
0 296 11.1 21:56 27.5 48.0
5 Jonathan Toews CHI C 80 32 44 76 25 26 10 1 8
1 233 13.7 20:45 27.4 56.7
6 Ryan Getzlaf ANA C 67 19 57 76 14 35 7 0 4
2 117 16.2 21:51 25.8 45.8
7 Ryan Kesler VAN C 82 41 32 73 24 66 15 3 7
1 260 15.8 20:29 26.0 57.4
8 Anze Kopitar LAK C 75 25 48 73 25 20 6 1 6
1 233 10.7 21:35 25.6 49.9
9 Patrick Sharp CHI C 74 34 37 71 -1 38 12 2 6
1 268 12.7 19:24 25.3 48.0
10 Mike Ribeiro DAL C 82 19 52 71 -4 28 7 0 4
1 161 11.8 19:57 23.6 46.6
11 Joe Thornton SJS C 80 21 49 70 4 47 9 2 3
0 149 14.1 19:52 26.0 54.4
12 John Tavares NYI C 79 29 38 67 -16 53 9 0 4
3 243 11.9 19:15 21.7 52.5
13 Matt Duchene COL C 80 27 40 67 -8 33 3 0 2
1 202 13.4 18:56 23.1 50.4
14 Jeff Carter PHI C 80 36 30 66 27 39 8 0 7
0 335 10.7 18:14 23.6 54.7
15 Sidney Crosby PIT C 41 32 34 66 20 31 10 1 3
0 161 19.9 21:55 22.7 55.6
16 Mike Richards PHI C 81 23 43 66 11 62 5 3 4
1 184 12.5 18:52 25.5 49.8
17 Joe Pavelski SJS C 74 20 46 66 10 24 11 1 5
0 282 7.1 19:39 25.8 54.3
18 Nicklas Backstrom WSH C 77 18 47 65 24 40 4 1 2
0 202 8.9 20:35 23.7 52.5
19 Jeff Skinner CAR C 82 31 32 63 3 46 6 0 2
0 215 14.4 16:43 22.2 36.9

20

Mikko Koivu MIN C 71 17 45 62 4 50 7 1 3
0 191 8.9 19:29 25.1 52.8

Lets compare Grabovski's numbers to last years top 20 highest scoring centers.

Games Played  81 - Better than 13 of the top 20

Goals 29 - Better than 11 of the top 20

Assists 29 - Placed 41st among NHL centers last season

Plus/Minus 14 - Equal to or better than 12 of the top 20

Power Play Goals 10 - Equal to or better than 15 of the top 20

Game Winners  4 - Equal to or better than 12 of the top 20

Shots 239 - Equal to or better than 12 of the top 20

TAMPA, FL - MAY 25:  Martin St. Louis #26 celebrates his second period goal with Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at St Pete Times
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Shooting Percentage 12.1 - Equal to or better than 10 of the top 20

Face Off Percentage  48.4 - Better than six of the top 20

 

As you can see, Grabovski has better numbers in many different categories than many of  those ahead of him in terms of total points.

Paul Stasny, Jason Spezza, and Vincent Lecavalier are all thought to be No. 1 centers, or have that ability. They, however, all finished below Grabovski in scoring among centers.

Grabovski was the No. 2 center for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and yet posted better numbers than the highest scoring center on 12 of the leagues 30 teams last season.

The question then becomes, what constitutes a No. 1 center?

If you looked at it in terms of time on ice, Grabo would rank 22nd out of 30 teams represented, but tied for eighth in terms of length per shift.

In terms of points, how many points should a No. 1 center get? Perhaps 60-65? If that's the case, Grabovski is only two points away from being a No. 1 center.

My issue is this. While Grabo is no Crosby or Stamkos, he is really close to or better than what passes for a No. 1 center in the NHL with the exception of a select few. Yet, no one even talks about him in the same conversation.

Puck Daddy at Yahoo Sports makes mention of a Top Ten NHL Centers article recently and no one, not even anyone of the 387 people who commented on the piece made mention of Grabovski even though he had better numbers than three of them in terms of goals, and more points than No. 6 on the list, Evgeni Malkin.

Making this more of a debate than an opinion is difficult given the fact that there just doesn't seem to be a clear cut definition of what a No. 1 center in the NHL should be, but for my money, perhaps Brian Burke and Ron Wilson would be better served finding a way to help Mikhail Grabovski make another step than signing more 'hope.'

*Chart above courtesy of NHL.com.

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