MICHAEL GRABNER, CALDER TROPHY FINALISTPB archive: our feature from Oct. 22 on @grabs40

6:10 pm: Congratulations to Michael Grabner, named with Logan Couture and Jeff Skinner earlier today as finalists for the Calder Trophy. To commemorate the occasion, and see how far Grabner has come, here is Point Blank’s feature on him from Oct. 22. It’s an early look at the honest and easy-going Austrian on the verge of a breakthrough few anticipated.

Point Blank Archive: Oct. 22, 2010

The Islanders’ acquisition of Michael Grabner on waivers may turn out to be another crafty move by Garth Snow, coupled with a little good fortune.

You see, there’s a reason why a recent first round pick – 14th overall in 2006 – who scored a hat trick for the Vancouver Canucks in a real NHL game in April was available on the waiver wire.

Grabner is a notorious slow-starter, a borderline disaster annually at training camps from his native Austria to Spokane to Vancouver and – most recently and spectacularly – in South Florida last month.

Just ask him.

“I don’t know what it is,” said Grabner, as candid in person as he is on his Twitter page (Oct: 15 – “Overtime loss to Penguins. Didn’t have a good game.”)

“I never play good in preseason,” said the native of Austria. “Maybe I put too much pressure on myself. I always seem to get away from my game.”

After the Florida Panthers, Saturday’s opponent for the Islanders, acquired Grabner in an offseason trade for Keith Ballard, new general manager Dale Tallon hoped the wing could compete for a spot on the second line. Instead, Tallon spent most of camp shaking his head before Milburying Grabner out the door and venting his frustration to Panthers reporters.

To the 23-year-old’s credit, he doesn’t blame Tallon or anyone in the Florida organization. He is motivated for Saturday, but is not vindictive enough to want to shove their decision up their hockey pants with a big “Ha”! performance on Saturday. Grabner is rational.

“No, it’s not the Panthers’ fault,” he said. “They thought they were getting offense and they got nothing. It’s not good, and I’m not blaming anyone but myself. I have to figure out why I’m never good in training camp. I was in Vancouver’s camp for four years. Ask them: no good. I’m always a slow starter.”

Perhaps this is what the Islanders learned when, as revealed by Scott Gordon, Snow and his staff did their homework on Grabner. If this team can add a top-9 wing with world-class speed in the final year of a very affordable Entry Level contract, even Coach Gordon can put up with a sucky September.

In six games with the Islanders, Grabner has two goals and one assist. He knows he still has a lot to prove – his critics say he’s not a fan of traffic – but he’s loving life as an Islander. To honor his billets of three years while playing for the Chiefs in the Western Hockey League, Grabner asked the man of the house, Rob McCann, to be his guest on the Dads and Mentors trip to Florida.

Then he promptly scored a goal two minutes into the game in Tampa Bay.

“This has been an amazing time,” Grabner said. “My teammates accepted me right away, when the whole change from the Panthers to the Islanders was so quick and could have been tough. Scott and the coaches have taken the time to explain everything to me. We’re winning, and now we have this special road trip. Everything has worked out so well…I mean, like, so far.”

There’s little need for Grabner to be so cautious. The worst of the hockey calendar is behind him.

Comments on Michael Grabner and his significant achievement are welcomed.