What can we expect from Michael Grabner next season?
In what turned into one of the best signings of last summer, Michael Grabner made Jeff Gorton look like a genius. In his first season with the Rangers, Grabner put together his first 20 goal season since 2011-12, netting 27 in 76 games. More importantly, Grabner played a vital role on the penalty kill for the Blueshirts as his speed reeked havoc for opposing teams. Grabner reached the 20 goal mark in mid-January, but from mid-January to April, Grabner scored just seven goals. Grabner’s 2016-17 campaign is actually a beautiful symbol for the entire New York Rangers 2016-17 season. Started slow, fizzled fast, came up big at times but still came up short.
Grabner’s Season Expectations:
To really understand Grabner’s success last season, a lot of credit should be given to his linemates Kevin Hayes, and JT Miller. The Hayes, Grabner, Miller line clicked pretty quickly, and Grabner’s speed led to many offensive chances, which in turn led to this line being arguably the best line on the team at different times during the season.
While it is not far-fetched to think that he could duplicate what he did this past season, it is moderately unrealistic. Quite honestly, Grabner went through such a bad goal drought this season, that he could’ve had five to seven more goals. 27 goals are nothing to stick your nose at, nor is it something to place Grabner on the Mount Rushmore of players.
To be blunt, Michael Grabner is a third line forward on all teams and a second line forward on some. There’s a reason many chances ended up hitting the glass behind the goalie, and that is because Grabner is not a scorer. Honestly, that is fine, because Grabner is a sneaky good role player. His speed creates nightmares for the opposition and creates opportunities for himself and his teammates.
The expectation should be a statistical decline. Playing the law of averages, Grabner and Rangers fans can probably expect 15-20 goals, 15-20 assists, and around a 40-45 point season.
Note: if Grabner had stronger passing abilities, both the team and himself would see a spike in points (for reasons stated).
Bottom Line (or 3rd Line)
There are many attributes to like when it comes to Michael Grabner’s game, and he was able to fill the void Carl Hagelin left in the summer of 2015. While last season saw many dazzling moments, it’s hard to ignore the fact that when Grabner stopped playing his game, he hurt the team. When he does not play his game, moments like game two vs the Montreal Canadiens happen; Grabner had a chance to clear the puck late, he didn’t and the Habs tied it late and won in OT.
If Grabner can fill his role of being a depth forward and a headache on the ice, he and the Rangers will do well for themselves. Statistics are not the end all be all for a player to have a successful season or be a key player. Doing the right thing and playing the game that got them to the NHL is. Grabner has all the capability in 2017-18 to continue to make Jeff Gorton look like a genius.