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.
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
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.