Ever since his first full season in the NHL, Michael Grabner has been turning heads with his foot speed. During his first full year, the New York Islanders winger was able to utilize that foot speed, and scored 34 goals that season. It was a good enough performance to have Grabner finish third in Calder Trophy voting in 2011. Ever since then, however, Grabner’s goal-scoring totals have gone down just a bit. This season, though, will be a resurgence for Grabner.
After having a stellar rookie year, Grabner’s goal totals dropped from 34 to 20 in 2012, despite playing two more regular season games. In 2012, Grabner seemed to be a little bit off his game. Don’t get me wrong, his speed wasn’t on the decline. In fact, Grabner’s speed had helped him generate a ton of scoring chances, but the finish wasn’t there as it had been the year before. Last year’s lockout-shortened season seemed to rejuvenate Grabner’s game, as he scored 16 times in 45 games. I know its not the same production output he had from 2011, but hear me out here.
At the end of 2012, Grabner started to find the back of the net more. Same thing can be said for Grabner last year too. He even had four points in the Islanders six playoff games last year. That late season success that Grabner had will translate into a big bounce-back year this season. I’m pretty sure Grabner will be playing on a line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck, which would be a pretty good line together. Clutterbuck could use his physical presence to open up space, Grabner can create scoring chances with his speed and Bouchard is a good playmaker, so all three would be able to help each other out. That’s one way to help Grabner have a good year.
Things could change between now and the season opener on Oct. 4. It all depends on what kind of camp Grabner has. With the way I saw him playing last year, Grabner looked like he had found his game again, especially late in the season. When Grabner has his speed on full display, it makes other teams pay a little more attention to him, and that opens things up for his teammates to work off of and create offense. Take into account the fact that Grabner can also generate scoring chances while shorthanded can be of great benefit. On any given penalty kill, Grabner can skate past guys and create at least two scoring chances all on his own.
When Grabner had his great rookie season, he did so by generating scoring chances and was able to score as often as he did. At the start of year two, the chances were there, but opposing defenses were playing Grabner better. Later in the year, he was able to find his holes and hit the 20-goal mark. The same thing happened to Grabner last year when he scored 16 goals.
This year is going to be a lot like his rookie year, I can already tell. The end of last season was the indication. Grabner was finding space more frequently, which lead to scoring in bunches. That will happen again this year, and he will bounce back to score close to 30 goals again in 2013-14.
Expect Grabner to be back in full force this season.