There were a ton of questions going into the 2012 NHL Draft, not related to the lockout. One of those questions was, where would Mikhail Grigorenko land? That question was answered when he fell to the Buffalo Sabres at the 12th pick in the draft.
Grigorenko was considered one of the best prospects to come out of the 2012 class, and Buffalo took the risk knowing that his stock dropped since he constricted mononucleosis.
Grigorenko was dominating the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and looked to be ready to make the jump to the NHL. So far, in his 40-game NHL career, it seems that Grigorenko has been anything but impressive for the Sabres.
Grigorenko was considered as an all-around package of size, skill and smarts who can play the game at top speed and execute plays. He was compared to the playing status of Jason Spezza coming into the 2012 NHL Draft. Grigorenko got his chance to play in Buffalo right after the lockout ended in January of 2013.
He scored his first NHL goal on January 29 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. But since his early start, Grigorenko’s production and play have dropped off drastically.
In his early, 40-game career with the Sabres, Grigorenko has only scored three goals and registered five assists. He has found himself, at many times, playing on the third and fourth lines with guys that will not improve his development.
This season, Grigorenko has been constantly in and out of the lineup due to his lack of production. He had one bright moment in a game against the Anaheim Ducks on November 8. Grigorenko scored both Buffalo goals in a 6-2 loss, and was actively engaging in plays and fighting for loose pucks. But the next game against the Kings, Grigorenko played only 9:33, which was the lowest ice-time on the team.
Since the Kings game, Ron Rolston and Darcy Regier have been fired, and Pat LaFontaine brought back Ted Nolan as the interim head coach. Nolan scratched Grigorenko for two games, and then sent him to Rochester on a conditioning stint before Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues. On Wednesday, the NHL negated Buffalo’s assignment of Grigorenko and he will remain with the Buffalo Sabres.
So what is next for Mikhail Grigorenko? What will the Sabres do with him now? Grigorenko could be inserted back into the lineup if needed, but it seems there is no place for him on the roster at this time. Grigorenko is either going to have to catch a break with someone getting injured, or he is going to show Ted Nolan that he deserves a spot on the roster.
Also on Wednesday, Pat LaFontaine announced that Luke Adam and Brayden McNabb have been recalled from the Rochester Americans. This will not help Grigorenko’s chances of returning to the lineup any time soon.
Darcy Regier has stated that Grigorenko is going to stay in the organization for the whole year. He was not going back to the QMJHL, he was going to develop and remain a Sabre.
Now under LaFontaine, Nolan, and whomever Pat brings in to be the general manager, that could change. Here is the problem: the Quebec Remparts already have the maximum two import players on their team.
They would have to either trade Grigorenko, trade one of their other imports, or let Grigorenko play in Russia. Grigorenko would be dominant in Juniors, but it most likely would not help improve his game at all.
The Sabres could also try to trade Grigorenko, but it seems doubtful that Buffalo will make any trades until Pat LaFontaine hires a general manager. When the new general manager is hired, anything could be possible at that point. Buffalo would probably ask for quite a bit for Grigorenko, but they would have to try and sell his potential rather than his current production. His eight points in 40 games is not going to be enough.
Grigorenko has to recover from a slow start to the season. The NHL game has proven to be too fast a pace for Grigorenko, and the only benefit Juniors would bring for him is to let him get some frustration out. The pace in the AHL could be enough for him to step up his game and allow him to properly develop as a player. However, without being able to head down I-90 to get some time to grow, how much longer will Grigorenko sit?
So what do you think? Has Buffalo mishandled Mikhail Grigorenko? Leave a comment below, on our Facebook page, or also on our Twitter page (@SHCdotcom).
Also be sure to follow Brayton on Twitter (@BraytonJWilson) for more!
Thanks for reading!