After an atrocious start to the 2011 calendar year, the Blues still only find themselves seven points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Just shows you what a strong start can do for your hockey club.
Rumors are aplenty currently for the Blues to get that magic back from the start of the season. We heard about the Alexei Kovalev rumors. We listened to the Johnson-for-Malkin rumors. And yes, we are interested in these rumors that Boston wants Captain Eric Brewer to fill out their big defense. But here is what I want to see; Mikhail Grabovski boarding a plane to St. Louis.
Hey, we can all dream, can’t we?
But here is the reality; the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to shake up their roster. GM Brian Burke has already moved defenseman Francois Beauchemin and forward Kris Versteeg and has publicly stated that more moves are coming. Burke is also claiming that he is pushing his team to the playoffs, despite being eight points out of a playoff spot with just 25 games remaining.
"We are going to try and add a player,” Burke said after the Versteeg trade Monday. “We have not conceded the last playoff spot, nor will we. If we can add, we're going to."
Grabovski is the second-leading point-scorer for the Maple Leafs, racking up 24 goals and 44 points in 56 games (career-high already in goals, four points away from breaking his career-high in points). Is this 27-year old Belarusian just overachieving or is he just breaking out a little later than most players?
Go deep into your memory banks and remember that almost-comeback that the Blues had against the Leafs on January 6. Grabovski, who had a goal during regulation, showcased his skill in one of the best moves in the shootout this season. His spin-o-rama right in front of Ty Conklin led the Leafs to a 6-5 shootout victory.
Factor in Grabovski’s great top-shelf goal against the Boston Bruins Tuesday night (one of two goals, along with two assists in the game), and you are seeing some pretty top-tier skills. His goals are not flukes but great individual efforts. He has been able to put himself in great scoring positions all season long, making his line (along with Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin) one of the most dynamic lines in the NHL. Yea, it’s hard for me to believe too.
Would Burke move Grabovski? I don’t see why he wouldn’t. He has said in the past that the only untouchable player on his roster is Luke Schenn. Remember that Phil Kessel trade? That is still one of the most puzzling deals in today’s NHL. He has made some head-scratching moves in the past, but he usually finds a way to make it work in his favor.
The Blues may be able to land Grabovski for a good price too. Trading Francois Beauchemin opens up a spot on defense. Burke seems to love tough Canadian defensemen on his roster (Pronger with Anaheim, Beauchemin with Anaheim and Toronto, Phaneuf with Toronto). Eric Brewer will be a free-agent come this July, so getting a player in return rather than letting him walk is very logical.
It’s also no secret that Brad Boyes has regressed during his tenure with the St. Louis Blues. A two-time 30-goal scorer and one-time 40-goal scorer could be appealing to Burke, who’s Maple Leafs are 27th in goals-per-game. If the Blues could help round out the Leafs’ defense and, at the very least, keep their offense where it is, Burke would be more than happy to make this deal. Another plus would be that Brewer is a free-agent at season’s end, so if it does not work out, he could be easily cut loose. Boyes may be a tough sell, but a change of scenery is sometimes all a player needs to improve his game.
Throw in a low-round draft pick in this deal, and the Blues would be on board with it too.
Grabovski’s smooth puck-handling skills and lightning speed would be a great addition to David Perron when he comes back from injury. His addition could possibly mean less attention to T.J. Oshie and Andy McDonald by opposing teams’ defenses as well. This could be instrumental in the Blues putting big numbers up on the board on a more consistent basis.
This would not be the answer to a Blues Stanley Cup win, but it would further them along. With Brewer’s contract up and Boyes’ big contract off the books, the Blues have more money to spend in the off-season. The move would also add a crafty player who can play up the middle or on the wing.
If the Blues want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they need to start looking at opportunities like this.
A strong end to the season is much more important than a strong start almost every time. Just ask the Eastern Conference; Grabovski knows how to finish.