Ok ok before you freak out after reading the headline and trash me in the comments section, let me explain. Michael Grabner is not the second coming of Brett Hull. Far from it. So why bring it up? Let me explain…
In case you haven’t noticed, former Canucks 1st round draft pick Michael Grabner is on quite a tear right now. After a slow start to the season, Grabner has 15 goals and 6 assists in his last 15 games. That’s brought his goal total up to 24 this year while playing on the Islanders third line. And that’s what makes this all the more impressive for Grabner. He hasn’t been given prime time minutes. He has received minimal power play time and is averaging only 14 minutes a game. Yesterday he netted a hat trick in only 15:06 of playing time. ‘Grabby’ is now on pace for 35 goals this year, imagine what that would look like playing 17-18 minutes a night? Imagine what he could do after he matures a little more. Somewhere Dave Nonis is saying “I told you so”.
So why do we care? Well, ever since the Canucks traded away a 21 year old power forward by the name of Cam Neely before he reached his potential, fans on the west coast are a little touchy regarding trading former first round picks.
To jog your memory, the Canucks dispatched Grabner to the Florida Panthers along with Steve Bernier (pictured above stuffing another puck into a goalie’s pads) and a 1st round draft pick last June in exchange for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. Bernier and Oreskovich appear to be nothing more than spare parts with Grabner, the 1st round pick and Ballard being the key to the deal. While I believe that Keith Ballard is a good defenseman (even if Alain Vigneault disagrees), this will turn out to be a poor deal if Michael Grabner ends up being a 40 goal scorer. And that’s not even taking the 1st round pick into account.
So do we chastise Mike Gillis for this trade? Not so fast…
Let me take you back to March 7, 1988. One of the top teams in the NHL, the Calgary Flames traded a 23 year old talented goal scorer by the name of Brett Hull and Steve Bozek to the St Louis Blues for defenseman Rob Ramage and backup goaltender Rick Wamsley. Hull went onto to become one of the greatest goal scorers in hockey history while Ramage and Wamsley were older players with only a handful of productive years left.
Obviously the St Louis Blues won the trade but Rick Wamsley, and Rob Ramage in particular, helped the Flames win the Stanley Cup in 1989. The Flames needed an experienced defenseman more than an inexperienced scorer. Sure Flames fans would have loved to see Hull in a Flames jersey, but they loved winning the 1989 Stanley Cup more. I don’t see them asking for a do-over.
So the fact of the matter is if Keith Ballard can manage to contribute and help the Canucks win the Stanley Cup, Canucks fans won’t care if Michael Grabner scores 100 goals this year. So to keep visions of Cam Neely out of our heads, in the words of Al Davis: “Just win baby”.