Buffalo - October 16, 2014 - We’re only a handful of games into the 2014-15 season, so it’s probably too early to make judgments about most things.
That said, after four games it’s pretty clear that Buffalo Sabres top pick Sam Reinhart needs to be returned to his junior team. Don’t even wait to get near the nine-game deadline; send him now.
This is something that should happen almost regardless of Reinhart’s play: the Sabres are bad. Really, really bad. They’re still offensively inept (maybe slightly less so than last year) and off to a 1-3-0 start. There isn’t much there to make anyone believe that a huge turnaround is coming this season. It’s going to stay bad all the way until golfing season.
So needless to say that it really makes the decision that much easier considering Reinhart hasn’t played well and has had his role minimized in every game he’s played. He got around 13:30 in the first two games he played, against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks, but saw that dropped to 11:12 in game three and just 6:39 against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. And the drop in ice time was warranted: Reinhart was bad when you even noticed him at all. He’d be invisible during the majority of his time on the ice, with the only time he was recognizable being his inability to win a draw or him getting knocked down.
None of this is a knock on his game. He’s 18-years-old. Most 18-year-olds are not good at playing against full-grown men who have been doing this for a while. He’s still got to get stronger, he’s got to get used to the speed of the game and he’s got to get used to the little things that make playing in the NHL what it is. Reinhart still has all the ability in the world and this writer has little doubt that he’ll pan out.
Until that day comes, though, he should be back in Kootenay with his junior club, logging important minutes and building his confidence by crushing the competition. Maybe I’m just terrified of what could happen to his development if he’s handled the same way Mikhail Grigorneko was (IE: poorly).
Hopefully, the Sabres have learned their lesson and will send Reinhart back to junior immediately. There’s not much for him to learn right now and he could be in a much better place to contribute next year when the Sabres have ideally added another top-flight youngster to the mix and a good chunk of the kids in the system are ready to make an impact.
Until then: see ya around, Sam.
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When not inanely bantering about the Sabres, Ryan Womeldorf can be found here and at TwoPadStack.net talking all things hockey. He's usually got a lot to say, but sadly most of it is wrong. If you have any questions, feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org