When Zack Stortini was waived down to Milwaukee upon the claiming of Brian McGrattan from Anaheim, very few people were optimistic about this. The game prior, Stortini was absolutely maimed in a fight. While that shouldn’t have sealed his fate, a tough guy that fights like Glass Joe isn’t exactly daunting given the amount of tools the Central Division has.
So in came McGrattan, the 6’4″ tough guy with just as much ink as skin, including his sobriety date tattooed on him. The attitude of a young team changed shortly afterwards.
Let’s be clear, he’s going to win the Hart. However, McGrattan’s performance and solid play has led to more an more appearances in the roster, and possibly was the final straw in the Niclas Bergfors experiment (waived today). He’s no liability in the defensive zone, and has shown some decent offensive play despite not yielding any results so far. In the world of Barry Trotz hockey, it pays not to suck on defense.
McGrattan has also brought more of a physical edge to a team that was sorely needing it. It’s more than just beating the crap out of people. He also has beat the crap out of several people, and may be the best heavyweight in the game right now.
Looking at the last couple of draft classes, the organization knew it needed to get bigger players. Hence guys like Austin Watson were brought in. (Ryan Ellis was an exception to this idea) From a size and strength standpoint, the Preds can now roll out Fisher, Weber, Suter, Tootoo, Geoffrion, and McGrattan out with the likes of San Jose, Anaheim (spit), St. Louis, and other teams that the Preds had a serious size disadvantage against.
Did I mention he beats the crap out of people? Sure, hockey purists/elitists/tools will whine about him being a goon, blah blah blah. It’s a serious psychological advantage knowing your team on the ice has two players that can shatter a jaw (Shea Weber says HI).
Deeper than the surface, McGrattan was playing for the Syracuse Crunch last year, and only played in 39 NHL games since the start of the 2008 season. He’s battled substance abuse, and has seemed to beat the demons that other enforcers have failed to. Given the rotten summer hockey gave us, that story can not be cherished enough. Even with that story as the background, McGrattan’s on-ice performance has earned him the love of a fanbase, something he hasn’t enjoyed in the NHL since his days in Ottawa.
And for that, you cannot help but feel good for the guy.