Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Maple Leafs Welcome Mikhail Grabovski Back To Toronto

On Saturday, Mikhail Grabovski will return to Toronto for the first time since being shown the door.

Originally it looked like Grabovski was a long term piece of Toronto’s future. He signed a five year deal worth $27.5-million in 2012 that would have lasted through the 2016-17 season.

But Grabovski only played one year of that deal before being bought out this past summer. He’s now on a one year $3-million deal in Washington.

Leaf fans will remember his angry reaction in an interview with TSN when it was revealed that he was being bought out.

I play in the f**king Russian KHL, I make lots of f**king points and what’s going to happen? He make me f**king play on the fourth line and he put me in the playoffs on the fourth line and third line again. I don’t feel any support from this f**king idiot.”

Needless to say Randy Carlyle wasn’t his favourite person.

For those wondering, Grabovski had 12 goals and 12 assists for CSKA Moscow during the NHL lockout. When he returned to the Leafs he had just 16 points in 48 games in a limited role.

Simply put, Leafs Head Coach Randy Carlyle didn’t like Grabovski. He didn’t like the way he played and he may not have even liked the man personally.

After years on the top two lines in Toronto that saw him routinely get around 50 points in a full season, he spent most of the lockout shortened season on the third or even fourth line.

Carlyle coached him out of Toronto.

Now some would argue that the Leafs bought out Grabovski because his ability didn’t match his contract. With an average of $5.5-million a year, big things are expected.

But how is that any different than the expectations of Bozak, or Clarkson?

Grabovski has 18 points in 22 games for the Capitals this year. Now Bozak and Clarkson may have both missed time this season, but Bozak has only 6 points in 11 games while Clarkson has 4 in 12.

For the record, Bozak makes $4.2-million a season for the next five years. Clarkson is $5.25-million over the next seven.

So how are both Clarkson and Bozak’s lack of production not a serious problem, when Grabovski’s was?

You can’t argue he was bought out just to get a bad contract off the books, as John Michael-Liles is being paid $3.875-million over the next three years to play in the AHL.

With at least seven defencemen above him on the depth chart, Liles may never play a game for the Leafs again.

So if it isn’t his contract that was the issue, and it wasn’t his production, what was it?

Rumours have circulated that he wasn’t vocal in the locker room and wasn’t looked upon as a leader. Granted, that’s a lot of money to pay a guy who isn’t a locker room leader, but is Phil Kessel a vocal locker room leader? Is Bozak?

Also just how vocal do you expect a guy to be that doesn’t speak the language that well?

It’s widely accepted that players like Phil Kessel do their talking on the ice. Has Grabovski not shown he can do that?

In my opinion the Leafs are a lot better with Kadri – Grabovski – Bozak – McClement down the middle rather than Bozak – Kadri – McClement – Smith / Smithson / Holland / whatever?

In the end it doesn’t really matter, Toronto management clearly didn’t want to keep Grabovski around so they got rid of him when they had the chance.

Maybe they really did feel that the talent didn’t match the big contract.

I wonder if we’ll be saying the same thing about the Bozak or Clarkson contracts a year or two from now. 

Tags: Mikhail Grabovski Toronto Maple Leafs Tyler Bozak

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