Friday, October 10, 2014

Brian McGrattan Autographed Card

No one will ever confuse Brian McGrattan with Brendan Shanahan, let alone Brett Hull, but he's not as bad as his possession numbers might lead one to believe.

I'm not fond of reading things like:
He isn't an NHL player and he probably never has been one.  He remains in the league because he can fight and he is a good guy who gets along with his teammates.  (He) is a prime example of a player who shouldn't be in the NHL.  He was the worst puck possession player in the NHL last year and there is no reason to expect things to get better in the future.
It's not even that his main job is to protect his teammates and be there for them should he dress or not - like George Parros last season for the Montréal Canadiens. If he costs close to minimum wage, gets along with all of his teammates, can jump on the ice for a few seconds here and there while the star players catch their breath and not cost a goal, then he is very valuable.

Someone who doesn't see that, nor doesn't see that he isn't asked to keep the puck, or take it from one end to the other, or push the play forward, then that observer knows very little about modern-day, salary cap-era hockey.

I'd rather have one guy who is loved by all, can step on the ice at $750K for 30 seconds and enable my $7.5M player to have a few extra shifts and play more than 20 minutes a game than have a $3M troublemaker take 5 minutes from every other line and still perhaps cost more goals than he provides (no offense to players like Evander Kane).

McGrattan doesn't have good possession statistics because his job - apart from fighting, of course - is to clear the puck out of the zone via the glass, sending the opposition back 150 feet away, forcing them to waste time and energy bringing the puck back up the ice, tired, while a big gun (Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Matt Stajan) steps on the ice, refreshed, poised to win an uneven battle against exhausted opposition.

I can't believe how some bloggers are so obsessed with ''fancy stats'' that they forget to think the game, which is what the head coach's job is. Who would think a coach would purposely dress the worst possible player in his line-up when his own job depends on winning hockey games?

Also: the worst player in the NHL, be he McGrattan or anyone else, remains an NHL player: an adult who has devoted anywhere from 75-95% of his life to his sport, and currently playing in the best league on the planet. And still, that's beside the point.

As a former goalie, I do realize the +/- statistic is flawed in its essence, because powerplay specialists are at a disadvantage, penalty-killers are protected to a certain extent, and guys playing in the final minute of a 1-goal game are either over-compensated or fucked, depending on what side of an empty-net goal they're on, which is, more often than not, purely a matter of luck.

Still, McGrattan is only a -9 in his entire 310-game career. And I'd like to remind everyone that he spent 3 of the last 4 seasons playing for the Calgary Flames, perennial bottom-feeders in this day and age - and the last two without Miikka Kiprusoff to perform miracles in net, with 3 goals (and 49 PIMs) in 19 games and a -4 in 2012-13, and 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, 100 penalty minutes and another -4 in 76 extremely truculent games last season. And judging from recent Flames' practices, they expect a lot more truculence in the immediate future.

Having a guy like McGrattan sacrificing his body - on the ice - also helps young kids accept their new roles within an NHL team, where they might be brought in slowly to build a team for the future when they may have been used to being superstars at lower levels; having had sacrificed his body off the ice as well with the substance abuse problems he has overcome can also help steer the same kids in the right direction. That's called leadership, and usually comes at a premium; having it be provided by a guy making less than a million per year is yet another bargain.

He holds the AHL record for most penalty minutes in a single season, with an astonishing 551 while suiting up for the Binghamton Senators; that same year, he had 2 points (assists) in 6 playoff games, where he added 28 more PIMs.

I try not to buy autographed cards because I don't want to encourage people taking advantage of hockey players' generosity, particularly as a guy who asks for some myself. But when I purchased a few from a ''trusted'' (in ''authenticity'' terms) seller who makes his own custom cards a year or two ago, I made sure I had one of McGrattan's with the Ottawa Senators:

It's from BG's 2008-09 Ottawa Senators set he made (he's from the Ottawa region), has a fun picture of McGrattan wearing the Sens' red uniform and pretending to take a picture himself, with a terrific gold signature. It's a really neat design, well rendered.

I plan on writing the Flames enforcer this season, the last one of his most recent contract.

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