November 3, 2010

Brian McGrattan Wishes He Was Chris Neil... Secretly at Least

When Ottawa Senator Chris Neil makes you look unclassy in comparison, you've got a problem. But that's just the situation in which Boston Bruin Brian McGrattan finds himself after calling out Neil through the media on Monday.

After Neil fought McGrattan's soon-to-be teammate Dennis Seidenberg on Saturday, McGrattan said that it was "typical Chris Neil" to do something worthy of getting kicked out of a game, adding that he always had to protect him when the two were teammates between 2005 and 2008. All Neil said in response: "I'm sure he's trying to get into the line-up. I have nothing bad to say about the guy."

It's interesting to note that McGrattan has yet to play a game for the Boston Bruins after signing a contract as an unrestricted free agent with the team in mid-October and being assigned to the Providence Bruins for conditioning. Even though he was recalled on Monday, McGrattan should have taken the three-game stint in the AHL as an opportunity to get used to his surroundings, because he's likely due for an extended stay in the minor leagues somewhere in the near future.

That isn't because McGrattan would have a hard time finding the back of the net blessed with binoculars and optimal seating two feet from the goal line (47 points in 197 career AHL games is kind of proof of that). That isn't even just because the Bruins already have a more-than-capable heavyweight in Shawn Thornton. No, it's mostly because even five years after the Senators gave him his first taste of NHL action he has yet to establish himself as a full-time NHL enforcer. His one claim to fame? Establishing the AHL record for most penalty minutes in one season in 2004-2005 (551), which, for a guy trying to prove himself capable of playing with the big boys, is like beating up on all the guys who are smaller than you. Really not all that impressive unless you're looking to become a professional bully... or as this clip shows one psychotic bad-ass.

What's "typical" Brian McGrattan? Well, admittedly not swinging his stick like a baseball bat. That was just a one-time thing (hopefully, anyway). Who really knows? He did enter the league's substance-abuse program in 2008, but it would be wrong to hold that against him. What should be held against him is his need to criticize Neil for attacking Seidenberg, who wasn't looking to fight, when he once did the same thing to then-Los Angeles King Sean Avery. Granted, he did everyone a favour by trying to put Avery in his place then, but there's little room for hypocrisy when it comes to making a living as a tough guy. People are supposed to fear and revere you for your toughness... not act afraid of you on the ice and laugh at you behind your back.

Now Neil does take his fair share of cheap shots. He's not exactly a clean player, but for McGrattan to suggest that it was his job to protect Neil and "fight all his battles for him the next time" they played the same team implies that a) Neil doesn't know how to fight and b) McGrattan somehow was actually able to play his way into the Senators' lineup once every blue moon. His game totals actually decreased in each of the three seasons he was with Ottawa (to a low of 38), while Neil earned himself a regular shift and a reputation as a timely contributor on offense (as well as a cheap-shot artist).

For the record, according to, McGrattan has a regular-season record of 28-17-8, for a total of 53 fights. Neil has appeared in 112 dating back to the 2001-2002 season. Since McGrattan first got into the league in 2005-2006, Neil has fought 55 times. During McGrattan's time with the Senators, he fought 37 times, while Neil did 26 times. In those 26 fights, Neil actually fought several tough customers, including Hal Gill (who's not a fighter, but is still huge), Tie Domi, Aaron Downey, Darcy Hordichuk, Paul Gaustad, McGrattan's other soon-to-be teammate in Thornton, and, my personal favourite, Donald Brashear, a bout with which Neil actually did McGrattan's job for him and not the other way around.

Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It's even uglier on McGrattan. Now, admittedly that's due in part to his brutish appearance. But that gives him little right to talk smack about another player when it's become abundantly clear that Neil is right when he says he's only trying to make his way back into a regular role in the NHL.

The Bruins next play the Senators on November 13 in Boston, and I'm sure Neil will be happy to oblige McGrattan should he come looking for a fight. After all, that's what ex-teammates tend to do for one another... that is if McGrattan actually gets a chance to play.

No comments:

Post a Comment