Oates lures Grabovski to Caps with talk of many goals and as­sists

SundayXtra - - SPORTS HOCKEY - By Stephen Whyno

WHEN Adam Oates met with Mikhail Grabovski, the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals coach turned into a has­sle- free sales­man.

“I said to him, ‘ You should look around,”’ said Oates. “’ For ex­am­ple, like Pitts­burgh. Pitts­burgh’s a team that ob­vi­ously likes to score. Well, you like to score, so that would be a team that maybe you would con­sider if they had room.”’

Oates wasn’t try­ing to talk Grabovski into join­ing the Pen­guins, his team’s big­gest ri­val. In­stead, he was try­ing to ex­plain why he thought the Cap­i­tals were the best fit for the 29- year- old cen­tre who was bought out of his pre­vi­ous con­tract by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Hall of Famer with just one sea­son of head- coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence came off as a sea­soned vet­eran. Oates stayed away from specifics, not promis­ing Grabovski any de­fined role or amount of ice time, in­stead fo­cus­ing on the “puz­zle” and the ben­e­fits of sign­ing with a play­off team fea­tur­ing reign­ing MVP Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Back­strom and oth­ers.

“I said, ‘ You want to go to a team that likes to score, you want to go to a team where you fit in,”’ Oates said. “I said, ‘ The rea­son I’m here talk­ing to you is be­cause I think we’re one of the teams that you should con­sider.”’

Oates’ “en­thu­si­asm” was enough to con­vince Grabovski to sign with the Cap­i­tals on a US$ 3mil­lion, one- year deal, agent Gary Green­stin said. Asked what it was Oates told him that made up his mind, the Be­laru­sian said it was “ev­ery­thing.”

It wasn’t a “hard sell” ac­cord­ing to Oates, who was for the first time mak­ing the pri­mary pitch to a highly sought- af­ter free agent. And it wasn’t just about the qual­ity of the team and the lure of likely top- six min­utes.

Oates pointed to cen­tre Mike Ribeiro, who was a point- a- game per­former and a pow­er­play spe­cial­ist dur­ing his lone sea­son in Wash­ing­ton. Ribeiro went from two goals and 13 as­sists on the power play dur­ing his fi­nal sea­son in Dal­las, when the Stars were ranked last in the league, to six and 21 for the No. 1- ranked unit in the league with the Cap­i­tals.

“For a guy who points mat­ter and that helps your juices flow and your game flow, 20, 30 points is a lot. And that’s in a 48- game sea­son, so who knows how many that can turn into dur­ing an 82- game sea­son?” Oates said. “I said, ‘ You know Mike. I don’t think Mike changed. I think cer­tain vari­ables al­lowed some of his skills to come out more.’ ”

— The Cana­dian Press

Mikhail Grabovski

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