There have been a few "This roster is hurting without Grabner" lines in the past few posts, so now seems like an opportunity to explore a possibility that has occurred to me at different times as the season wears on.
Is Michael Grabner the second coming of Trent Hunter? Their histories and many of their individual attributes are different, but the broad strokes of their narratives seem to mirror each other: The eye-opening rookie campaign leading the Islanders in goals scored, signing a long-term contract, then a "regression" to ho-hum secondary scoring and getting a lot of defensive assignments. The comparison relies on oversimplifying things, but it may not be that much of a stretch.
More than a few people have commented this season to the effect that Grabner's dial seems to not be going up to 11 like it did last spring, and some have speculated whether it's a sophomore slump, a nagging injury, or just the "real" player we actually got vs. one aberrant scoring streak . The easy response here is that it's all a knee-jerk reaction to the quirks of short-term probability and the man will come around again in '12/'13 even if he doesn't quite reach the heights of his first season on the Island. But what if he doesn't?
If you're the Isles organization, do you maintain his status in TEH CORE, hope his scoring picks up again and be glad you can count on him for steady PK work etc. in the meantime? Or do you bet that what you got this season is what you'll continue to get and take a different gamble?
One slow season (although 15 or so goals isn't anything to sneeze at) isn't enough to completely bury the memory of 34 goals scored and a few dozen more opportunities just barely missed. Do you try to find a trade partner who is willing to bank on Grabner returning to glory in order to get a more proven asset? For example do you try to find that stud D-man by waving the possibility of 30 goals in front of someone? It seems that there are prospects in the system who could provide similar point production and defensive responsibility (for cheaper, even, which is an issue for the Islanders), if you don't truly believe that Grabner will rebound.
I'm not implying that Grabner is a "bust", or that a move actually needs to be made. But there is a need to address during the summer in terms of shoring up the defense, and if there was a move to be made that could get us a good return and possibly not bite the Islanders in the ass too hard, this seems like it.
Food for thought. Commence flogging me for my blasphemy now.