Let’s pause for a minute before we call Michael Grabner the next great Canucks prospect that got away.
With his hat trick yesterday, Grabner now has 24 goals for the season, including 15 goals in his last 14 games. Today, he was named the NHL’s 1st Star of the Week.
So did the Canucks give up on him too early?
Maybe. Maybe not.
To be honest, Grabner wasn’t on the Canucks’ long-term plans. It was clear they valued Mason Raymond more than they valued the former first-round draft pick when they worked out a two-year contract extension with Raymond just hours before he was slated to go to arbitration. It was clear they valued a deeper defense more than they valued the speedy and skilled winger when they packaged him with Steve Bernier and a first-round draft pick in trade to acquire Keith Ballard.
In hindsight, I still maintain that the Canucks made the right call.
Mason Raymond may be having an off-year – an injury-plagued year – but a quick look at the standings show the Canucks still at the top of the NHL in goals. After 56 games, they lead the league with 188 total goals scored. They also lead the league with an average of 3.36 goals per game, which, believe it or not, is actually higher than their G/game average last season (3.27).
In the meantime, Ballard, at least before Milan Michalek turned him into his own personal pretzel, has provided the Canucks with some much-needed depth on defense. Not many teams can afford to play a Keith Ballard as their no. 5 defenseman, and there’s little doubt it’s helped the Canucks withstand their injuries. To date, their 128 total goals against and 2.29 goals against per game is the fewest in the NHL. Despite the amount of injuries to their defense, the Canucks are actually allowing less goals per game this season than they allowed last season (2.66 GA/game).
It’s shrewd asset management, really. As good as Grabner has played this season, the Canucks haven’t missed him as much. Instead, they turned him into another asset they needed more.
And that’s just as good.