Buffalo - March 10, 2015 - Even when things change, they stay the same in Sabreland.
With the team scraping the bottom of the barrel to simply fill roster spots as they drag the corpse of this franchise across the tanking finish line, we see the call-ups of a few fresh young faces from Rochester looking to leave their indelible mark.
The only mark Mikhail Grigorenko seems to be making is one on head coach Ted Nolan’s **** list.
It’s been three years since the enigmatic Russian was taken 12th overall, bringing with him a boatload of talent, just as much hype and perhaps as many questions regarding his work ethic. He had an ugly start to his career, struggling with the Sabres right out of the gate and not finding a groove until he’d been placed in Rochester the last year and a half or so.
Grigorenko has done well for himself in the AHL this year, notching 11 goals and 32 points in 39 games for the Amerks this season. But once he’s gotten to the NHL, it’s been another story.
His most recent call-up, this past Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, might be the death knell on his career in Buffalo. Nolan made no bones about Grigorenko’s performance:
“I didn’t like his play,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said bluntly Monday following practice inside HarborCenter. “In order to play at this level, especially with that much skill, he has to bring a little bit more than what he had. You never want to sit back and hope for things will work. You got to make them work. …
“I thought his play on certain pucks was really lackadaisical. He didn’t have any energy or urgency in his game whatsoever. Hopefully, he’ll catch that one day.”
To be fair to Grigorenko, it’s not like he gets any extended period of time to find a groove. His first stint in Buffalo saw him almost immediately demoted to the fourth line, playing with the team’s grinders and being forced to create for himself. Friday was no different, seeing him skate a few shifts on the second line before being demoted to the fourth. How can a kid find any consistency in his performance when he’s bounced all over the lineup?
One can sympathize with Ted Nolan’s point of view. If you don’t see the compete level you want out of a guy, especially when that compete level is about all you’ve got going for your team, it frustrates you to no end and the immediate reaction is to demote him. But youngsters are fragile, developing entities. They need nurturing and patience, something Grigorenko has seldom been shown during his time in Buffalo.
It might be a little early to say that Girgorenko’s tenure in Buffalo is effectively over and that he can be labeled a bust, but it doesn’t seem that he has whatever it is Nolan is looking for. Each time he’s brought up, he’s sent right back down and the theme from Nolan is that his compete level isn’t high enough.
It would be a shame for such a promising prospect to go to waste, but that’s where the Sabres might be with the frustrating and frustrated Grigorenko. Only time will tell if another demotion will be enough to get him going in the right direction.
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