Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Islanders : Inconsistent Grabner Healthy Scratch Vs Maple Leafs

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Isles winger Michael Grabner is slated to be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in what may be seen as a loss of confidence in him from the coaching staff.

Grabner has been characterized by a maddening combination of skill and inconsistency throughout his five-year career, the last four of which have been with the Islanders. Claimed off waivers in 2010 Grabner came into New York with a bang, scoring 34 goals and 52 points. The next season he dropped to 20 and 32, then 16 and five over 45 games in last year’s shortened season. This year he got off to a hot start, scoring a pair of goals on opening night and totalling eight points in his first seven games. He then served a two-game suspension for a hit on Carolina’s Nathan Gerbe, and hasn’t recorded a single point in the twelve games since his return.

A former 14th overall draft selection by Vancouver in 2006, Grabner is unquestionably a highly skilled player. He has a good first step, blazing speed and an incredibly soft touch around the net. Unfortunately for the Isles, he rarely brings all of that together at the same time. All things considered it could be said that he has been given plenty of leeway upon his return; few top six forwards would be afforded such a lengthy scoring slump without some sort of repercussions.

Grabner has spent much of the past few seasons bouncing up and down the roster, in an attempt to find chemistry with a regular line. His speed is reminiscent of former Islander Randy Wood, who was known for having a fifth gear but lacking the scoring touch to go with it. Grabner has no such restriction in terms of his shot, but hasn’t yet found linemates with which he can work consistently and successfully.

Grabner missed just fifteen games over his first four seasons on Long Island, but as inconsistent as he sometimes is his production has never dipped to this level before.

As for what the benching could mean for Grabner’s future with the Isles, that is a matter of pure, baseless conjecture. It’s far too soon to speculate any further on what may very well be a non-issue – a simple wakeup call for a struggling player looking to re-establish himself among the Isles top six. And one game hardly signals the end of a player’s tenure with his team, especially one which has at times been nearly as inconsistent as Grabner himself.

With that said, the team, outside the core, has little that would procure much of value in a trade. Grabner could be the exception to that rule with his high-end skills package. At 26 he should be just entering his prime years. At various times this writer has suggested it might be in everyone’s best interests to move him to another team, perhaps in the more free-flowing Western Conference, where his speed and skill might have a chance to shine more brightly than in the closer-checking East. Depending on the situation it might be an opportunity to bring a second pairing two-way defender to New York.

Tags: Michael Grabner New York Islanders Nhl Puck Drop

  • Scheben

    I still have some hope left for Grabs. I think the world telling him that he has hands of stone gets stuck in his head. You can almost see his mind racing when he’s on those breakaways. When he had nothing to lose he was a 30 goal scorer, so I think the staff and maybe a sports psychologist just need to get him to relax and play his game, which can be absolutely deadly when it’s in working order.

    • justin

      a sports psychologist, and dare I say motivator, is something Cappy has proven not to be – too many guys go through slumps like this only to get buried in his dog house – some never to return. High upside guys that require hands-on development do not thrive in Cappy system and too easily have their roles replaced with low-upside veterans who are also lower maintenance.

      • zack7

        Whom do you have in mind when you say that Cappy isn’t a great motivator and that those who might require hands on development don’t thrive in his system – the only possible example I can think you might be referring to is Nino – and his problems didn’t come from fitting or not fitting into Cappy’s system, but his expectations asserted when he was not just plunked in. I don’t know that there’s anyone who can always motivate others in every case, but I can’t think of any examples – Grab isn’t an example – so I’m curious who you had in mind.

        • justin

          nino is a perfect example and I think one top-five first round pick is one too many. and Grabner is an example as well…why does Cappy refuse to move him off the third line of misfits when he is moving everyone else around and giving guys like PMB full time top 6 roles? Bailey is an example. Not that he is buried but Cap alluded to the fact that the coaching staff just let’s him be – that is a technique that is clearly not working for him. Well actually, he does get top six 5 on 5 time but you don’t see Bailey on Special teams do you? If you remember back two season you will remember that Bailey was once one of our best penalty killers. And if you want to see over reliance on “safe” non-factors look no further then Peter Regin and Marty Reasoner playing way too much. If you want to blame Snow and say Cappy has to play the hand he is dealt I would agree. However, there have been far too many times where Regin or Reasoner would be out for a draw late in a game and all you can do is scratch your head.

      • Ken Meoni

        Totally agree with you justin.

  • justin

    ” few top six forwards would be afforded such a lengthy scoring slump without some sort of repercussions.”
    few top six forwards are made to play 10 minutes a game on a hodge podge 3rd line…which is exactly where he has been since he returned from suspension.

  • Daniel Geiger

    I hope he took notes on how Zeeker scored breakaway goal

  • Ken Meoni

    Scratch Grabner but use C. McDonald? Idiots!! Especially against the speedy Maple Leafs.

  • Ken Meoni

    Cappy has to go. The only problem is we have a GM that needs to go also and neither of them have a clue. Also, an owner that doesn’t have a clue. Will this franchise ever get better? Please sell the team to the Nets owner.

  • Þorsteinn Halldórsson

    Lets not make another Moulson mistake, keep him and work it out. I think more pressure should be placed on recent additions like Regin, bouchard and cutter.