Friday, January 21, 2011

Will Grachev Get The Message This Time?

Two seasons ago Evgeny Grachev was a man among boys during his only campaign with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL.  Due to his 40 goal 40 assist season in just 60 games, the New York Rangers overlooked all the other signs that the player was still a boy in a man’s body in terms of his desire and work ethic to be a professional.  Grachev was rushed from Junior hockey to the AHL in the hopes of developing quickly and being an offensive answer for the franchise that has searched for one for years.

The hope has not been realized thus far in the 20-year-old winger.  What happened instead was a poor first season where he managed only 28 points and had all the flaws on and off the ice exposed by players who were more prepared to be professionals.  Following that performance many of us held out hope that he would transition from year one to year two much in the way that Artem Anisimov did; survive the first year, learn and then dominate so you force your way to the next level.  The level of hope left is running out at the moment.

The Rangers called Grachev up earlier this season for a six game stint so that he could work with the NHL coaches and hopefully get the message of what he needed to do to get back here.  While he has improved his game this month (seven points in eight games), the loudest message he should have received is watching virtually everyone else on his team that can be called up without waivers going before him right now.  Five guys who were in Connecticut with Grachev a month ago are now in New York while he sits in the AHL watching those guys and other prospects pass him on the depth charts.  For Mats Zuccarello to pass him is somewhat understandable given the skill and history of Zuke at professional levels.  What needs to send the message to Grachev is that journeymen like Kris Newbury have passed him too along with other young forwards Brodie Dupont, Chad Kolarik and Dale Weise.

When he went back down to Connecticut following his stint in New York, Grachev said it motivated him to want to do what was necessary to get back there.  Now is the time to prove that as he is virtually all that is left down there.  Put in the work and prove to the coaches there and in New York that the desire is real and the production can match it.  At each turn over the past two seasons Evgeny Grachev has talked about how he has gotten the message.  Let us hope that this time the message got delivered.  Tonight is his first chance to show he is really getting it.