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|Grabovski not holding grudge: agent; After Toronto, Belrusian forward thrives with Caps
23.11.2013. TRAIKOS, MICHAEL. The Gazette
Bitter? Mikhail Grabovski's agent let out a laugh.
All that stuff that happened with his client four months ago - being bought out of his contract and then calling head coach Randy Carlyle an 'idiot' for misusing him in a defensive role - is in the past.
Today, Grabovski has no reason to be mad at his former team.
In fact, according to agent Gary Greenstin, Grabovski should thank the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With the Washington Capitals, the 29-year-old is on pace for a career year. He is third on the team in scoring with seven goals and 18 points in 22 games, and is back to being used in an offensive role.
So does that mean he is not motivated to play against his former team on Saturday.
"If you know Grabo, he's motivated to play against any team," said Greenstin, who was in Toronto on Friday to visit with another client, Leafs winger Nikolai Kulemin. "He hates to lose. He loves to score."
Yes, but does playing the Leafs, who bought him out the day before his wedding, provide extra incentive? "Well, we'll see," Greenstin said with a smirk.
If you want a taste of what Saturday's return to Toronto might bring, watch highlights of the Belarusian's games against the Montreal Canadiens, the team that drafted him in 2004 and for whom he played parts of two seasons.
In his first game back in Montreal after being traded to the Leafs in 2008, Grabovski speared goaltender Carey Price with the butt-end of his stick.
A few months later, he set off a fireworks display of violence that resulted in two fights, three game misconducts and more than 120 combined penalty minutes. In a game against the Canadiens last season, he was accused of biting forward Max Pacioretty's arm during a scrum.
And that was against a team that he played only 27 games for. Grabovski might have far more friends and good memories while playing for the Leafs, but his time ended in heartbreak.
Toronto, where Grabovski met his wife and was raising their two children, was home for the past five years.
And after signing a fiveyear contract worth US$27.5 million in 2012, it was supposed to be home for another five.
But after producing just nine goals and 16 points in an ill-fitting defensive role last season, the Leafs bought out Grabovski's contract and traded for two-way centre Dave Bolland.
It was a move that has ended up benefiting both sides. In Bolland, who had six goals and 10 points in 15 games before severing a tendon in his left ankle on Nov. 2, the Leafs have found a centre that was more than happy to play a third-line checking role.
And Grabovski, who has already surpassed last season's point totals, is back to playing a role that should put him in line for a significant raise when he becomes a free agent next summer.
"I don't think we produce like checking hockey here," Grabovski said in an interview with The Canadian Press this week at the team's practice facility near Washington. "It's more offensive smart hockey than we play in Toronto, completely different style of the hockey."
Grabovski is still playing third-line minutes - he is averaging just six seconds more per game than he did last season - but he is being used in different situations.
Last season, Grabovski started 22.6 per cent of his shifts in the offensive zone.
With the Capitals, he is starting 30.2 per cent of his shifts in the offensive zone and has made the most of the opportunity on a line with Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, who have 14 points each.
"He's getting his points," said Greenstin, who believes Grabovski would have rebounded this season if Toronto had kept him. "It would have changed 100 per cent. Short season, he's in a different role. If it's long season, he has his 20 goals."
On Friday, Toronto players reminisced about a teammate that was well liked in the dressing room and well respected on the ice.
"He'd make you laugh," said Tyler Bozak. "His English wasn't amazing, but when he was telling stories everyone was always listening."
On Saturday night, you can be sure that everyone will be paying attention whenever he is on the ice.
"He's probably going to play harder against us than any other team," said Kulemin.