In hockey, timing is everything. It’s key for any player in terms of being productive and successful.
As Al Pacino put it in his infamous football speech from the flick Any Given Sunday, “…one half a step too late or too early, u don’t quite make it, one half second too slow too fast, u don’t quite catch it...”
Timing is also an integral part of earning an NHL roster spot. For Canucks prospect Michael Grabner, the timing couldn’t have been worse for going down with an ankle injury.
Vancouver’s first-round pick from 2006 was in the midst of his long-awaited first call-up with the Canucks when he sustained an ankle injury prior to the pre-game warm-up in Vancouver.
“Yeah it was bad timing,” said Grabner, still shaking his head in disbelief. “But at the same time it could’ve happened on the ice or anywhere, it’s just a fluke accident and now I just have to get back on track.”
Grabner was going through a routine soccer game with his teammates in the underbelly of GM Place prior to the Canucks game against the Avalanche on November 1 when the injury occurred.
“I just jumped and when I was coming down my foot got caught in the wall, I landed on my toes and my foot just rolled over kind of.”
Prior to the injury Grabner had picked up two goals and three assists in nine games with the Canucks, including his first ever NHL goal and the game-winning marker in a 3-2 win over Chicago.
“I think it’s just experience, getting some minutes and getting used to the pace,” said Grabner of his first call up. “After you know what’s going to happen then it’s just a matter of getting adjusted to the level.”
The Austrian native missed nearly two months of game action rehabbing the ankle and upon regaining his conditioning, he finally returned to the Manitoba Moose line-up on December 27.
“Michael’s been very good, he’s been scoring and he’s been using his speed,” said Moose head coach Scott Arniel. “One thing about Michael, with a guy coming off a broken ankle you think it’d affect his speed, but that wasn’t his problem.
“It was more about timing and getting himself back up to game shape, but he’s been very good for us.”
Since his return to the Moose, Grabner has picked up three goals and one assist in eight games of action (as of Jan. 14).
With the knowledge of what it takes to play at the NHL level in his arsenal, it’s now Grabner’s goal to work his way back on to the Canucks roster.
“It helped a lot, you know what you’ve got to do to get up there, you know how you’ve got to play to get up there. Now I’ve just got to come here and try to do the same thing,” he explained.
“I think it’s mentally more tiring, you have to be ready every shift, every game. It’s not so much physical, it’s more mental.”