On pace for 56 points, Mikhail Grabovski signed a five-year extension worth a cap hit of $5.5 million per season with Toronto. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Hockey News
Adam is away, so the THN staff picks up the mailbag an answers your questions. Mr. Proteau will return to action next week.
Do you think Mikhail Grabovski’s $27.5-million contract was a little much? Ryan Kesler, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, etc. make less than he does in a year and they are all much better players.
Griffin Evans, Cochrane, Alta.
Griffin; as an initial defense of ‘Grabbo,’ the Belarussian does rank very highly amongst stat wonks, with a relative Corsi (shots directed at opponent’s net vs. his own net when he’s on the ice vs. not on the ice) in the top 20. For the next Maple Leaf, you have to go all the way down to 97th, where frequent linemate Clarke MacArthur resides. The Quality of Competition (QoC) he faces is also among the best on the team. Having said that, yeah - the Buds overpaid. Grabovski could have been had for a million dollars less per year and when compared to the players you mentioned, it certainly smacks of a team falling in love with its own guy. Getzlaf, Carter and Kesler have all made it to the Stanley Cup final in their young careers, whereas ‘Grabbo’ has never been to the post-season or even scored 60 points in a campaign. He’s a solid second-line center and now he’s more than fairly compensated. - Ryan Kennedy
I saw that Florida's goals for/goals against differential was a minus-21, but still lead their division. Has any team ever won their division with a negative goal differential? Thanks.
Kevin Sporka, Macomb, Mich.
Kevin, seven teams in NHL history have won a division with a negative goal differential, but it hasn't been done for a long time. The most recent team to pull off the feat was the 1988-89 Detroit Red Wings, who captured the Norris Division with a minus-3 differential. Working backward, the other teams to do it were the 1986-87 Blues (minus-12); the 1979-80 Chicago Black Hawks (minus-9); the 1978-79 Black Hawks (minus-33); the 1976-77 Blues (minus-37); the 1975-76 Black Hawks (minus-7) and the 1967-68 Philadelphia Flyers (minus-6). It’s not a recommended route, however. Only one of these seven - the ’79-80 Hawks - managed to win a playoff round. And they were immediately swept by the Sabres in Round 2. - Matt Larkin
The Lightning just signed forward Cory Conacher. Do you think he will be playing with the Lightning sometime this season or will it be more likely in a year or two? Thanks.
Colin A., Burlington, Ont.
Hey Colin, I just spoke with Cory Conacher for an article ("Defying The Odds") in our April 2 issue. He was ecstatic about getting signed and Tampa is undoubtedly pleased the flier the team took on him in the summer (signing him to an American League contract) could turn into something. But don't expect Conacher in a Lightning uniform until 2012-13 at the earliest. He’s on an AHL-only contract and his new deal doesn’t kick in until next season. He’s been with Tampa’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk all season and both Conacher and coach Jon Cooper said team chemistry is the biggest reason why the Admirals are first overall and striding high on a sizzling 15-game winning streak. Cooper said Conacher, despite being a rookie, is a key cog leadership-wise in the Norfolk machine and the Lightning won’t mess with that since it’s great for his development. The Calder Cup is his calling for the remainder of 2011-12. - Ronnie Shuker
There is always plenty of discussion about the point system and about creating offense. Why not create a point system in which a one-goal victory is worth one point, a two-goal victory is worth two points and three-or-more-goal victory is worth three points? This way, teams will attempt to score more goals right to the final whistle.
Eric Bouchard, Montreal
Hey Eric. That’s an interesting idea, but far too radical a stone to kill two birds. Much more likely is a change to a 3-2-1 points system (though a straight 2-0 system would be much better) and some tinkering with the blue and red lines and goalie equipment to help increase offense. The fervor among fans and media types is heating up on both fronts and I’m betting you’ll see changes within the next three seasons. However, the last time we saw major alterations to the game was after a CBA renegotiation, so with a new deal needed this fall some modifications could come soon. (Hockey.nesbot.com/mynhla has a neat tool that allows you too look at various points systems based on the current standings.) - Edward Fraser
Though I’m disappointed with the Habs season, I am getting excited about them adding a top-tier prospect from the draft such as Mikhail Grigorenko, Ryan Murray, Matt Dumba, Filip Forsberg or Alex Galchenyuk. If the Habs stay in the 3-6 overall pick range, who do you think they will target?
Drew Kaye, Toronto
Since the Canadiens have picked defensemen with their past two first round picks (Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu), it’s safe to presume a forward is on the way in 2012. Even though eight forwards made up Montreal’s top 10 prospects in THN’s Future Watch issue, only two (No. 7 ranked Andreas Engqvist and No. 8 ranked Alexander Avtsin) were taller than six-foot, so size is an issue.
Who exactly they go with is a mystery. Alex Galchenyuk played his first game of the season this week after wrecking his ACL in the pre-season, but he had 83 points in 68 Ontario League games the year prior, so there is no denying his skills. Plus, he has decent size at 6-foot-1. Filip Forsberg brings a strong two-way game that has scouts drooling and the fact he’s a Swede means a move to the Kontinental League is highly unlikely.
But if Mikhail Grigorenko is there, he’s a guy to look at. Not only has he scored a pile of goals and points in junior this season, but he’s done it with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts. Now, NHL teams don’t pick based on how close a prospect played to them, but you can’t underestimate the Quebec tie-in to Montreal, especially after everything that’s gone on with that debate lately.
And if the Habs decide to bring on current Remparts owner/GM/coach Patrick Roy as part of an off-ice overhaul, there’d be all the more reason to believe Grigorenko will be Montreal’s guy. - Rory Boylen
What is the deal with Nino Niederreiter? Many expected him to get top-six minutes with the Islanders this year and challenge for the Calder. Clearly that didn't happen, but why is he playing nine minutes a night on Long Island when he could be developing his game in the American League?
Nathan Robbins-Kanter, Toronto
Nathan, I too expected ‘El Nino’ to vie for the Calder, but I forgot one of the inevitable truths about the NHL: power forwards take longer to develop. Starting off the year with a concussion didn’t help Niederreiter’s cause, but at least he can get his sea legs and build on the experience. - RK
I couldn't help but notice that Evgeni Malkin, Hart Trophy favorite and leader of the Penguins, was five slots behind Sidney Crosby in your Top 50 issue. Malkin is on pace for the most points in the NHL while Crosby has only played in eight games. Please explain your reasoning.
Ryan Dunn, San Jose
Hey Ryan. Our Top 50 list was based on the votes of 150 players (five from each team) and clearly, despite Malkin’s proclivity for points and Crosby’s lack of playing time, many NHLers feel Sid is still the best in the game. One factor that likely played into the discrepancy of vote totals (Crosby garnered 23 percent of all voting points) was the fact he was healthy – or thought to be on the cusp of returning again – when some of the ballots were cast. - EF