There are a few differences between the situations of Derek Stepan and Evgeny Grachev. The Rangers did the right thing when they sent down Grachev yesterday because despite showing willing he wasn’t ready for NHL play. So what are the differences between the two players’ situations? Firstly Stepan has shown he can contribute offensively and Grachev hasn’t. 3 shots in 6 games is not enough even though his ice time hampered his chance to show his offensive game (as did his line mates). On the other hand Stepan showed he can contribute with an array of line mates and has shown that even when not putting up numbers he can play responsibly. Can the same be said for the Russian? Not quite. Then there is the not so small fact that Grachev is still acclimatising to other aspects of North American life including the language and the style of play. It’s easy to forget that this is still only his third year in North America so allowing him to adapt in an environment such as Hartford where the expectancy and spotlight is much less is the safer, responsible thing to do. Many prospects have wilted under the bright lights of NYC before.
Then there’s the harsh but true fact that Grachev didn’t really deserve a call up in the first place. He was inconsistent in Hartford last year and he hadn’t exactly lit up the AHL this time around either. On the other hand, Derek Stepan had an excellent year in the NCAA for Wisconsin and followed that up with an impressive camp. In short, Stepan’s play demanded that he stick around. Grachev is not a bust by any means. Some people will see his play (since leaving Brampton of the OHL) as a regression but consider all the factors that he is dealing with and the fact power forward types take longer to develop anyway. Also don’t forget that the Rangers don’t need to rush him. The fact he got a few games to see what the NHL was all about is almost a bonus and hopefully will have whet his appetite for more. It may be a different position to Grachev but take a look at Zdeno Chara’s start in North America. He was a European with a huge frame whose first 147 NHL games yielded just 29 points as well as a horrendous – 61 plus/minus. Chara was lucky his development time was spent at the Islanders who could afford to have a liability on the roster (pity for them they didn’t show a little more patience…..). Grachev deserves to be sent down but it’s not a bad thing, it’s the right thing. No need to panic just yet.