Marc-Andre Bergeron was a widely misunderstood player. Last season he could do no wrong being paired with Pronger. He was a great shot from the point who had amazing speed and kept his head above water in his own zone (even though he was 5’10”). But this season has been a completely different story. His offensive production plateau, and he has been put into Mactavish’s dog house more times then I could think of. His defensive blunders had become much more apparent and he couldn’t seem to keep the puck out of his own net. Fans everywhere were calling for his head, and blaming him for many lost games. He was bashed constantly until his trade. Tom Poti eat your heart out.

On February 18, 2007 the Edmonton Oilers traded MAB and a 3rd to the New York Islanders for Denis Grebeshkov (pictured). Grebs is a widely unknown player currently plying his trade in the Russian Super League. Many people were irate because Lowe had traded a roster player for a prospect, which was the opposite of what the team needed. They needed immediate help on the blueline but only got worse in that regard with this trade. But I believe at that point Lowe decided that the price he could charge for a guy like Bergeron was just too juicy to pass up on, and so he decided to sell. And what we received is still a mystery to many. So here is my take on Grebeskov and his future with our team.

Grebeshkov was drafted in the first round 18th overall by the LA Kings in 2002. On Mar 8, 2006 he was traded to the Islanders. He has spent his time since draft day playing in the AHL and NHL until this season where he went back to Russia. Here are some of the things being said about Grebs that peaked my interest:
• A GREAT skater with size (6’1”)
• Is an excellent puck carrier who can lug the puck out of his own zone or make the first pass
• Has scored 85 pts in 166 AHL games (0.51 ppg) which shows his offensive ability at least at the AHL level
• During the lockout year when NHL players were playing in the AHL Grebeskov scored 49 pts in 75 gp for the Manchester Monarchs. Their next highest scoring defenceman had 24
• Will throw the odd big check but does not play an overly physical game (though does not get roughed up)
• Russian Prospects list his most impressive quality as his work ethic
• They also say that he “knows where, when and how to act [on the ice], but is not always able to accomplish exactly what is needed to”
• Was one of the leading shot-blockers on his Russian team prior to coming to NA

Some Kevin Prendergast Quotes:
• "We consider him a top blue-chip prospect."
• "He can make the five-foot pass to get out of trouble, he can make the 50-foot pass or carry the puck out but his decision-making was always the right one,"
• "He's 25 lbs heavier than when he played in the American League so his defense is a lot better, he's an outstanding skater and he has great agility and mobility."

It seems to be apparent that the reason Grebeskov left North America to play in Russia was over a contract dispute, and not the Alexei Yashin kind. Hockey’s Future put it this way:

“It's really quite surprising that the Islanders did not sign him…They offered him a two-way contract and he was coming off his three-year, two-way [entry level] contract with the Kings and understandably it is the tradition in the NHL that in the first few years players get that but he spent the entire season after the trade in the NHL logging close to 20 minutes a game so he felt he deserved more.”
”Faced with the choice between returning to his homeland for a salary closer to $1 million US tax free to play for his hometown club and playing in Bridgeport again, Grebeshkov made the more natural choice and went back to Russia.”

Lowe was quoted shortly after the trade was made that a contract had been verbally agreed upon (I would assume one way) and that Grebs would step right into our top 4 next year. To be honest I like the looks of this defenceman, and he will be 24 at the beginning of next season and playing top 4 minutes on our blueline and probably part of our first unit power play. He has NHL experience (33 gp) and has all the tools to be a successful NHLer. Is it far to make a Brewer comp? Either way I think this trade could pan out very well for the Edmonton Oilers, he has Bergeron’s offensive ability (maybe more?) with the ability to play defensively against better competition. So when Lowe made this trade he did make it for the future, but I believe that future is much more immediate than most people realize.


Jon G said...

I would have to say that 33GP is hardly experience. Look at Smid at 33 compared to say 60 way different hockey player. However, I will say this, those are some impressive stats for and AHL and Super League player. Plus, anything has got to be better than Toby or MAB, so hats off to Lowe for getting hime

Anonymous said...

with Denis and Smid and looks like Gilbert has won a spot for next year due to his output, there might be a chance that we may NOT have to sign an offensive defenceman!

Rory said...

He is an excellent prospect, but I still do not see why Lowe decided to write off the season at the deadline and "prepare for the future", makes it seem like he does not expect to make the play-offs next year either. We need some offense from the blueline now.

Josh Coates said...

Jon: With the 33gp comment i was more making the assertation that he knows what to expect coming in, and isnt a raw rookie, but ya by know means does he have good experience (though the RSL is no AHL).

Anon: I like the looks of those 3 players, but to be honest there is no way you can have all 3 on your team. Rookie defenceman are more of a liability than a help. The only benefit is that you can grow them into contributing players. To be honest I think you need a powerplay guy (smid and grebs just don't cut it) to carry the load. And I believe that if you have Grebs and Smid in the lineup you have to go with 4 vets in order to have a servicable defensive corps (bye bye Greene?). So I'm thinking Grebs/Smid as 4-5 with Staios/Smith 2-3 and a #1 guy aquired along with Hejda playing #6 minutes.

Rory: I think the price was too high just for a chance at the playoffs. Look at the Islanders, they gave up all that for 10th place. And i think this summer will determine whether Lowe is thinking 07-08 as a playoff year or not.

Joe Reynolds said...

Looks promising for the future of our defence. I think that we are in good shape. However, i think we need a cheep verteran guy who may be coming to the end of his carrer to play in the 7 spot and sit out most nights. The only issue having so many young good dmen is that they have to play. Weather on the big team or on our new farm club dosen't really matter, but we do need someone in the press box who can step in and take up some minutes if someone goes down. The worst thing we could do is put a guy like Hejda or Greene in the press box and have them sit out most of the year. They need the ice time.

Josh said...

I agree on the 7 guy needing to be a veteran bubble NHLer. Whats Scot Ferguson doing these days? No wait, lets get an almost all-star in Rory Fitzpatrick.