Skilled defensive player.
Solid penalty killer.
Deceptively quick and powerful skater.
Gritty, no holds barred style of play.
These are all qualities that could have been used to describe Mike Grier when he first joined the Sharks during the 2006-2007 season. At the time, Grier was billed as a third line player with the skills of a second liner; he was someone who could give you a solid defensive showing and still notch a few points from time to time. I liked the move when it was made, and I think Grier had a good first two seasons in teal.
This year, however, it's a different story. Although Grier is still a leader on this team, the other aspects of his game fell off considerably during the 2008-2009 NHL campaign. We touched on these issues during the season, and the big picture doesn't look much better now that the year is over.
As stated in that article, Grier blocked 1.4 shots per 60 minutes while healthy; that number is down .5 shots blocked per 60 minutes year over year. I'm aware that blocked shots aren't the whole part of the defensive package, but it's important to note that the league average sits around 2.56 blocked shots per 60 minutes of ice time (in a minimum of 30 games played), and the Sharks' average stands at 2.4.
If the blocked shots were the only problem, I'd have little issue with Grier's play this year. However, it seems as if the defensive prowess that has been a Grier staple for years has begun to fade away. Although his five on five numbers are still solid (only 1.61 goals are scored against the Sharks when Grier is on the ice opposed to 2.12 when he's off), the penalty kill numbers leave much to be desired. Per 60 minutes, Grier averaged 2.44 minutes of penalty kill time, third behind only Vlasic and Marleau. However, out of all the regular penalty killers, Grier was behind only Murray in Power Play Goals Against per 60 minutes. The 6.74 PPG/60 is troubling, especially from a player who is billed as a PK specialist. After Grier, the number of PPGA/60 drops off considerably; Milan Michalek ranks next in line at a respectable 5.97.
Grier has never been an offensive dynamo, but never before has he been such a drain on team offense. By using the Corsi Number (Corsi number is the number of shots directed towards the net while the player is on the ice. The number can be broken down into whose net the shots are directed towards (their own net (-) and their opponent's net (+)) similar to the plus minus statistic. The hope of course is that the Corsi plus minus would correlate well with the regular plus minus, but because the numbers will be 16x larger than plus minus numbers they'll be about 4x more accurate than the plus minus numbers. Like the +/- metric, Corsi only takes 5-on-5 numbers into account), it's easy to see that the team's offense doesn't run through Mike Grier. Of all skaters, Grier's Corsi Number is the third lowest (behind only Shelley and McGinn [Moen's is also lower, but accounts for his time with the Ducks]). The 2.2 Corsi is not only telling of his offensive struggles, but his defensive ones as well. When Grier is on the ice, the opposition puts up an average of 24.2 shots per sixty minutes while at even strength. Although this is seventh highest on the team, the players in front of Grier are McGinn, Marleau, Setoguchi, Vlasic, and Thornton (players, with the exception of McGinn, who face the opposition's top line).
You don't need all the fancy behindthenet.ca stats to see that Grier is on the decline. He did score 23 points in 62 games this year, one more than he scored in 78 games the year prior. He was on pace for a 30 point season, which is pretty solid for a third line player. However, the 25 PIM (as opposed to 24 in 16 more games last year), are troublesome. What's more troublesome, though, is the injury history. Grier has played 81, 78, and 62 games in his three seasons with the team. Granted, every player is going to miss a few games, but with Grier's advancing age (he'll be 35 in January), there's no guarantee that he'll be able to play more than the 62 he played this year.
If your argument is of the "Grier is important in the playoffs" type... well, that's a whole 'nother (bad) story. After posting 4 points (2 G, 2 A) in the 2007 playoffs (11 games) with the Sharks, Grier has only put up one point (an assist) in the 19 games since. I know he brings grit, but dammit, we need our big money guys to score.
Don't get me wrong, I've always liked Grier as a player. He's a hard worker, and a team guy. But with a team that's backed against the cap, can you really afford to pay Grier the $1.75 MM that he's currently making? As it stands, Grier is the fifth highest paid forward on the Sharks, and in my opinion, he's not earning that paycheck. In addition, multiple players from the Sharks' development affiliates showed that they were capable of playing on the pro squad. McGinn will be a solid NHL player, Vesce (also a UFA) showed that he can bring it nightly, and others such as Cavanagh and Staubitz have a chance to prove their worth during the preseason. Also, with the recovery of Torrey Mitchell, the Sharks have another piece that they can use on the third line and in penalty killing situations. Is skating Grier worth keeping one of these players on the bench? I don't think so.
You can use numbers to prove pretty much any point you want, but I'm thinking that Grier isn't who he used to be. I'd bring back Grier at a much lower price in a much smaller role. The Sharks need to make some changes, and this is one of the areas where they can cut some salary to bring in a need.
TCY's Final Offer: 750,000 over 2 years. He's going to get a better offer than that, but the offer is low in hopes that he won't even consider it.