As much as is possible to know before a player has skated in a single game with a new team, Mikhail Grabovski seems to be a smart fit for the Capitals. He fills the need for center depth, which should help maximize the flexibility of the rest of the roster, and he gets a fresh start with a more offensively inclined coach.
What will be interesting to see is if Grabovski’s history of making news unrelated to his play continues during this one-year stint in Washington.
The most recent example came this summer, after his contract was bought out by the Maple Leafs, when Grabovski went on a profanity-laced rant about Toronto Coach Randy Carlyle in an interview with TSN. While his willingness to speak openly about his less-than-agreeable relationship with a coach on his way out of town might be off-putting to some, the Capitals aren’t overly concerned.
General Manager George McPhee said the research the Capitals did before signing the center to a one-year, $3 million contract reassured the team of Grabovski’s character.
“We’ve done our homework, obviously,” McPhee said last week, declining to go into significant detail. “What we’ve asked our players to do in Washington, is if you have an issue with the coach or whatever go talk to him. Go look him in the eye, talk to him and tell him what your issues are. You may not get answers you like, but you’ll get the truth and the rationale and hopefully that clears the air.”
During the two-day U.S. Olympic orientation camp, former Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and Toronto winger James van Riemsdyk offered glowing recommendations for the 29-year-old.
Oates isn’t worried about Grabovski’s unfiltered emotional comments, either.
“I’ve heard nothing but good things about the guy. I also know that tempers flare in this game,” Oates said last week. “I have past experiences with it. It’s not something I haven’t seen or witnessed or done myself. Of course it’s going to happen but we’re all professional, you turn the page, you move on. I believe in communication, so he and I are going to talk a lot.”
There have been other incidents, though. Back in 2009 Grabovski, then 25, found himself scrapping with two Maple Leafs teammates. He traded punches with Jason Blake during practice in February 2009 and then in November, at the start of the following season, he fought Francois Beauchemin.
Not long after those incidents, Grabovski was sued by two Montreal Canadiens fans who allege he assaulted them during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Grabovski was arrested but never charged, according to multiple reports.
During a game against Montreal last February, Grabovski allegedly bit Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty. Grabovski was not disciplined by the league, which couldn’t conclusively prove that he did bite Pacioretty.