Is Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates starting to resemble, through his coaching moves, Maple Leafs counterpart Randy Carlyle?
Perhaps, if your name is Mikhail Grabovski.
Oates has juggled his bottom nine forwards in advance of Saturday night’s home game against Columbus, dropping Grabovski to third-line centre and moving Brooks Laich from left wing to centre the second unit.
In July, Capitals general manager George McPhee named Laich his No. 2 centre after Mike Ribeiro signed with Phoenix as a free agent, the eighth player to have filled the role in the past four seasons.
Then, on Aug. 22, Washington signed free agent Grabovski for one season at $3 million US after Toronto bought out the final four seasons of the Belarusian’s five-year, $27.5-million deal.
Grabovski, who scored a career-high 29 goals and 58 points in 81 games in the 2010-11 NHL season with the Leafs, managed only nine goals and 16 points in the 48-game lockout-shortened campaign of a year ago.
As a result, he received less ice time and periodically was moved to a lower line.
“He [Carlyle] makes me [expletive] play on the fourth line and he put me in the playoffs on the fourth line and third line again,” Grabovski told TSN in an expletive-filled rant only hours after learning the Leafs would buy out his contract.
His hope was by joining the Capitals his career would be revitalized. Grabovski’s agent, Gary Greenstin, added his client would be a 60- or 70-point player given a top-six forward role.
Well, Grabovski didn’t disappoint in his regular-season debut with the Capitals on Oct. 1, scoring three times and adding an assist against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in Chicago.
Two nights later, he added an assist and scored the game-winning shootout goal in Washington’s home opener versus Calgary.
But what has Grabovski done lately? Very little, like the rest of the Capitals offence. Washington, which carries a 2-5-0 record into Saturday’s game, has scored just 17 goals this season and is coming off a 2-0 shutout loss to the New York Rangers.
The 29-year-old Grabovski has one assist and seven shots in the last five games and likely will line up between checking forwards Jason Chimera and Joel Ward on Saturday.
“Need a little luck and hard work,” was Grabovski’s answer to Washington reporters on how he might get out of his funk. “Everything is going to be good.”
Well, it will be from a financial standpoint, as Toronto will pay Grabovski just under $1.8 million each of the next eight seasons.
As for his on-ice play, Grabovski was expecting to see significant minutes on the power play and five-on-five. After a season-high 19 minutes 15 seconds against Dallas on Oct. 5, he has played about 17 minutes a contest and dipped to as low as 15:11 versus Edmonton on Monday.
Under Ron Wilson, Carlyle’s predecessor in Toronto, Grabovski followed up his career season with 23 goals and 51 points in the 201112 campaign, but he’s been a disappointment offensively, for the most part, since.